The study also found that nearly one-in-three of those surveyed reported experiencing racial abuse, rising to nearly 40 per cent among Muslim pupils.
Both these figures were sharply up on those found in a survey by the same team five years ago.
The findings published today are based on a survey of 250 ethnic minority pupils.
Government guidelines expect schools to “promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs”.
The definition first appeared in 2011 as part of the government’s “Prevent” strategy, which is designed to stop people being drawn into terrorism.
However a survey in the 2015/16 academic year of 14 to18-year-olds, from ethnic minority backgrounds and a third of whom were Muslims, found that they were generally “uncomprehending” of the term “British Values”. The research paper says: “Over half were silent, or stated ‘don’t know what you mean’ to the survey question asking for their ideas about British Values.
“The remainder offered popular icons such as ‘fish and chips’, ‘drinking tea’ or ‘celebrating the Queen’s birthday.’”
In contrast the pupils were said to understand Islamic, Christian and humanitarian values very well and “demonstrated these eloquently”.
The research is being presented today by Open University’s Dr Alison Davies to the British Educational Research Association’s annual conference.
It is based on a survey of pupils in Peterborough.