A new study has suggested that a focused program to build social, emotional and character skills can result in significantly improved overall quality of education.
The concept includes organized activities to build character that go beyond more traditional rules or policies to control or punish problem behaviours.
The latest study of 20 elementary schools in Hawaii, found for the first time that teachers believed this approach improved "overall school quality" by 21 percent, with parents and students agreeing in slightly smaller numbers.
It was based on findings from racially and ethnically diverse schools, half using the program and half that did not.
"Improved social and character skills leave more time for teachers to teach, and students to learn and be more motivated," said Brian Flay, an Oregon State University professor in the School of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences.
"What we're finding now is that we can really address some of the concerns in our schools by focusing more on character in the classroom.
"These are not new concepts, they're the kind of things that have always been discussed in families, church and social groups," Flay said.
The program used in this research includes K-12 classroom curricula, a school-wide climate development component, teacher and staff training, parent and community involvement, continued positive reinforcement and other techniques.
Lessons include topics related to self-concept, physical and intellectual actions, managing oneself responsibly, getting along with others, being honest, and self-improvement.
"The current research supports the hypothesis that these programs can generate whole-school change and improve school safety and quality," the OSU researchers said.
"The present study shows improvements in school quality were made by relatively under performing schools," they added.
The study has been published in the Journal of School Health.