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Skills for Social Progress

The Power of Social and Emotional Skills

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Today’s children will need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills in order to succeed in modern life. Their capacity to achieve goals, work effectively with others and manage emotions will be essential to meet the challenges of the 21st century. While everyone acknowledges the importance of socio-emotional skills such as perseverance, sociability and self-esteem, there is often insufficient awareness of “what works” to enhance these skills. Teachers and parents don’t really know whether their efforts at developing these skills are paying off, and what they could do better. Policies and programmes designed to measure and enhance socio-emotional skills vary considerably within and across countries.

This report presents a synthesis of the OECD’s analytical work on the role of socio-emotional skills and proposes strategies to raise them. It analyses the effects of skills on a variety of measures of individual well-being and social progress, which covers aspects of our lives that are as diverse as education, labour market outcomes, health, family life, civic engagement and life satisfaction. The report discusses how policy makers, schools and families facilitate the development of socio-emotional skills through intervention programmes, teaching and parenting practices. Not only does it identify promising avenues to foster socio-emotional skills, it also shows that these skills can be measured meaningfully within cultural and linguistic boundaries.

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Foreword and Acknowledgements

Children and adolescents need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills in order to succeed in modern life. Cognitive skills, including those that are measured by achievement tests and academic grades, have been shown to influence the likelihood of individuals’ educational and labour market success. They also predict broader outcomes such as perceived health, social and political participation as well as trust. In turn, social and emotional skills, such as perseverance, sociability and self-esteem have been shown to influence numerous measures of social outcomes, including better health, improved subjective well-being and reduced odds of engaging in conduct problems. Cognitive and socio-emotional skills interact and crossfertilise, and empower children to succeed both in and out of schools. For example, social and emotional skills may help children translate intentions into actions, and thereby improve their likelihood of graduating from universities, follow through healthy lifestyles and prevent engaging in aggressive behaviours.

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