The most highly educated religion than any other major religious group across the world is that of Jews with an average of more than 13 years of schooling (among those aged 25 and older). While the 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). On the other hand, the Hindus and the Muslims tend to have the fewest years of formal schooling.
This report is according to the Pew Research Center global demographic study and was conducted by the Pew Research Center. The study also shows wide disparities in average educational levels among religious groups. The report looks at average educational levels among adherents of five major world religions – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism – as well as among the religiously unaffiliated.
Hindus in India make up a large majority of the country’s population but they are the ones who have relatively low levels of educational attainment – a nationwide average of 5.5 years of schooling. However, they are more highly educated than Muslims in India.
One such reason behind these wide disparities in educational attainment is partly a function of geography. In the United States and Israel – two economically developed countries where the vast majority of the world’s Jews live might be the reason that Jews are the most educated. Likewise, low levels of educational attainment among Hindus is partly because of 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.
Drawing on census and survey data from 151 countries, the study also finds large gender gaps in educational attainment within some major world religions. In case of Hindus, formal education is low amongst the Hindu women because on an average they have 4.2 years of schooling compared with 6.9 years among Hindu men. If this is compared with that of Jews, then Hindus and Muslims are lagging behind by 6 years.
But the good news is that in the recent decades, the number of schooling years received by an average adult in all the religious groups studied has been rising with the greatest overall gains made by the groups that had lagged furthest behind. Even, Hindus and Muslims have made the biggest educational gains in recent generations. This is clear from the example that the youngest Hindu adults in the study (those born between 1976 and 1985) have spent an average of 7.1 years in school, nearly double the amount of schooling received by the oldest Hindus in the study (those born between 1936 and 1955). Likewise, the youngest Muslims have made similar gains, receiving approximately three more years of schooling, on average, than their counterparts born a few decades earlier.
Religions vary in educational attainment
About one-in-five adults globally – but twice as many Muslims and Hindus – have received no schooling at all. This means that about four-in-ten Hindus (41%) and more than one-third of Muslims (36%) in the study have no formal schooling as compared to other religious groups.
Despite recent gains by young adults, formal schooling is neither universal nor equal around the world. The global norm is barely more than a primary education – an average of about eight years of formal schooling for men and seven years for women.
But, Hindus and Muslims have made big advances in educational attainment
The study finds that over three recent generations, the share of Hindus with at least some formal schooling rose by 28 percentage points, from 43% among the oldest Hindus in the study to 71% among the youngest.
Also, Hindus have substantially narrowed the gender gap in primary schooling, as shares of Hindu women with no formal schooling decreased across the three generations studied. Among the oldest Hindus, 72% of women and 41% of men have no formal schooling. But among the youngest Hindus in the study, the gender gap is smaller, as 38% of women and 20% of men have no formal schooling.
The gender gap in post-secondary education among Hindus has held steady across generations. In the youngest cohort of Hindus, more men than women still have post-secondary degrees (17% of men vs. 11% of women).