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Skills for Social Progress

The Power of Social and Emotional Skills

image of Skills for Social Progress

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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Learning contexts, skills and social progress

a conceptual framework

This chapter presents a conceptual framework that describes the relationships between learning contexts, skills and social progress. Individuals’ skills are formed in diverse learning environments, including families, schools and communities. Each of these contexts is influenced by direct inputs, environmental factors and policy levers which can be used by decision makers to foster the development of the full spectrum of skills needed for achieving social progress. Social progress includes diverse aspects of individuals’ lives, including education, labour market outcomes, health, family life, civic engagement and life satisfaction. Skills encompass cognitive, social and emotional capabilities needed for achieving prosperous, healthy and happy lives. Social and emotional skills play a particularly important role when individuals pursue goals, work with others and manage emotions. Skills develop progressively, building on previously acquired skills and on new learning investments. Those that start developing skills early tend to achieve more than others, although adolescence is also a key moment for social and emotional skills development.

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