Research, published this week in the academic journal Intelligence, suggests that more religious countries have a lower educational performance in science and mathematics.  Furthermore, levels of national development and time spent on religious education played a role in students’ attainment.

The research was led by Gijsbert Stoet, Professor of Psychology at Leeds Beckett, alongside David Geary, Curators’ Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri.

Professor Stoet explained:

“Science and mathematics education are key for modern societies. Our research suggests that education might benefit from a stronger secular approach. In that context, the current UK policy of investing more money in faith-based should be reconsidered.

“The success of schools and education in general directly translates in more productive societies and higher standards of living. Given the strong negative link between religiosity and educational performance, governments might be able to raise educational standards and so standards of living by keeping religion out of schools and out of educational policy making.”

Levels of religiosity were determined using questionnaires carried out around the world in the World Values Survey and the European Social Survey among the adult population. Levels of school performance in mathematics and science literacy were based on scores from children between 14 to 15 years old.

Their findings suggested that engaging with religion  may lead to a displacement of non-religious activities and that the time spent on religion has a negative correlation with educational performance in mathematics and science.

Professor Stoet stated that:

“The findings support the idea of a ‘displacement hypothesis’ that when children spent more of their time on religion, they will spend less time on other things.”

Out of the 76 countries analysed by the researchers in the study

The five least religious countries were shown to be

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Japan
  3. Estonia
  4. Sweden
  5. Norway

The five most religious countries were

  1. Qatar
  2. Indonesia
  3. Egypt
  4. Jordan
  5. Tunisia.

Women reported a higher level of religiosity than men, but this was not at all related to their educational performance.

Shara has been active in the scientific community for over 30 years. She started as a member of the British Association of Young Scientists at the age of 15, obtained her first science degree at 21 and her Immunology PhD at 25. She has been a research scientist and lecturer in prestigious institutions around the world [including Addenbrookes' Hospital (Cambridge), The Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology (London), The Mount Sinai Hospital (New York) and The Royal Postgraduate Medical School (London)]. Shara left mainstream in 2001 research to follow her passion of science communication and established Euroscicon Ltd in 2001 and Mums in Science in 2005

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