2. Social and emotional skills across socio-demographic groups

This chapter explores how students’ social and emotional skills differ according to their age, gender, socio-economic status and migration background. Groups that may be at particular risk of having low levels of these skills are identified to inform policy measures aimed at equitable and sustainable skill distribution.

Equity in education is a central aspect of the Survey on Social and Emotional Skills (SSES) and a major concern of countries worldwide. SSES starts from the premise that there are no differences in the ability to learn these skills across groups defined by race, ethnicity, or gender. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Target 4.7 (United Nations, 2015[1]) advocates “ensuring that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”. In this context, social and emotional skills, including empathy and tolerance, are key for citizens and societies to achieve these goals and secure the basis for functioning democracies.

The current landscape, as set out in this chapter, suggests there is still a long way to go to achieve these goals. There are differences in skills, on average, between students by age, gender, and economic, social and cultural status. These differences are often remarkably consistent across the diverse range of sites taking part in SSES. As well as being important skills in their own right, deficits in these skills may negatively affect students’ health and well-being and limit their academic achievement and future career prospects. Disparities between student groups in these skills may therefore contribute to inequities we see in a range of other outcomes in these same groups, such as lower psychological well-being among girls or poorer academic performance among students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

SSES results and wider research demonstrate that these disparities are not fixed and development of these skills in children and young people can be influenced by education systems. While the direction of disparities tends to be similar – for example girls report lower emotional regulation skills in all sites and disadvantaged students report lower assertiveness in all but two sites – the size of these differences varies and, for some relationships, there are exceptions. In addition, within groups, there is much variation: it is not uncommon for girls to report higher levels of skills that, on average, are typically higher in boys. Likewise, in the same way that some disadvantaged students outperform advantaged students academically, many also report higher social and emotional skills than their peers.

Many of these skills have been shown to be sensitive to intervention, including within school, and influence from the school environment (Steponavičius, Gress-Wright and Linzarini, 2023[2]). Consequently, efforts to cultivate these skills among students are worth pursuing. This is widely recognised: the development of social and emotional skills is an aim of most education systems, as set out in official curricula (OECD, 2021[3]). However, to bridge the gaps set out in this chapter, systems need to go beyond making this merely an ambition of the education system. Approaches to social and emotional learning should be carefully designed to incorporate effective practice and ensure they meet the needs of students and wider society. Practice should be carefully implemented and evaluated to ensure that it is effective. Care should be taken to ensure that students with different characteristics and from different backgrounds have equal access to opportunities to develop their skills and that approaches are effective across student groups, particularly those who tend to have lower levels of these skills.

In this section, differences in skill levels between younger (10-year-old) and older (15-year-old) students are discussed1,2. In most sites, 10-year-olds are enrolled in the last grade(s) of primary school, while 15-year-olds are towards the end of lower secondary or the beginning of upper secondary school. Differences in the levels of social and emotional skills reported by these different cohorts can provide insights into how the transition from primary to secondary education, and the different learning and social environments these typically provide, can impact students’ development of these important skills.

On average, younger students (10-year-olds) report higher levels of all social and emotional skills except empathy and tolerance, compared to older students (15-year-olds) – see Figure 2.1. These trends are broadly consistent across sites, although age differences in most skills tend to be larger in Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) and smaller in Ukraine than in other sites (see Figure 2.4).

SSES 2019 found that teachers of older students tend to be less equipped to support students’ social and emotional learning: teachers of younger students receive more training, are required to promote social and emotional learning in their work more often and are more likely to work with parents to reinforce skill promotion (OECD, 2023[4]). Younger students are also more likely to have their social and emotional skills evaluated by their teachers. Taken together, teachers of older students in lower or upper secondary school might particularly benefit from training to support students with their social and emotional learning.

Trust is the skill with the largest gap between younger and older students on average across sites, followed by energy and optimism. Younger students report higher levels of these three skills, on average, than older students in all participating sites (see Figure 2.4).

