Islam and the State: Religious Education in the Age of Mass Schooling
Public schooling systems are an essential feature of modern states. These systems often developed at the expense of religious schools, which undertook the bulk of education historically and still cater to large student populations worldwide. This paper examines how Indonesia’s long-standing Islamic school system responded to the construction of 61,000 public elementary schools in the mid-1970s. The policy was designed in part to foster nation building and to curb religious influence in society. We are the first to study the market response to these ideological objectives. Using novel data on Islamic school construction and curriculum, we identify both 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 increased 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. Our results suggest that the Islamic sector response increased religiosity at the expense of a secular national identity. Overall, this ideological competition in education undermined the nation-building impacts of mass schooling.
We thank Natalie Bau, Jeanne Hagenbach, Agustina Paglayan, Vincent Pons, and seminar participants at Oxford, Sciences Po, and UC San Diego for helpful feedback. Bazzi acknowledges support from the National Science Foundation (SES-1942375). Hilmy acknowledges support from the Manuel Abdala Gift Fund and the Institute for Economic Development at Boston University. All errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.