Over the last few years, social and emotional skills have been rising on the education policy agenda and in the public debate. Policy makers and education practitioners are seeking ways to complement the focus on academic learning, with attention to social and emotional skill development. Social and emotional skills are a subset of an individual’s abilities, attributes and characteristics important for individual success and social functioning. Together, they encompass a comprehensive set of skills essential for students to be able to succeed at school, at work and fully participate in society as active citizens. The benefits of developing children’s social-emotional skills go beyond cognitive development and academic outcomes; they are also important drivers of mental health and labour market prospects. The ability of citizens to adapt, be resourceful, respect and work well with others, and to take personal and collective responsibility is increasingly becoming the hallmark of a well-functioning society.
The OECD’s Survey of Social and Emotional Skills (SSES) is one of the first international efforts to collect data from students, parents, and teachers on the social and emotional skills of students at ages 10 and 15. A new report, Beyond Academic Learning, describes students’ social and emotional skills and how they relate to individual, family, and school characteristics. It also examines broader policy and socio-economic contexts related to these skills, and sheds light on ways to help education leaders and policy makers monitor and foster students’ social and emotional skills.
Key findings include the following:
- Young people’s social and emotional skills dip as they enter adolescence, and the decline is larger for girls than boys in most skills.
- Students’ social and emotional skills are strong predictors of school grades. Persistence and curiosity are most notably related to higher school performance, while stress resistance, creativity, and sociability are related to lower school performance.
- Students’ social and emotional skills are strongly related to students’ psychological well-being (after accounting for socio-economic status and gender).
- Levels of creativity and curiosity were significantly lower among 15-year-olds compared to 10-year-olds, suggesting a decline in creativity as children enter adolescence.
- One in every five 10-year-olds reported that other students made fun of them once a week or more.
- Boys reported greater exposure to bullying than girls. Despite this, boys generally reported feeling a greater sense of belonging in school than girls.