Family & Education

Mazeltov: survey shows Jews are top of the global class

Jews are the People of the Book in more ways than one if research by one of the world's leading pollsters is anything to go by.


According to a worldwide survey by research group Pew, Jewish people are more educated than any other religious group.

Pew has announced that Jewish adults spend an average of 13.4 years in school, while Christians and those who do not follow a religion average 9.3 and 8.8 years respectively. Buddhists average 7.9 years and Muslims and Hindus both average 5.6 years.

There was no competition for Jews when it came to higher education, with 61 per cent of Jews holding degrees, compared to a global average of 16 per cent. The average for Christians was 20 per cent; Buddhists 12 per cent; Hindus 10 per cent and Muslims eight per cent.

Jews are also the least likely to grow up without a formal education — just one in 100 do so, compared to a global average of around one in five.

“The truth is that learning is a basic principle of Judaism, always was, and remains so,” said Avinoam Bar-Yosef, president of the Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.

But there is more to it, he said, noting that in Israel, the push to innovate keeps people in education. “Here, it’s a result of high-tech, of defence efforts, and of a history of learning, which goes back to study of Torah and Talmud,” he added.

In the diaspora, traditional values combine with the fact that many Jews live in the West, competitiveness among Jewish people, and… everybody’s favourite Jewish stereotype. “Jewish mothers push,” said Mr Bar-Yosef.

It is encouraging data for Jewish people everywhere, though if you really want to give your child the best start in life you may consider relocating from the UK to Estonia, New Zealand, Lithuania or America, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Romania or Hungary.

In all of these places, Jews spend more years in school than their British counterparts, who come in just under the global Jewish average.

As well as confirming what many Jewish people have long suspected, the Pew survey, the first comprehensive examination of differences in educational levels by religion, also contained a surprise. Today, young Jewish women are outdoing men.

In the youngest generation of Jews, women have a year more of schooling, on average, than men. And women are not just claiming their place in universities and colleges — they are flocking there in larger numbers.

Among the oldest generation of Jews, 66 per cent of men have degrees compared to 57 per cent of women. In the youngest generation, the trend has been turned on its head, with 69 per cent of women and 57 per cent of men with degrees.

Ruth Halperin-Kaddari, founding director of the Rackman Center for the Advancement of the Status of Women at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said this change resulted from greater empowerment of women, alongside the fact that many husbands remained the primary breadwinner. This meant that “women are given more leeway to advance their education”.

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