By LOUISE LAMBERT BBC Sport – DALLAS (AP) – A new study of high school students found that those who had been exposed to religious teachings had better academic performance than their less religious peers.
The research is the first to show the positive impact of religious education on academic performance.
“The results show that religious beliefs can positively affect academic performance and improve the quality of academic performance,” said University of Texas-Austin sociologist Amy Meeks, who co-authored the study.
“We think the positive effects are more than just educational and can have a positive impact on social, emotional and emotional wellbeing.”
Meeks says her research was prompted by a desire to understand how the teaching of religion influences students.
She says that in her opinion, the best way to promote religious education is to allow students to participate in it without fear of being judged for their religious beliefs.
Meeks and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,000 high school and college students at the University of North Texas and the University at Buffalo in New York.
She said that the research shows that religion is not the cause of students’ academic problems.
“Our results show what students experience at school: a world in which religion is central to their experience of school and their identity, their sense of belonging and their understanding of the world,” Meeks said.
“Students are learning to think critically, to consider new ideas, to engage in intellectual inquiry, and to engage with others.”
The study also found that students who participated in religious education had better grades on average than students who did not.
Moreskes says that this study has some important implications for higher education.
“It’s not just that students in religious schools get better grades,” she said.
It also shows that the religious education that is available at these institutions can be good for students, but it’s not necessarily what’s going to make them successful academically.
“If we want to see more schools offering religious education as part of their curriculum, we need to see a real change in how we are thinking about education,” she added.
Merely being religious may not make you academically successful, however.
Moleskes says a key reason why religion does not affect academic achievement is that it has not been studied extensively.
She believes that most studies about the relationship between religion and academic achievement have been conducted in isolation, relying on data from religious institutions or the study of religious students themselves.
“You have to look at what other factors are affecting student achievement,” she told the AP.
“So I think we need more research in this area.”
Moreskees study was published in the Journal of Religion and Education.
(AP: Laura Pizzato)