While age differences in these skills are found in all sites, they are larger in some than others. For example, Figure 2.2 shows the average difference in trust between 10- and 15-year-olds in each site. This age difference is largest in Colombian sites (Bogotá and Manizales) and Sobral (Brazil) and smallest in Daegu (Korea). For energy and optimism, these age differences are largest in Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) – and Istanbul (Türkiye) for optimism - and smallest in Ukraine (see Figure 2.4).

Some of the shifts in these skills may be due to typical developmental changes between late childhood and adolescence. During adolescence, students develop a better perception of themselves and of how others perceive them (Sebastian, Burnett and Blakemore, 2008[5]). Older children tend to take greater consideration of the perspectives of others and how they compare to their peers, which may lead them to adjust their self-assessments and give lower appraisals of their skills than younger children. Younger children are also typically hyper-optimistic. As they enter adolescence, children begin to learn more from negative outcomes and become more realistic in their appraisals (Habicht et al., 2022[6]). This optimism-bias is reflected in the particularly high levels of trust and optimism reported by younger students compared to older students. These skills indicate positive expectations: students with high trust and optimism assume others have good intentions and that things will work out well.

In terms of energy, adolescence is marked by delayed sleep and rise times, often leaving teenagers’ sleep patterns misaligned with the early waking expectations of schools and wider society (Anastasiades et al., 2022[7]; Galván, 2020[8]). Adolescents commonly report getting too little sleep: on average, over half of 15-year-olds in SSES get less than eight hours of sleep most nights. Poor sleep quantity and quality among young people also appears to be increasing in many OECD countries (Aston, 2018[9]). Sleep deficits are linked to poorer health outcomes, as well as students’ learning capacity and academic performance (Curcio, Ferrara and Degennaro, 2006[10]; Bacaro, Carpentier and Crocetti, 2023[11]). Efforts to improve students’ sleep quality and quantity can include teaching sleep hygiene, where students learn healthy habits, such as going to sleep and waking at regular times. In addition, avoiding caffeine and digital devices for a period before bed are commonly recommended. Adjusting students’ environment, such as delaying start times to school or examinations, can also be considered (Minges and Redeker, 2016[12]).

While it may not be unusual for 15-year-olds to give a lower appraisal of these skills than 10-year-olds, low levels of them can still be an indicator of concern. Optimism is strongly associated with mental health and well-being outcomes (see Chapter 3), including life satisfaction and psychological well-being, as are energy and trust to a lesser extent. Low levels of these skills indicate a tendency to be suspicious of others, feeling sad often and tiring easily, all of which can be indicators of low mood. Adolescence is a formative period, with many physical, emotional and social changes, and a time when symptoms of anxiety, depression or other conditions can emerge (Rapee et al., 2019[13]). Low levels of these skills, and particularly declines in them, should therefore be proactively addressed to enhance young people’s immediate well-being and lay the groundwork for their long-term mental health and resilience.

In all sites except Ukraine, younger students report higher levels of sociability than older students. These differences are largest in Daegu (Korea), Jinan (China), Sintra (Portugal) and Suzhou (China). Students with high sociability can approach others, both friends and strangers, and maintain social connections. During adolescence, an increase in self-consciousness and a transition towards more homogeneous peer groups, where relationships are based on shared beliefs and ideas, might impact students’ perceptions of their social skills (Parker et al., 2015[14]). These changes create more complex social landscapes, where students face challenges of inclusion and exclusion, which may contribute to a lower self-assessment of this skill among adolescents.

