Social and emotional skills play an essential role during all stages of life. Along with cognitive and learning abilities, it is equally important that our youth develop social and emotional skills in order to balance and ground their personalities and strengthen their characters. This blog post on a new OECD publication, "Skills for Social Progress", was written by Lynda Hawe of the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, as part of our focus on youth well-being during the Wikiprogress online consultation on Youth Well-being.
As we know from personal experiences, when we feel a deep sense of well-being we are far better able to absorb new information, take risks and be more responsible for our lives. Now don’t we want that for all youth?
But growing-up can often be quite a challenging period. Ensuring that youth have a wide variety of skills to help them cope with some of life’s challenges may not always occur naturally. Sometimes they will need help in building social and emotional skills - which are the kind of skills involved in achieving goals, working with others and managing emotions.
Social and emotional skills play an essential role during all stages of life. Fundamentally, along with cognitive and learning abilities, it is equally important that our youth develop social and emotional skills in order to balance and ground their personalities and strengthen their characters. Some examples are: Perseverance, which is the ability to keep going when things get tough and rough (like when the sports teacher demands that you to run another 10 laps of the pitch and you already feel exhausted). Caring, which is the capacity to be kind to others and to be able to show and feel empathy (when you support an upset friend by listening and comforting them, irrespective of other priorities or personal time constraints). Self-esteem, which means being able to feel good and being proud of your personal achievements, and comfortable with your physical appearances (regardless of any unpleasant comments from peers).
Luckily, some of these skills are flexible and adjustable when growing-up. This allows opportunities for policy makers, teacher and parents to provide the right kind of learning environments, in order to support and nurture them. The book Skills for Social Progress: The power of Social and Emotional Skills addresses the importance of these types of skills to enhance and balance lives. It confirms international research studies that validate the need for a steady set of cognitive, social and emotional skill in order to succeed well in life. In the past, we often thought that these types of skills couldn’t be successfully quantified. In contrast, this report demonstrates that they can be measured meaningfully, within cultural and linguistic boundaries. Additionally, the OECD will develop more measures and design an international comparative framework, in order to better grasp youth’s current and future needs for social and emotional skills. Consequently, this report supplements the reflection on how future policies could best encourage and nurture the development of social and emotional skills, of course, working closely with parents and teachers.
Not surprisingly, we need a wide range of diverse skills to contribute to the economy, support better social outcomes and build more unified and tolerant societies. Cognitive abilities such as literacy and problem-solving remain crucial. Nonetheless, youth with strong social and emotional foundation skills thrive better in a highly dynamic labour market and rapidly changing world. Investing in these skills will be central to addressing numerous socio-economic challenges, and for ensuring prosperous, healthy, engaged, responsible and happy youth.
Centre for Educational Research and Innovation CERI
OECD Skills Strategy
Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies PIAAC website