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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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How to foster social and emotional skills?

Policy makers, teachers and parents can play an important role in improving children’s social and emotional skills. These skills, together with cognitive skills, are key ingredients of individual well-being and societal progress. Social and emotional skills can be reliably measured within a cultural and linguistic boundary. Policy makers can use this information to improve their understanding of the skill gaps and to better design policies to address them, while teachers and parents can widen the notion of children’s skill needs and create positive learning environments. Social and emotional skills can be raised and mobilised for improving the life chances of children and society. This report identified the types of skills that matter and the ongoing policies, practices and interventions aimed at fostering them. This concluding chapter evaluates the gap between “what works” and “what happens in practice” in order to develop better strategies to enhance the skills that matter for children’s lifetime success and for the well-being and progress of societies.

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