Canada’s Christians lag behind on education levels
By Michael Swan
The Catholic Register
Photo Caption: A pre-kindergartener plays with toy insects at Long Beach Catholic Regional School in Long Beach, N.Y., in September 2016. Christian students are found to have a lower overall level of education in Canada, says a poll by Pew Research Center in the United States. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)
Canada’s Christian population is less educated than Canadian Jews, Muslims, Hindus and even those who have no religious affiliation.
That’s the conclusion drawn from new research by Pew Research Center in the United States as part of its worldwide study of education among religious groups.
The average Canadian Christian has managed 12.7 years of schooling, compared to 13.1 years for Canadian Hindus, 13.3 for the religiously unaffiliated, 13.5 for Muslims and 14.3 for Canadian Jews. Only Buddhists, who come in at an average of 11.4 years of schooling, trail the Christian population in Canada.
Catholics make up 60 per cent of Canadian Christians, who in turn account for 67.2 per cent of Canadians.
The relatively modest level of schooling for Canadian Christians doesn’t come as a surprise to St. Jerome’s and Waterloo University sociologist of religion David Seljak. Age and immigration explain most of the differences, Seljak told The Catholic Register.
“Immigrants tend to be better educated than the Canadian average since the point system filters out the under-educated,” Seljak said in an email.
Not only are Canadian non-Christians more likely to be immigrants, they also tend to be younger.
“Christians tend to be older than the rest of the population, and older-age cohorts tend to have a lower educational achievement than younger Canadians, especially in Quebec,” said Seljak.
The average Canadian, regardless of religion, gets 12.8 years of schooling – 12.9 years for men and 12.8 years for women.
Canada’s numbers stand in contrast to the Pew Research data for education and religion globally. Worldwide, Christians average 9.3 years of education — the most of any group except Jews, who globally come in at an average of 13.4 years.
Canada’s Muslims are exceedingly well educated, with more than double the global average of 5.6 years of education for the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. The same is true for Canadian Hindus, whose average of 13.1 years of schooling stands in contrast with the global average of 5.6 years for the world’s 1 billion Hindus.
Seljak noted that Indigenous Canadians, who are less than five per cent of Canada’s population, have much lower education levels and very heavily identify as Christian.
Two-thirds of aboriginal Canadians are Christian, including about 40 per cent who are Catholic.
Japanese and Jewish Canadians have for some time come out on top of education surveys “because they are both long-established ethnic communities with a strong emphasis on education and upward mobility,” said Seljak.
The relatively poor educational levels for Buddhists has a lot to do with Canada’s immigration history as well.
“Many of them were admitted as refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam and Tibet. Hence, the points-system bias in favour of the highly educated did not filter them out,” Seljak said.
Long established Chinese-Canadians who endured the head tax and years of racist exclusion were often prevented from assimilating and therefore remained in working-class jobs and running small businesses, roles that didn’t demand much formal education.