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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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The role of education and skills in today's world

Today’s socio-economic climate brings new challenges that affect the future of children and youth. Although access to education has improved considerably, a good education no longer secures a job; youth have been particularly affected by rising unemployment following the economic crisis. Problems such as obesity and declining civic engagement are also increasing while the ageing population and the environmental outlook are worrying. Moreover, inequalities in labour market and social outcomes tend to be widening. Education has strong potential to address these challenges by enhancing a variety of skills. Cognitive skills matter, but social and emotional skills, such as perseverance, selfcontrol and resilience are just as important. All of these skills need to be fostered for individuals and societies to prosper.

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