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Religious Schools, Social Values and Economic Attitudes: Evidence from Bangladesh
This paper examines the social impact of a madrasa (Islamic religious school) reform program in Bangladesh. The key features of the reform are change of the curriculum and introduction of female teachers. We assess whether the reform is making any contribution in improving social cohesion in rural areas. We use new data on teachers and female graduates from rural Bangladesh and explore how attitudes toward desired fertility, working mothers, higher education for girls vis-à-vis boys, and various political regimes vary across secondary schools and modernised madrasas. We find some evidence of attitudinal gaps by school type.
Modernised religious education is associated with attitudes that are conducive to democracy. On the other hand, when compared to their secular schooled peers, madrasa graduates have perverse attitude on matters such as working mothers, desired fertility and higher education for girls. We also find that young people's attitudes are interlinked with that of their teachers. Exposure to female and younger teachers leads to more favourable attitudes among graduates. These estimated effects are robust to conditioning on a rich set of individual, family and school traits. We conclude by discussing other social and economic implications of these findings.