Younger students also report higher levels of persistence, stress resistance and responsibility on average in most sites. Persistence is particularly positively associated with academic success (see Chapter 4), as is responsibility to a lesser extent, and stress resistance is the most protective against test and class anxiety (see Chapter 3). Students with low levels of these skills give up easily when faced with challenges or distractions, lack interest in their schoolwork and are excessively worried by their workload or exams. 15-year-old students’ lower self-assessments of these skills than 10-year-olds may reflect the increased academic demands placed on students as they get older. While many students are equipped to cope well with these higher expectations, some may become easily overwhelmed or disengaged from their studies in response to these challenges. The differences in students’ assessments of these skills between ages 10 and 15 are not the same in all sites. Students might be better supported through the transition to secondary education in some sites than others or the shift in workload may be less extreme. Older students report particularly lower levels of persistence than younger students in Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) and this was the largest age gap of all skills in Suzhou (China), while age gaps in stress resistance and responsibility are also significantly larger in these sites than others. Conversely, in Houston (United States), Istanbul (Türkiye), Sintra (Portugal) and Ukraine, there are no or relatively small significant differences in these skills between younger and older students.

Older students tend to report higher levels of empathy and tolerance, although there are some exceptions (see Figure 2.4):

  • For empathy, older students report higher levels on average in all sites except Suzhou (China), where younger students report higher levels on average, and Jinan (China), where there is no significant difference.

  • For tolerance, older students report higher levels on average in most sites while younger students report higher levels on average in Daegu (Korea), Jinan (China), Kudus (Indonesia) and Suzhou (China).

Having empathy and tolerance requires students to be aware of the feelings and perspectives of others, including those different to their own. While abilities to share and understand others’ feelings emerge in early childhood and continue to develop into adulthood, adolescence is a particularly important development period for these skills (Oh et al., 2019[15]). Improved abstract thinking, moral reasoning, and increased autonomy, all allow the development of more complex forms of empathetic abilities. While levels of empathy tend to increase during this period, there are substantial differences between young people. Longitudinal research has shown that even small decreases in empathy in adolescence can be a risk factor for poorer societal outcomes later in life (Allemand, Steiger and Fend, 2014[16]). Nurturing these skills among students is therefore crucial for students’ development, preparing them to have good relationships with others and participate in wider society.

For assertiveness, emotional control, creativity and curiosity, younger students report lower levels of these skills on average across sites as shown in Figure 2.1. However, age differences for these skills tend to be smaller and there are some sites where the trend is reversed or there is no significant difference (see Figure 2.4). However, there are exceptions. Relatively large age differences, with older students reporting lower levels, are seen in these skills in Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China). In Jinan (China), the average age difference in assertiveness is one of the largest of all skills in SSES. In Sobral (Brazil), older students also report relatively lower levels of assertiveness than younger students compared to other sites.

In this section, skill levels are compared between boys and girls3,4, including how gender differences shift between ages 10 and 15. The existence of gender gaps in academic performance are well-documented (OECD, 2023[17]), as well as disparities in job-related outcomes, health indicators and political participation (OECD, 2023[18]; Beauregard, 2013[19]; Kennedy et al., 2020[20]). However, gender disparities in levels of social and emotional skills are less well understood.

Gender differences in students’ skills tend to be wider at age 15 compared to age 10 (see Figure 2.5). For most skills, these differences are remarkably consistent across participating sites (see Figure 2.7).

On average, boys report higher emotional regulation skills (stress resistance, optimism and emotional control) and energy than girls at age 15 in all participating sites. In addition, 15-year-old boys report higher trust, sociability and self-control, on average, in most sites.

  • For stress resistance and, to a lesser extent, energy, the gender differences in favour of boys are already visible in most sites at age 10. These gaps then tend to grow larger by age 15.

  • For emotional control, optimism, trust and sociability, there are no significant gender differences in these skills at age 10 in most sites. These gender differences therefore tend to emerge in adolescence.

  • For self-control, there is a small gender difference in favour of girls at age 10 in most sites. This trend tends to reverse in favour of boys during adolescence.

Although boys typically report higher levels of these skills than girls in all participating sites, the size of these differences varies. For example, Figure 2.6 shows the average difference in stress resistance between boys and girls in each site. In some sites – particularly Daegu (Korea), Gunma (Japan) and Suzhou (China) – the average gender difference in this skill is small, meaning there is a large overlap in levels of stress resistance among boys and girls. Conversely, the average gender difference approaches one standard deviation in Helsinki (Finland) and Italian sites (Emilia-Romagna and Turin), meaning there is much less overlap between girls and boys in levels of this skill.

