A new world study reveals that there are great educational differences, above all at regional level, between the followers of the main religions. the schooling gap exists mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, india and other parts of Asia. However, according to the global survey published at the end of 2016, significant improvements have also been detected

According to a new Pew research Centre global demographic study on differences in educational attainment among the world’s major religious groups, Jews are the most highly educated, with an average of more than 13 years of schooling (among those aged 25 and older). Christians, buddhists and religiously unaffiliated people—who include atheists, agnostics and those who say their religion is nothing in particular—each have a higher number of years of schooling than the global average (7.7 years), while muslims and Hindus have the fewest average years of schooling. these wide disparities in educational attainment are partly a function of geography. for instance, a key reason Jews have such high levels of attainment is that the overwhelming majority live in the United States and israel—two economically developed countries with high overall levels of education. likewise, low levels of educational attainment among Hindus partly stem from their concentration in the three developing countries of india, nepal and bangladesh, which are home to 98% of the world’s 527 million Hindu adults. this new study also finds important, and often large, differences in educational attainment between religious groups living in the same region—and even the same country. one of the most striking findings is the large and widespread gap in educational attainment between muslims and Christians in sub-Saharan Africa. muslims are more than twice as likely as Christians in the region to have no formal schooling—65% of muslims and 30% of Christians have no formal education, a 35% gap. for perspective, the difference between muslims and Christians with no formal schooling is 3% in europe (5% and 2%, respectively) and 25% in the Asia-Pacific region (32% and 7%).

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY ABHIK CHANDA Sikh children attend on September 22, 2013 a language class at the largest gurdwara or Sikh temple in France, located in the Paris suburb of Bobigny. France's Sikh community is ramping up a campaign for the turban to be allowed in state-funded schools amid moves to reinforce a 2004 law banning pupils from sporting religious symbols. The contentious issue pits the cherished French principle of secularity in public life and institutions against the essence of the Sikh religion, which requires followers to keep long hair as a mark of their faith and piety and a turban to cover the tresses, worn as a bun on the top of the head. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINAMIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images ORG XMIT: 1513


Hindus and Buddhists are at the bottom of the scale, because they inhabit mostly the most impoverished
parts of the world. However, there have been improvements lately, as well inside the huge Muslim population.

These large differences between muslims and Christians are found throughout the region, particularly in countries in western Africa, such as nigeria, Chad and Cameroon. in 18 of the 27 sub-Saharan African countries with substantial muslim and Christian populations, muslims are more likely (by at least 10%) than their Christian compatriots to lack formal schooling. in four countries, Christians are more likely than muslims to have no formal schooling by 10% or more. the education gap of muslims and Christians in sub-Saharan Africa is found among women and men, and has persisted across recent generations. one example of this is in nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, where Christians and muslims are present in roughly equal numbers. Among the youngest generation of nigerian adults in the study—those aged 25 to 34 in 2010—more than four-in-ten muslim men (42%) and six-in-ten muslim women (63%) have no formal schooling, compared with fewer than one-in-ten Christian men (8%) and two-in-ten Christian women (19%). the report also finds that religious minorities often have more education, on average, than a country’s majority religious group, particularly when the minority group is largely foreign-born and comes from a distant country. in these cases, immigrants often were explicitly selected under immigration policies that favour highly-skilled applicants. in addition, it is often the well-educated who manage to overcome the financial and logistical
challenges faced by those who wish to leave their homeland for a new, far-off country. for instance, in the US, where Christians make up the majority of the adult population, Hindus and muslims are much more likely than Christians to have post-secondary degrees. Unlike Christians, large majorities of Hindus and muslims were born outside the United States (87% of Hindus and 64% of muslims compared with 14% of Christians, according to a 2014 Pew research Centre survey).

The report also shows that the global gaps between the highest- and lowest-attaining groups have been narrowing over time due to large gains by Hindus and muslims in recent generations. the youngest Hindu adults in the study (those born between 1976 and 1985) have spent an average of 7.1 years in school, almost double the amount of schooling received by the oldest Hindus in the study (those born between 1936 and 1955). the youngest muslims, buddhists and religiously unaffiliated adults have made similar gains, receiving approximately three more years of schooling, on average, than older adults in the same groups. over the same time frame, by contrast, Christians and Jews recorded smaller gains on their already relatively high levels of attainment.
Muslims and Hindus have made the largest gains in educational attainment over decades. in addition, women have gained more than men in every major religious group, helping to close longstanding gender gaps in educational attainment. in fact, Christian, Jewish and religiously unaffiliated women in the youngest generation (aged 25 to 34 in 2010) are more likely than their male counterparts to have college degrees. Some of the biggest gains in higher education have occurred among muslim women in Gulf Co-operation Council states. in Saudi Arabia, for instance, the share of muslim women with college degrees has increased tenfold, from 3% in the oldest generation to 35% in the youngest. by comparison, the share of Saudi men with post-secondary degrees has risen by 12%, from 16% in the oldest generation to 28% in the youngest.

{*responsible for the editing of an excerpt of the survey. to read the full report of religion and education around the World, go to http://www. pewforum.org/2016/12/13/how-religious-groups-differ-in-educational-attainment/9}