British Christians, Atheists Least Likely to Go to University

A study of 15-year-olds from various religious backgrounds in Britain showed that Christian and atheist students were far less interested in higher education than their Hindu and Muslim classmates.

Only 45 percent of teenagers who said they were Christian went to university, as compared to more than 77 percent of youngsters who described themselves as Hindu, a recent Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England showed.

The study of over 13,000 young people, carried out for the U.K.’s Department for Education, also revealed that 53 percent of Muslim pupils went for higher education.

Second at the list’s top were Sikh teenagers, 63 percent of who went to college. At the bottom were those who said they had no religion with only 32 percent studying in university.

Overall, young people who identified themselves with any one of the religions at age 15 were more likely to be in higher education at age 19 than those with no religion, the study found.

The findings also showed that 38 percent of the white teenagers questioned went on to university, compared to 74 percent of their Indian peers, 51 percent of those from Pakistani backgrounds, 53 percent of those of Bangladeshi origin, 66 percent of those from Black African backgrounds, 41 percent of those of Black Caribbean heritage and 40 percent of those from mixed backgrounds, as quoted by the British newspaper Daily Mail.

U.K.’s Times Education Supplement (TES) noted that the figures reflected wider research which shows British white working-class students do worse at school and are less likely to go on to higher education than Asian students.

To interpret the statistics, Warwick University Professor Steve Strand said, religion was to be seen as a “proxy” for ethnicity. “The fact that white working-class pupils are the least likely to go to university and those from Asian groups are more likely has nothing to do with whether they are Christian or Hindu,” he was quoted as saying.

There were a number of factors, Strand explained. Generally speaking, “white working-class children and their parents often do not see the relevance of the curriculum or of attending university.” Asian families, on the other hand, even if they are from difficult socio-economic backgrounds, see education as a way out.

The Catholic Education Service agreed with Strand’s analysis, saying it was not about religion. “When it comes to academic success the stats speak for themselves. Catholic schools regularly outperform other schools in terms of levels of attainment... We also seek to encourage our kids to choose whatever line they would like, be it university, apprenticeships or work,” a spokesperson told TES.

However, Hindus attributed the performance of their teens to Hindu ethos. “We talk of the ‘duty.’ The duty to perform, the duty to work hard, it is all linked to the culture of spirituality and discipline,” Pradip Gajjar from the yet-to-be-opened Krishna-Avanti Primary School in Leicester, said.

According to the latest official figures, 72 percent of the people in Britain regard themselves as Christian. Pew Forum puts the number of Muslims in Britain at roughly 2.9 million. Hindus are estimated to be around 1.5 million, and Sikhs 340,000.

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