Emotional regulation skills (stress resistance, emotional control and optimism) are associated with students’ health and well-being outcomes. As well as reporting lower levels of these skills, girls also typically report lower psychological well-being and life satisfaction and higher test and class anxiety than boys (see Chapter 3). Adolescent girls are more likely to express feelings of sadness and anxiety and to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders than boys, a difference that persists into adulthood (Chaplin and Aldao, 2013[20]; Breslau et al., 2017[21]). There is some evidence that these gender disparities have worsened in recent years within some sites. Box 2.1 discusses how levels of social and emotional skills among students differ in 2023 compared to 2019 in Bogotá (Colombia) and Helsinki (Finland). In both sites, gender differences in emotional regulation skills (emotional control, stress resistance and optimism) and energy among 15-year-old boys and girls widened further between 2019 and 2023. Both boys and girls reported lower levels of optimism in Bogotá in 2023 than in 2019, but this drop was much larger for girls. In Helsinki, there was little change in the gender gap in optimism between these years.

While these trends are broadly consistent across sites, there are also some notable exceptions:

  • In Delhi (India), Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) there are no significant gender differences in trust.

  • In Delhi (India), Gunma (Japan) and Sintra (Portugal), there are no gender differences in either sociability or self-control at age 15, unlike in most sites. In Emilia-Romagna (Italy), Houston (United States), Kudus (Indonesia) and Spain, there are also no gender differences in self-control, while in Ottawa (Canada), girls report higher levels of this skill. In Bulgaria and Helsinki (Finland), there are no gender differences in sociability.

  • Gender differences in favour of boys are already visible at age 10 in Bogotá (Colombia) and Sobral (Brazil) for trust, sociability, optimism and emotional control, unlike in most sites where these differences are only seen at age 15.

Girls report significantly higher tolerance, achievement motivation5, empathy and responsibility in most sites compared to boys at age 15. For empathy and responsibility, the gender gap at age 15 is similar to that at age 10, suggesting there is little shift in the distribution of these skills during adolescence. Tolerance is the only skill where the gender gap grows larger towards girls between age 10 and 15 (see Figure 2.5). While these trends are broadly consistent across sites, there are some exceptions. In Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) there are no significant differences between boys and girls in tolerance, empathy, or responsibility (or in achievement motivation in Jinan (China)). The only skill where girls report higher levels than boys in these sites, on average, is assertiveness. Gender differences in Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) also tend to be smaller than average for other skills. Gender differences in social and emotional skills therefore manifest somewhat differently in these sites compared to others.

Studies consistently find that women and girls tend to display higher levels of empathy than men and boys (Rochat, 2022[21]). Gender differences in relevant behaviours have been identified as early as infancy, and these gaps then tend to widen with age, typically peaking around puberty (Lam, Solmeyer and McHale, 2012[22]). This could explain some of the gender differences seen in political opinions and voting patterns. For example, women tend to be less supportive of stringent immigration policies and more supportive of increased spending on social welfare programs (Halman et al., 2022[23]).

For creativity, there is a general trend towards boys reporting higher levels of this skill, however these differences tend to be smaller compared to other skills and are only seen in around half of sites (Chile, Daegu [Korea], Emilia-Romagna [Italy], Gunma [Japan], Helsinki [Finland], Istanbul [Türkiye], Jinan [China], Sobral [Brazil], Spain and Suzhou [China]). Bulgaria, Delhi (India) and Ukraine are exceptions to this trend, where girls report higher levels of creativity than boys on average.

For assertiveness, boys report higher levels than girls in some sites (Bulgaria, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Emilia-Romagna [Italy], Helsinki [Finland], Istanbul [Türkiye], Manizales [Colombia], Sintra [Portugal], Spain and Turin [Italy]). The reverse trend is seen in Delhi (India), Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China), where girls report slightly higher levels on average.

