Hindus have made large gains in the amount of time they spend in school, but they still have the lowest educational attainment of any major religion worldwide, according to a report from the Pew Research Center.
The researchers said they used four measures of educational attainment: no formal schooling, primary education, secondary education and post-secondary education across all major religions worldwide. It said 98% of the world’s Hindus live in India, Nepal and Bangladesh and that that on average, they spend 5.6 years in formal education, compared with Jews, who spend the most at 13.4 years. Christians around the world got 9.3 years on average and Muslims 5.6 years.
While Hindus spent the same time on average in school as Muslims, 36% of Muslims had no formal education, compared with 41% of Hindus.
Followers of Hinduism also have the largest educational gender gap of any of the religions, the report showed. Men have 2.7 more years of schooling than women and just over half, or 53%, of women have no formal education at all.
Educational levels are improving for Hindus, however. Younger generations are spending far longer in education than their older counterparts. For Hindus aged 55 to 74 years, the average number of years of education is 3.6. For the youngest in the study, those aged 22 to 34, the number rises to 7.1 years. The percentage of Hindus with no formal schooling at all has also plunged.
However, Hindus living outside of South Asia reversed the trend. They are often the most educated religious group in that country, the report said. An earlier study showed that Hindus are the most educated religious group living in the U.S.
While 10% of Hindus in India have a post-secondary degree, in North America and Europe that number rises to 87% and 57% respectively. The gender gap is also smaller. In North America, Hindu women have 0.7 years less education than men.
Worldwide for Hindus, the gender gap has been narrowing.
“Hindu women have made larger generational gains than men by most measures of educational attainment,” the report said.
The youngest women in the study have had nearly four more years of education than the eldest Hindu women. In comparison, men gained three more years of schooling. But the gap between the sexes remains. There are still 31 million Hindu women who have no formal education, compared with 18 million men.
For breaking news, features and analysis from India, follow WSJ India on Facebook.