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Education – Science skills and religion

May 2017

Students in hard-line religious countries perform worse in science and mathematics, research from Leeds Beckett University controversially claims. However, the research team was forced to speculate that the time spent on religion has a negative correlation with educational performance in mathematics and science, because there was little data to state how much time was spent on religious education. So the correlation cannot be proven.

The study, 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, found that the more religious the country, the worse its students perform in science and mathematics.

The research, published in the academic journal Intelligence, also revealed that levels of national development and time spent on religious education played a role in students’ attainment.

The research questions the government’s announcement in the March budget that it will be investing £320 million into new free schools, including faith-based schools. Professor Stoet explained, ‘Science and mathematics education are key for modern societies. Our research suggests 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 researchers combined data from several institutional studies. Analysis of it allowed conclusions to be drawn about international levels of religiosity, schooling and educational performance, and levels of human development (health, education, and income).

Out of 76 countries analysed, the five least religious countries were shown to be Czech Republic, Japan, Estonia, Sweden and Norway, while the five most religious countries were Qatar, Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia. In terms of religiosity, the UK ranked 13th.

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