For curiosity and persistence, there are mixed findings, with no significant gender differences overall. In some sites, differences are found in favour of boys and, in others, in favour of girls. However, these differences tend to be small, indicating a large degree of overlap in levels of these skills among girls and boys.

Boys report higher curiosity than girls on average in some sites (Daegu [Korea], Gunma [Japan], Istanbul [Türkiye], Jinan [China] and Suzhou [China]) whereas the reverse trend – girls reporting higher levels - is seen in others (Bulgaria, Delhi (India), Houston [United States], Kudus [Indonesia], Manizales [Colombia], Ottawa [Canada] and Sintra [Portugal]).

Boys report higher persistence than girls on average in some sites (Daegu [Korea], Dubai [United Arab Emirates], Helsinki (Finland), Istanbul [Türkiye], Jinan [China] and Suzhou [China]), while the reverse trend is found in others (Kudus [Indonesia], Manizales [Colombia], Peru and Spain).

Figure 2.5 illustrates how the gender gaps in social and emotional skills change between ages 10 and 15, indicating whether the shift favours boys or girls. Between these ages, shifts in gender differences favour boys for most skills, particularly for emotional regulation skills (emotional control, stress resistance and optimism), energy, sociability, trust, self-control, and creativity. Notably, tolerance is the only skill where the gender gap widens in favour of girls between ages 10 and 15. This suggests an overall decline in girls' self-assessment of their skills compared to boys between these ages, with the exception of tolerance. Girls also report lower levels of health behaviours, body image, life satisfaction, satisfaction with relationships, and current psychological well-being compared to boys, as outlined in Chapter 3. This aligns with broader trends showing lower levels of self-esteem and confidence among girls and women in various contexts, with a tendency for women to attribute success to luck, or other external sources, and failure to lack of ability or hard work (Ellis et al., 2013[24]). This demonstrates the importance of providing students with accurate and objective assessments of their skills, which can help to challenge negative self-beliefs.

In this section, levels of social and emotional skills among the most advantaged and most disadvantaged students, according to their economic, social and cultural status, are compared6. This status is based on students’ parents’ levels of education and occupations and the number of certain possessions at home, such as electronic equipment and vehicles. Disadvantaged students are those in the bottom quarter within their site based on this status, while advantaged students are those in the top quarter.

Disadvantaged students report lower levels of all social and emotional skills, on average, compared to their advantaged peers (see Figure 2.8). This trend is seen in all participating sites (see Figure 2.11). Across all skills measured in all participating sites, there are only a handful of examples where this trend is reversed. These findings mirror patterns seen in academic skills, where economic, social and cultural status is a strong predictor of poorer performance (OECD, 2023[17]).

On average, the families of students who are economically, culturally and socially disadvantaged have lower incomes, lower levels of education and less prestigious jobs. These inequalities affect all areas of students’ lives and persist into adulthood. Students from disadvantaged families typically have poorer access to quality education and learning resources and are more likely to have poorer educational attainment (OECD, 2019[25]). They are more likely to have poorer health and have a higher likelihood of developing many physical and mental health conditions (Reiss, 2013[26]). When they enter the labour market, their earnings are likely to be considerably lower than their advantaged peers (OECD, 2018[27]). SSES results show that similar inequalities exist in students’ social and emotional skills. Given that these skills are associated with better health, education and labour market outcomes after controlling for disadvantage and other factors, lower levels of these important skills may also contribute to the inequalities seen in other outcomes.

In some sites, the target population includes only public schools (Mexico, Delhi [India], Helsinki [Finland], Houston [United States], Ottawa [Canada] and Sobral [Brazil]) or private schools (Dubai [United Arab Emirates]). This means that the full range of student backgrounds in these geographies are unlikely to be represented and differences by socio-economic background should be interpreted with this in mind. However, even after accounting for these differences, disparities by socio-economic background tend to be larger and more consistent in some sites than others. For this reason, smaller differences by socio-economic background in these sites compared to average are not highlighted in the following sections.

