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
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
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
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
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