Koranic Schools in Senegal: An actual barrier to formal education?
In Sahelian countries, non-religious public education systems prevent the inclusion of religious teaching in public schools, which is relegated to the informal sector. This article is a first attempt to quantitatively study how this dual educational system works and whether the potential competition between both systems is a key factor for low primary school enrollment in Senegal. The analysis is based on a unique national dataset with detailed information on formal and Koranic schooling of 5 to 21 year-old children covering 1800 households. In our sample, over half of the girls and 60% of the boys attend Koranic school, but the majority only for 2 or 3 years. After giving a brief background on Islam and Koranic schools in Senegal, to better grasp the complexity of the subject, we study the determinants of Koranic schooling before analyzing its compatibility with formal schooling. A descriptive analysis shows that children who attended for a few years Koranic school have a higher probability of attending formal primary school than those who haven't been to Koranic school at all and those who attended higher Koranic studies. However, this apparent complementarity vanishes and even in some cases turns into significant substitutability after duly instrumenting formal school attendance with school openings. This tends to prove that the coordination between the acquisition of formal human capital and religious knowledge is one of the challenges faced by Senegal in achieving Millennium Development Goals.
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