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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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Learning contexts that drive skill formation

This chapter describes how the process of skill development unfolds, and highlights the elements involved in successful developmental pathways in which “skills beget skills”. Social and emotional skills play a particularly important role in skills formation since they not only drive future development of social and emotional skills but also cognitive skills. Parental engagement and attachment have considerable impact on children’s early social and emotional skill development. School-based programmes can also play a role by promoting intensive interactions between teachers and children through mentoring. Programmes specifically designed to raise social and emotional skills in schools have shown positive results in the short term but there are rarely long-term rigorous evaluations. The few available ones, mainly aimed at disadvantaged children, have shown long-lasting effects on social and emotional skills development. Successful early childhood intervention programmes directly involve children and parents, and tend to include parental training, counselling sessions and mentoring. Successful programmes aimed at older children train teachers, while those aimed at older adolescents emphasise mentoring and hands-on workplace learning.

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