Taking care of socio-emotional skills at school favors mental health and employability

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Socio-emotional competencies such as curiosity, creativity, persistence, resilience, or cooperation are the foundation of student well-being and academic achievement. Furthermore, these skills influence how much a student learns in school, and have long-term effects on mental health and job market prospects. This is one of the most relevant conclusions of the report ‘Beyond academic learning. First results of Evaluation of socio-emotional competencies’, prepared by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). The presentation took place on December 15, in a simultaneous face-to-face and online event for Spain and Latin America, organized by the OECD in collaboration with IE University, the International Youth Organization for Ibero-America (OIJ) and the Edelvives Foundation, which translates into Spanish and disseminates the report.

Education after the pandemic

The text collects the first results of the study, in which students, teachers, school directors and families from ten cities have participated: Bogotá and Manizales (Colombia), Daegu (Korea), Helsinki, Houston (United States), Istanbul, Moscow , Ottawa (Canada), Sintra (Portugal) and Suzhou (China). “In a world that is changing, evolving and polarizing as fast as ours, schools need to equip our children with a toolbox full of not only cognitive skills, but also social and emotional ones”, emphasizes Andreas Scheicher, director of Education and Skills of the OECD. “If the COVID-19 crisis has taught us anything, it is that only by developing these skills together can we prepare for an uncertain and demanding world and help us achieve prosperous and healthy lives,” continues Scheicher.

Andreas Schecher

Main conclusions

The SSES reveals that young people’s socioemotional competencies decline as they enter adolescence; that is, 15-year-old students report having less optimism, confidence, energy, and sociability than 10-year-olds. On average, boys consider that they have higher levels of emotional regulation, sociability, and energy than girls; and women more responsibility, empathy and cooperation. In addition, students from advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds have higher socioemotional competencies than children from disadvantaged backgrounds and report a higher level of life satisfaction and psychological well-being.

The particular situation of Latin America

The presentation of the report took place during the event ‘Competences in Ibero-America: socio-emotional skills’, where representatives of leading organizations working in Latin America and the Caribbean participated, showing the conclusions of the SSES in the region. For Mercedes Mateo Díaz, head of Education at the IDB (Inter-American Development Bank), “Latin America and the Caribbean are at a critical moment. How can young people face life without the fundamental skills of this 21st century? The IDB sees this moment as an opportunity to transform educational systems through digitization: “Well used, it can help us expand skills and improve the quality of traditional learning.” El Iza Mohamedou, director of the OECD Competence Center, points to the damage that the pandemic has caused in the region, especially in labor markets. This, added to the strong migratory pressures that have been observed since 2015, places educational agents at “a key moment to raise these discussions on skills and their links with the labor market.”

pandemic education

The general secretary of the OIJ (International Youth Organization for Ibero-America), Max Trejo, agrees that “digitization is key to improving youth employment and school dropout rates. The COVID-19 virus has spread and accelerated digitization and gives us an opportunity to put young people on the side of the solution and not the problem. We are going to strengthen these cognitive and digital skills from a perspective of technological humanism, to guarantee employability and well-being”. María Jimena Durán, representative of CAF (Development Bank of Latin America) for Europe, completes the analysis with some prejudices that influence the collective imagination of Latin Americans, resulting in a “bleak panorama” against which she proposed to strengthen collaboration between the Government , universities and companies. Finally, Antón Leis-García, director of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), admitted that, during the pandemic, international solidarity has focused on the health dimension, “but there has been, there is and there will be a major educational crisis. Many children have been expelled from the education system and I am worried that not all of them will come back, especially the girls.” As a solution, he insisted on the importance of digitization.

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