How is Moral Character Developed: The Boys Brigade Case

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About this sample


Words: 2994 |

Pages: 7|

15 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 2994|Pages: 7|15 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Background of the Study
  2. Background of The Boys' Brigade
  3. The Boys' Brigade in Various Countries
  4. The Brigade Philippines Extension
  5. Exploring How Moral Character Develops
  6. Theories on Moral Development
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

Background of the Study

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” (Proverbs, 22:6; Brigade Philippines, 2018). The Boys’ Brigade (BB) is a Christian organization that seeks to nurture boys to be responsible Christian men instilled with values such as obedience, reverence, and discipline, demonstrating how is moral character developed (The BB in Singapore, 2018). It is the first uniformed group of youth organizations in the world. Uniforms show that the BB members belong to a group and that they are proud to be in that group. The uniform of BB takes various forms and the local company will have one of the options for everyone to wear (Boys’ Brigade Australia, 2018).

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Background of The Boys' Brigade

Historically, BB started to work with boys only and a lot of the Boys feel more comfortable doing certain things with just other Boys. Later, developments ensued to include girls. Many BB companies now operate in the same place with similar programs available for girls. Each Brigade Company is part of the overall Children and Youth Ministry of the Church. This also encourages the Company to run week night programs. Brigade groups meet in church because they believe that these are good places to do their activities and have other programs to meet the needs of whole families (Boys’ Brigade Australia, 2018)).

The Boys Brigade was founded by Sir William Alexander Smith with the First Boys’ Brigade Company in Glasgow, Scotland on the 4th of October 1883. Through the years, it has provided a safe environment where children and young people can develop into Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens, and Effective Contributors (, 2018).

At the time Smith formed the Boys’ Brigade, Europe was in an era of important historical transition. European states were rushing for colonial territories. The British society was undergoing a period of social and economic change as a consequence of the vastly expanding population (Adonis, 1995;, 2018). The changing times called for change and paradigm shifts from the conventional. Smith saw the need to preserve the good and the values of the old society that was radically transforming to urbanization and capitalization.

Smith, who was then a Sunday school teacher saw the implications and effect of these changes in the character development of the youth. He conceived and formed the Boys’ Brigade unit as a way of making Sunday School both more attractive to boys and young men and of giving structure to the work ( The boys who turned up were the first to respond to the call of Smith for them to join an organized youth company. This was sought as a means of instilling discipline into adolescent boys and to try to develop their characters in an orderly Christian manner. This Christian Youth Movement originated in an environment of Liberal non-conformity, “muscular” Christianity, and adolescent-centered educational and social outreach. It was linked initially to the needs of the Sunday School movement in urban Scotland. From its evangelical and volunteer base, the Brigade expanded into an international interdenominational youth organization, establishing specific roots in South Africa, and expanding throughout the globe (Adonis, 1995; The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore, 2014).

The motto of the Boys’ Brigade is “Sure and Stedfast.” It comes from a verse in the Bible, “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast” (Hebrews 6:19). The motto talks about the hope that Christians have in Jesus Christ. Smith adopted the spelling of “Stedfast” from the ‘King James version of the Bible written in the time when BB started. The BB objective is “The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tend towards a True Christian Manliness” (The Brigade Philippines; Boys’ Brigade Australia, 2018).

The Boys' Brigade in Various Countries

In Asia, The Boys’ Brigade Singapore (BBS) was officially adopted in 1930. Initially, Singapore’s BB was focused on the sons of church members as well as friends and schoolmates of those who had joined. It was expanded beyond church mission schools and began promoting the movement to non-mission schools (Cheong, 2013). The BBS membership comprises three age groups with each group placed in a separate programme. The Juniors Programme is for Boys aged eight to twelve years old, while the twelve years and above join the Seniors Programme. The Primers is open to youths who are sixteen to eighteen years of age. Each section of the programmeshas awards that can be gained by fulfilling achievements (The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore, 2014).

In Thailand, The Boys’ Brigade (BBT) was established in 1994. As of 2010, there were ten companies with a membership of nine hundred forty five boys and girls. There were sixty adult officers who supervise the program as volunteers on once weekly basis. The membership is organized into three age group sections namely, the Pre Junior Section composed of six to eight years old; the Junior Section who are nine to twelve years old; and the senior Section who are twelve to nineteen years old (

In Hongkong, the Boys’ Brigade (BBHK) was established in 1959. Through Christian education and leadership training programs, the BBHKbuilds up positive attitudes and good character traits among the young people. The whole-person training system given to them by the BBHK helps bring up the youth as servant leaders who can use their talents to create an energetic and harmonious society.

The Brigade Philippines Extension

In the Philippines, the extension of the Boys’ Brigade work in the country could be traced to the early 1990s. It was initially named the Philippine Youth Brigade (PYB). It was introduced to the local pastors and followed by the first officers training that was conducted in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. Subsequently, two companies were formed in Laoag City and was followed by the Third Company formed in Muntinglupa. But after the establishment of the PYB, communications between the PYB and The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore appeared to have weakened and eventually lost (The BrigadePh Gazette, 2018).

