Teenagers having faith top moral poll

06 March 2015

UNIVERSITY OF CHESTER

Sing up: choirs from 12 universities in the 16-member Cathedrals Group took part in their annual choir festival at Chester Cathedral last weekend. The festival was part of the group's annual conference, addressed this year by Professor Les Ebdon, the director of the Office for Fair Access. It was a final appearance for Vicki Bulgin (far left) as Director of Music

Sing up: choirs from 12 universities in the 16-member Cathedrals Group took part in their annual choir festival at Chester Cathedral last weekend. T...

TEENAGERS in the UK who profess a faith are more likely to make good choices when faced with a moral dilemma than those who do not, new research suggests.

The survey Character Education in UK Schools, involving 10,000 pupils aged 14 and 15 in 68 schools, and 255 teachers, was conducted by Birmingham University's Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, which promotes the notion of "character education" in schools.

In tests, young people who said that they adhered to a religion scored almost ten per cent more highly on average than those who said that they were atheist, or who did not answer. When they were compared with those who said that they had no religion, the figure increased to 14 per cent.

Although the teenagers who scored most highly attended a variety of schools in different social settings across the country, the top performer on the moral-dilemma tests was a Roman Catholic academy in the Midlands. Two other Christian schools came in the top seven.

The students were presented with a series of detailed scenarios, and a set of possible responses. They had to choose one, and explain why. Their answers were compared with a list of "preferred options", chosen by an expert panel based on whether they showed qualities such as honesty, self-discipline, courage, and an overall lack of self-interest.

The researchers also analysed their scores using other information about them, such as hobbies, interests, beliefs, and background.

The analysis revealed that those who were members of choirs, or who took part in other musical activities outside school, were 17 per cent more likely to choose the more moral options. Also, those involved in drama groups outside school scored 14 per cent better.

Those whose parents had a higher level of education, or who achieved good grades themselves, were also more likely to show moral virtues such as honesty and self-discipline.

Those involved in sports clubs or teams, however, scored marginally worse than those who were not.

Overall, only 42.6 per cent of the teenagers' responses matched those of the panel. Girls had a 47-per-cent match, compared with 37 per cent among boys, and the results were behind those of similar research in a number of other countries, including the United States and Taiwan.

Eighty per cent of the teachers questioned believe that the moral development of children was being squeezed out of schools by the pressure of exams.

The report concluded that there might be gaps in the current system in schools in Britain, in terms of the development of a child's whole character, and not just his or her academic ability.

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