There are larger gaps between the most advantaged and disadvantaged students in almost all skills in Chile, Houston (United States), Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China) than on average across sites. In Istanbul (Türkiye) and Peru, these gaps tend to be smaller or non-existent for many skills. Figure 2.9 shows the range in the average difference in creativity between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students across sites. In Peru, there is no significant difference in this skill between these student groups, and differences are small in Bogotá (Colombia), Helsinki (Finland), Spain, Italian sites (Turin and Emilia-Romagna) and Istanbul (Türkiye), meaning there is a large overlap in levels of this skill among advantaged and disadvantaged students. These differences are largest in Houston (United States), Jinan (China) and Suzhou (China), where the average difference is over half a standard deviation.

The relationship between economic, social and cultural status and the skills of creativity, tolerance, assertiveness, curiosity, sociability and empathy is particularly strong (see Figure 2.10). For these skills, gaps are not only seen between the most advantaged (top quarter) and most disadvantaged students (bottom quarter). Students who are somewhat advantaged (second quarter) and somewhat disadvantaged (third quarter) also report higher levels of these skills, on average, than the most disadvantaged students. This demonstrates that economic, social and cultural status is a spectrum: the higher a students’ status, the greater their advantage. However, it is not inevitable that disadvantaged students will have poorer outcomes. Behind the averages, there are many disadvantaged students who report high levels of skills, comparable to how many disadvantaged students achieve academic success.

The largest and most consistent gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students among 15-year-olds are in the skills of creativity, tolerance and assertiveness. While differences in these skills are found in most sites, there are some exceptions7. For creativity, no significant difference by socio-economic background is found in Peru and this disparity is particularly smaller in Bogotá (Colombia) than other sites. For tolerance, no differences are found in Italian sites (Emilia-Romagna and Turin) or Sintra (Portugal) and the difference is smaller in Spain than other sites. For assertiveness, no significant difference by socio-economic background is found in Peru.

Students who report low creativity find it challenging to generate novel ideas or new ways of doing things. This could present a barrier for students with a lower economic, social and cultural status in accessing higher education and certain professions, particularly those with projected growth in the future (Autor, 2015[28]). Indeed, students with lower levels of creativity are less likely to expect to have careers in the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), science and engineering sectors when they are older (see Chapter 4). Jobs that require creative thinking skills are at less risk of automation, therefore this skill can help students adapt to a rapidly changing labour market that requires people to think flexibly and innovatively.

Students with low assertiveness struggle to voice their opinions and tend to let others take the lead, reflecting a lack of confidence in their abilities. Access to economic, cultural, and social capital can bestow knowledge, experiences and resources that bolster confidence in one’s ideas and boost leadership skills, such as tutoring, access to unpaid or informal internships and extra-curricular activities (Hora et al., 2021[29]; Mikus, Tieben and Schober, 2021[30]). Disadvantaged students tend to have less ambitious expectations for their future than their advantaged peers, even when they have similar levels of academic attainment. This can lead them to make choices that limit their career options and earning potential, such as opting for a vocational rather than an academic high-school track or not pursuing higher education (Parker et al., 2016[31]). Low assertiveness among students from a lower socio-economic background may contribute to these differences in beliefs and behaviours. A recent review by the OECD found strong evidence that assertiveness is predictive of job performance and moderate evidence for its role in life satisfaction (Steponavičius, Gress-Wright and Linzarini, 2023[2]). These outcomes are highly relevant to disadvantaged students. Individuals with lower economic, social and cultural status are less likely to be promoted to leadership positions (Barling et al., 2023[32]) and, as discussed in Chapter 3, disadvantaged students tend to report lower levels of life satisfaction and psychological well-being.