The Brigade Philippines (BrigadePh) is a Christian non-government organization that serves to train the youth into becoming disciplined and God-fearing leaders (BrigadePh Gazette, 2018). It evolved from the Boys’ Brigade worldwide organization which originated in Scotland in the 19th century and reached the Philippines in the 21st century, with its present name, Brigade Philippines.

The Brigade Philippines was established in January 2010. This organization is a non-stock non profit organization that aims to achieve the BB objective among the children and youth in the Philippines. The Brigade, Philippines falls under the umbrella of an international organization called the Boys’ Brigade Asia. There are various countries which are also under the said organization that hosts brigade ministry as well. These are Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong, Indonesia., Macau , Brunei and Thailand.

The Brigade objective in the Philippines is the advancement of Christ’s kingdom among boys and girls and the promotion of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a Christian character.Many Christian schools across the country have established their own BB companies including Baguio City and Benguet, anchoring on the major objectives of the worldwide organization. Membership is grouped into Sections: Pre-Junior Section for ages six to eight or those in Grades 1 to 3; Junior Section for ages nine to fourteen or those in Grades 4 to 6; Senior Section for ages thirteen to seventeen or those in Grades 7 to 12; and Primer Section for ages 18 to 21, or college/university students.

The Brigade Philippines 1stBenguet Company of the Star Colleges, Incorporated, “All Star Brigade” was founded by School Director, Sir Ambrosio B. Alawas, who is also the current national Vice President of The Brigade Philippines. Star Colleges was the host of the 2018 Brigade Officers’ Training Course held in July 27-28, 2018. It was participated in by nine schools from the Cordillera and Isabela. Prior to this, it has been actively sending delegations from the school to international BB camp since 2015, in its desire to promote the advancement of the objectives to the young boys and girls of the institution. This is also one way by which the institution exposes the BB members in order to develop their maximum potentials and leadership skills as they commune with their counterparts across Asia and the world. In June 2015, BB delegates of Star Colleges participated in the Camp Temasek VI in Singapore; followed by the December 2015 BB Thailand Camp in Mahachai Christian Wittaya School; April 2016 in Camp Temasek Singapore; June 2017, Sabah Adventure Camp in Malaysia; and in March 2018, Camp Pestalong in Malaysia (Star Colleges, FB Page, Videos).

Star Colleges regularly sends its delegations to international BB camps in its desire to expose its members to varied cultures, gain friends, develop their leadership potentials, strengthen their Christian faith, and be globally competitive. As a consequence, when they return from their international exposures, they share their learnings and experiences from these exposures to their classmates and other BB members and encourage them to do their best in everything they do, and always be a leader and a Christian, worthy of emulation.

Membership in the BB All Star Brigade in Star Colleges starts with the Juniors Programme or those from ages 9 to 12. The researcher is interested to look into the character development of her Grade 6 learners after having been trained with the BB from Grades 4 to 6.

The researcher finds importance of this study in that it will give insights to the school leaders on how to sustain, further improve and strengthen the BB in the institution. As Adonis (1995) reasoned out in compiling the scholarly historical account of The Boys’ Brigade, “it is to record the significance of a body which continues to exist in Britain, and in many overseas countries, including South Africa. It hopes to create an even greater awareness amongst its present day local members of their history in their own region.” The researcher likewise aimed that this research would record the history and significance of The Brigade Philippines as it helps in the building of character and leadership among the youth as early as in the elementary grades in Star Colleges. While Adonis examined the evolving relationship between the church and society in his study, which was so relevant during those times, this researcher only limited her study on the character development of members of The Brigade in Star Colleges.

To look deeper into The Boys Brigade is to look into the disciplinary mode that evolved with the organization. According to Adonis (1995), an analysis of those historical forces which act as a mechanism for social stability rather than for change, for the traditional values of discipline and obedience rather than those of disorder and rejection of authority can be useful means to comprehend not only political, moral and social conservatism, but also the respect of society’s members - for the institutional forms of authority and by which they are governed.

Another importance of this study is that parents will likewise be guided with how their children are progressing in both the Christian faith, personal and character development. In the same token, the findings will benefit the BB members not only in Grade 6 in giving value to the BB efforts in helping them build their Christian faith, self-confidence, leadership and assertiveness.

The results of the study can also inspire families, parents, churches and other schools to replicate the BB activities in instilling values and character development among children beginning at their young ages and developed through the example they see and observe among family members, the church, the school and the bigger community.

Exploring How Moral Character Develops

The study proceeds from theories and concepts that enlightened the researcher in conceptualizing this study.According to Haste (1998, and Vessels and Huitt (2005), sociologists view the individual as a blank slate but see morality and character being embedded in society and culture. They focus more on the values, mores, norms and moral exemplars and emphasize on the transmission of these moral norms and expectations from one generation to the next. This is done through modelling and explaining (Durkheim, 1961, Vessels and Huitt (2005).

