Muslims around the world during the last four centuries showed great interest in every aspect of life except education. Poetry, music, painting, ceramics, architecture, metal work etc became important activities throughout the Islamic world. But very little interest was shown to the fast developing modern education emerging from Europe.
Probably the most harmful act was their refusal to take up the use of Printing Press in the 15th Century, a turning period for Europe. Through the Printing Press, scientific revolution was made possible in all the spheres of scientific and industrial activity in Europe.
After a long spell of slumber, Muslims have now started to understand that without modern knowledge and higher literacy their exploitation by the West cannot be checked. Fortunately, education is re-emerging in the Islamic World during recent past few decades.
According to the survey by John Miller, 5 Muslim majority countries namely Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan find places amongst 25 countries with highest literacy rates of 100%.
While the World Bank and UNSECO data for 2018 shows that 25 Muslim Majority countries have achieved average literacy above 90 per cent. These include Saudi Arabia (95%), Indonesia(94%), Malaysia(94%), Iran(90%), Jordan(96%), UAE (94%) and Turkey (95%).
Nine countries, including Syria (86%), Tunisia (82 %), Iraq (79%), Egypt (75%) Algeria (73) and Morocco (72%) were reported to be in the bracket of 70% to 89% of literacy.
Unfortunately fifteen countries including largely populated countries of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nigeria still lag behind in literacy (Less than 62%). However, compared to the literacy Data of 1980 (Aerage 30%), 2018 data is highly satisfactory.
Global literacy rate (2017) is 82% (men, 87%; women 77%).
A redeeming feature is the fact that the gender difference (men and women) in literacy in many Muslim countries have also fallen sharply. At least 21 countries have the difference 0% to 7% only.
Tertiary Education (Higher education in all the disciplines of knowledge) in the Muslim world needs serious attention. Yes it is true that scientific awakening is under way in Muslim World, but it needs some sustained effort.
Tertiary Education in Western countries is generally above 40% whereas barring few countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, it is between 2 to 6% in most Muslim countries.
Research spending in Muslim countries also needs serious attention. Research spending in many countries, like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Turkey has been raised substantially. Qatar is reported to have proposed to raise the Science budget from 0.8% to 2.8% of its GDP.
Many Muslim countries have already established centers of higher learning (Universities) with emphasis on the modern sciences.
According to The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018 (for 2016-2017), ninety six universities from Muslim countries have been listed amongst the top 1102 Universities of the world.
Of these, 22 belong to Turkey followed by Iran 18; Pakistan 10; Malaysia and Egypt 9 each; Saudi Arabia 5; UAE and Indonesia 4 each; Jordan and Morocco 3 each; Tunisia 2 and Algeria, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nigeria, Oman and Qatar 1 each.
A redeeming feature in the rankings is the fact that in 41 universities, female students are higher in numbers than male students. Eleven Universities have more than 65:35 female:male while in Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (22,257 students) of Saudi Arabia having the highest ratio of 81:19, followed by United Arab Emirates University (7,492 students) 79:21, Qatar University, (13,342 students) 73:27 and Kuwait University, (37,752 students) with the ratio of 72:28.
Source: UN Agencies & World Factbook