The most socio-economically disadvantaged students in each site also report lower levels of other skills from the open-mindedness (curiosity) and engaging with others domains (sociability and energy), as well as empathy, achievement motivation, persistence, responsibility, and optimism in most sites compared to their disadvantaged peers.

  • For curiosity, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Istanbul (Türkiye) and Peru, where there are no significant differences.

  • For sociability, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Delhi (India), where there are no significant differences.

  • For empathy, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Gunma (Japan), Istanbul (Türkiye), Kudus (Indonesia) and Sobral (Brazil), where there are no significant differences.

  • For optimism, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Bogotá (Colombia), Bulgaria, Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Gunma (Japan), Sobral (Brazil), Peru and Turin (Italy), where there are no significant differences.

  • For persistence, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in most sites except Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Gunma (Japan), Istanbul (Türkiye), Kudus (Indonesia), Peru and Sobral (Brazil), where there are no significant differences.

  • For energy, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower levels of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Bogotá (Colombia), Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Peru, Sobral (Brazil) and Turin (Italy), where there are no significant differences.

  • For responsibility, the most disadvantaged 15-year-old students report lower of this skill on average compared to their advantaged peers in all sites except Bogotá (Colombia), Delhi (India), Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Gunma (Japan), Istanbul (Türkiye), Kudus (Indonesia), Manizales (Colombia), and Sobral (Brazil), where there are no significant differences, and Peru, where advantaged students report lower levels.

For self-control, emotional control, stress resistance and trust, while there is a general trend towards disadvantaged students reporting lower levels of these skills, these relationships tend to be weaker and there are exceptions.

In this section, the social and emotional skills of students with a migrant background (where the student or at least one of their parents was born in a country different to that of the assessment) to those of students who were born, or both their parents were born, in the country of assessment are compared.

Data on the relationship between migration background and academic performance generally finds small and inconsistent differences that tend to reduce or disappear after controlling for economic, social and cultural status (OECD, 2023[17]).

SSES results show that, on average, the differences in skills between students from a migrant background and their peers are small across sites (see Table B2.6). Behind this average, these relationships are inconsistent between sites, with native students tending to report higher skills than students with a migrant background in some sites and the reverse trend in others. For example, native students tend to report higher levels of almost all skills in Bulgaria and Delhi (India), while the opposite is found in Helsinki (Finland) and Ottawa (Canada). This may be due to different migration contexts between sites, including different drivers of migration and the level of overlap between migration background and economic, social and cultural status.

Some sites have very small proportions of students from a migrant background. When sites where fewer than 1-in-20 students are from a migrant background8 are excluded, the only consistent finding within the remaining sites is that students from a migrant background tend to report higher levels of tolerance than their peers. The exceptions to this are Bulgaria and Delhi (India), where the reverse relationship is found, and Jinan (China), where there is no significant difference.

Online tables for each chapter can be accessed via the StatLink.


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← 1. 13 sites with data for both age groups are included in analysis by age (see the Reader’s Guide).

← 2. Differences in achievement motivation by age are not discussed as comparable data is only available for six sites, however these data are included in Figure 2.4.

← 3. Students self-report their gender. In addition to “Male” and “Female”, the option “Other” was provided in most sites.

← 4. Analysis by gender includes 22 sites from SSES 2019 and SSES 2023 and analysis by gender and age includes 13 sites with data for both age groups (see the Reader’s Guide). Data for achievement motivation is not discussed for 10-year-olds as comparable data is only available for six sites.

← 5. Analysis of achievement motivation only includes SSES 2023 sites (see Reader’s Guide).

← 6. Analysis by economic, social and cultural status includes 22 sites from SSES 2019 and SSES 2023.

← 7. Exceptions are only discussed in sites where the target population includes both private and public schools.

← 8. Daegu (Korea), Gunma (Japan), Istanbul (Türkiye), Kudus (Indonesia), Manizales (Colombia), Peru, Sobral (Brazil), Suzhou (China) and Ukraine are excluded as fewer than 1-in-20 students have a migrant background.


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