A scientific study has demonstrated a link between how religious a society is, and how well its children perform in maths and science.
Published on the same day, another report has concluded that the Philippines is lagging behind its neighbours in university rankings.
The team behind the first study conclude that standards in these subjects — and economic development as a consequence — could be raised by keeping religion out of the classroom.
The research — which ranks the Philippines as the world’s most religious non-Muslim country — was conducted by psychologists from Leeds Beckett University in the UK and America’s University of Missouri.
Co-author Dr Gijsbert Stoet said: “Science and mathematics education are key for modern societies. Our research suggests that education might benefit from a stronger secular approach.”
To examine the correlation, Dr Stoet and Dr David Geary studied data from international assessments on education and combined this information with data on religious practices.
Using a scale of zero to ten, they then ranked 82 countries by their ‘religiosity score’.
The Philippines ranked as 70th — the 12 countries named as being even more religious were all Muslim, with the top three being Qatar, Indonesia and Egypt.
Australia ranked as the seventh least religious, the UK 14th and the USA 51st.
Dr Stoet concluded: “Given the strong negative link between religiosity and educational performance, governments might be able to raise educational standards — and so standards of living — by keeping religion out of schools and out of educational policy making.”
Meanwhile, it has been found that the Philippines is lagging behind some of its neighbours in Asian university rankings released by the Times Higher Education Magazine.
The University of the Philippines was the only higher education institution in the list of 300 best universities in Asia, ranking towards the bottom of the list.
The National University of Singapore topped the list, followed by Peking University and Tsinghua University in China, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the University of Hong Kong.
Despite having some of the oldest universities in Asia, the Philippines was not included in a list of countries expected to follow in the footsteps of higher education powerhouses such as China and Singapore.
Among those named as having the potential to do so were Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
A summary of the report concluded: “Of the emerging university nations in Asia, Malaysia has the greatest potential. The country claims seven of the top 200 places, up from four last year, and features a total of nine institutions overall.”
No university from the other Southeast Asian countries – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Brunei – made it on to the list.