DP14689 Islam and the State: Religious Education in the Age of Mass Schooling

Author(s): Samuel Bazzi, Masyhur Hilmy, Benjamin Marx
Publication Date: May 2020
Date Revised: December 2020
Keyword(s): Education, Islam, Nation building, religion, school competition
JEL(s): H52, I25, N45, P16, Z12
Programme Areas: Public Economics, Development Economics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14689

We study the competition between public and religious schools and its consequences for nation building. In the 1970s, a landmark mass schooling effort in Indonesia aimed to secularize education and to curb religious influence in society. The regime built 61,000 public elementary schools, seeking in part to upend a longstanding Islamic school system. Using novel data on Islamic school construction and curriculum, we identify short-run effects on exposed cohorts as well as dynamic, long-run effects on education markets. While primary enrollment shifted towards state schools, religious education increased on net as Islamic secondary schools absorbed the higher demand for continued education. The Islamic sector not only entered new markets to compete with the state but also increased religious curriculum at newly created schools. While exposed cohorts are not more attached to secular principles, they report greater religiosity and transmit these religious values to the next generation. Overall, the ideological competition in education undermined the nation-building impacts of mass schooling.