Family, school and church are the best institutions which strongly influence character building and development among individuals. Society’s values, mores and norms are instilled in children as early as when they can grasp these from birth. This is one of the many reasons that inspired the Star Colleges to strengthen the emulation of character building among their learners at an early age.

Another basic physiological theory on character development focuses on an innate human cognitive processing ability and suggests that children develop a sense of right and wrong moral values through the analysis of competing alternatives (Primack, 1986, Vessels and Huitt, 2005). It is often heard that children do not lie. When this value is strengthened in institutions beyond the family like the school, children will continue to stand for what is right from wrong as they mature. The same is supported by the cognitive theory of moral character development based on the work of (Piaget, 1969; Kohlberg, 1984; Vessels and Huitt, 2005). It proposes that all children are predisposed to engage in moral and ethical thinking, feeling, choosing, and behaving. Morality is viewed as the result of the development of moral thinking based on a concept of justice. They acknowledge that a child’s interaction with the environment are powerful influences, yet propose that thinking is the primary process that allows the child to move into the moral realm about moral issues with thinking providing a guide for behavior.

According to Webber (2006) an individual’s character is that person’s collection of traits, and these can be defined as relatively stable dispositions to think, feel, and behave in certain ways in given situations. Two traditional examples are bravery and cowardice, the dispositions to think, feel, and behave in a brave or cowardly manner is seen in the face of real or apparent danger. Other more restricted examples might be being talkative at lunch or nervous at office parties. Exactly, what is and what is not to count as a character trait depends on which account of the nature of character is to be accepted.

Theories on Moral Development

The social cognition theory of Bandura (1977,1991) combines many of the assumptions of the blank slate, information processing, and affective approaches. It focuses on putting thoughts and values into action. It proposes a relationship of reciprocal determinism among the environment, overt behavior, and personal factors.

Turiel and his colleagues (1983; Helwig and Turiel, 2002; Vessels and Huitt, 2005) propose that morality and social convention have separate paths of development. They suggest that most social interactions do not involve moral issues and that success in these interactions involves knowledge and skills that are important on their own merit and not because they impact moral thinking. Turiel identifies four major dimensions that separate universal morals from conventional valuing. These are alterability, where moral principles do not change, conventions are changeable; contingency, where morality is not contingent on authority, social practice, or group agreement, whereas conventions are specific to group or society; seriousness where moral transgressions are seen as more serious that social convention transgressions.

The proponents of virtues approach see virtues as combining natural predispositions and interactions with the environment that involve both reflection and commitment to moral values and behavior. As personality constructs, virtues are habitual ways of thinking, feeling, committing, and acting that reflect moral character.


The old adage, “character counts” initiates a strong force on an individual. Hence, character is always an important emphasis to an individual from childhood on to his development as he plays with his age mates, and relates with his school mates and the bigger community. The social control on what is right or wrong is naturally the emphasis. So in school, effective character programs and strategies to build character among young children is found effective. The BB is one program geared at developing character among the youth, as it consequently builds in them self-confidence, team work, and leadership, on top of learning Christian values. Over the past five years, the Star Colleges have found the BB as one way of instilling values and virtues among the young and has sustained the program to the present.

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According to McKee (1999) as mentioned by Haglund (2012), true character is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure. The greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation; the truer the choice, to the person’s essential nature. If a person chooses to tell the truth in a situation where telling a lie would gain him nothing, the choice is trivial, but if he insists in telling the truth when a lie would save his life, then honesty is at the core of his nature. Habits and patterns make the character of an individual more realistic. An individuals’ habits and patterns show what a person usually does in a given situation. Traits define a big deal of a person’s character. These are mirrored in his behaviors and attitudes and the way he interacts with others.


  1. Adonis, J. (1995). A history of The Boys' Brigade. The Boys' Brigade Asia.
  2. Boys' Brigade Australia. (2018). History of The Boys' Brigade.
  3. Brigade Philippines Gazette. (2018). The Boys' Brigade's journey to the Philippines.
  4. Brigade Philippines. (n.d.). The Boys' Brigade.
  5. Cheong, Y. (2013). A History of The Boys' Brigade in Singapore. The Boys' Brigade in Singapore.
  6. Haste, H. (1998). Developmental psychology: From infancy to adulthood (2nd ed.). Blackwell Publishing.
  7. (2018). About The Boys' Brigade.
  8. Primack, M. J. (1986). Moral education: Traditional approaches. In W. M. Kurtines & J. L. Gewirtz (Eds.), Handbook of moral behavior and development (Vol. 2, pp. 315-333). Erlbaum.
  9. Star Colleges. (n.d.). About Us.
  10. The Boys' Brigade in Singapore. (2014). The Boys' Brigade: Our History.
  11. Vessels, G. A., & Huitt, W. G. (2005). Moral and character development. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University.
  12. Webber, J. (2006). Character education: The formation of virtues and dispositions in 21st century education. In E. L. Pattison & J. P. Miller (Eds.), Character and moral education: A reader (pp. 111-121). Routledge
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