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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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Skills that foster lifetime success

This chapter details the impact of raising children’s cognitive, social and emotional skills on their future outcomes in nine OECD countries. The empirical analyses show consistent patterns although they were based on longitudinal data from a variety of countries using different measures of skills and outcomes of children across different ages. Increasing deciles of cognitive skills has a strong impact on enhancing access to education and labour market outcomes, while increasing deciles of social and emotional skills has a strong impact on improving social outcomes such as health, experience of anti-social behaviour and subjective well-being. Some interventions designed to increase skills among disadvantaged children have shown impressive long-term results for social outcomes. Successful interventions tend to focus on raising skills that enable people to achieve goals, work with others and manage emotions, with conscientiousness, sociability and emotional stability appearing particularly important. Policy makers interested in better enhancing diverse measures of individual well-being and social progress may consider tapping into this area of skill development.

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