Research by Baylor University sociologist Robert D.
In sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, scholars describe how religious missionaries during colonial times were the prime movers in constructing educational facilities and influencing local attitudes toward education.
These missionary activities, the scholars conclude, have had a long-lasting positive impact on access to schooling and educational attainment levels in the region.
As a result, they established schools to promote literacy wherever they went and translated the Bible into indigenous languages.
Harvard University economics professor Nathan Nunn, who contends that education was “the main reward used by missionaries to lure Africans into the Christian sphere,” says that in addition to establishing schools, “missionaries may have altered people’s views about the importance of education.” Woodberry and Nunn conclude, however, that Protestant and Catholic missionaries had differing results.
Some experts note that the first word of the Quran as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad is “Iqra! Early Muslims made innovative intellectual contributions in such fields as mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, medicine and poetry.
They established schools, often at mosques, known as Islamic rulers built libraries and educational complexes, such as Baghdad’s House of Wisdom and Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, to nurture advanced scholarship.Some scholars argue that the decline in secular learning and the narrowing of intellectual inquiry among Muslims have been exaggerated, or did not take place.Columbia University history professor George Saliba writes: “In particular, the decline of Islamic science, which was supposed to have been caused by the religious environment … On the contrary, if we only look at the surviving scientific documents, we can clearly delineate a very flourishing activity in almost every scientific discipline” after the 12th century.Nowadays, Islamic religious leaders and religious schools still have great influence on education in some Muslim-majority countries, but they compete with government and private schools offering secular topics.In the view of some scholars, the 16th-century Protestant Reformation was a driving force for public education in Europe.Protestant reformers promoted literacy because of their contention that everyone needed to read the Bible, which they viewed as the essential authority on doctrinal matters.Driven by this theological conviction, religious leaders urged the building of schools and the translation of the Bible into local languages – and Reformation leader Martin Luther set the example by translating the Bible into German.Religion is certainly not the only reason for this variance; many other factors may play an equal or greater role, including economic, geographic, cultural factors and political conditions within a country or region.The chapter begins with an historical look at ways in which scholars suggest that various religions have influenced education, especially the spread of literacy among laypeople.In particular, contends Harvard University Associate Professor of Economics Eric Chaney, the decline was caused by an increase in the political power of religious leaders who prioritized Islamic religious learning over scientific education.Their growing influence helped bring about a crucial shift in the Islamic approach to learning: It became dominated by the idea that divine revelation is superior to other types of knowledge, and that religious education should consist of learning only what Islamic scholars had said and written in the past.