This article is part of Kidskintha’s Futures of Education initiative collaboration with UNESCO.

As we try shining a spotlight on 2050 vis-à-vis Education, it is pertinent to see what form it exists today. Not much contemplation is needed because a few words can largely summarize it in its current form today. Scores, medals, accolades – competitions, and academics- Isn’t it? Will we continue on this path and hold on to a narrative that sees social and emotional skills getting arbitrary treatment or strive for a holistic education system that disseminates academics on the strong foundation of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)? We deep dive into the current scenario, the need, and the proposed model to braid SEL in the mainstream seamlessly.  Read more.

We are towards the end of an unprecedented year.  2020 will always be remembered when the entire world was pushed to pause and reflect. The education sector has witnessed its share of metamorphosis attributed to the pandemic – some of that has been knee-jerk. Still, there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel by shifting the focus on critical aspects. More than ever before,  it has brought the extreme need for an emphasis on Social and Emotional competencies for learning and incorporating resilience as a great tool to steer through such pandemics and any future situations.

How does Social and Emotional Learning Uphold The Purpose of Education? 

Let us go back to basics. If we were to define the purpose of education and the reason for its pursuit, what would that be? Will it be equipping children with cognitive skills to become literate individuals or empower them to become responsible and happy citizens? 

Studies have found that 5-year-olds’ emotional knowledge predicted their academic competence at age 9. 

Any learning framework needs to be a combination of knowing, doing, living together, and being(functional, cognitive, social, and emotional). Emotional well-being and social competence provide a strong foundation for emerging cognitive abilities. Not just the long term, these skills help children connect with the subjects more deeply, thus adding meaning to the purpose of education. Unfortunately, understanding and expressing thoughts and feelings– values and practices which form Social and Emotional learning are often left to the default or for passive absorption in children. As a result, issues like bullying, self-sabotage, lack of persistence/patience, lack of compassion towards self/others, difficulty collaborating with others, and the inability to face failure have increased.  

Thus, there is an imminent need to focus beyond cognitive and academics, to broaden and re-pivot the definition of learning and growing up to include Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). 

From Optional to Mainstream – How Social and Emotional Learning helps in early school success

Social and Emotional learning needs to move from just an optional feature to something which is braided seamlessly with mainstream education. To raise today’s children and youth who are future citizens and leaders, we need to create conditions where children can learn and imbibe these essential skills at home and school. 

Let’s take an example of how SEL works in early school success. Social and emotional competencies are among the most important abilities supporting early school success and academic competence during the foundational stage of a child. 

Early school success is best viewed as a combination of academic readiness and classroom adjustment. Academic readiness can be defined as the mastery of basic skills such as literacy,  numeracy, and general knowledge. Classroom adjustment can be defined as young children’s behaviors and attitudes towards learning – such as motivation, self-regulation, attention control,  participation, etc. 

Also Read: Will Digital Spaces Replace The Need For Human Connection In The Future?

Classroom adjustment becomes particularly critical in cases where children have not benefited from a strong preschool experience and are already behind in terms of school readiness. In the context of India’s education system, where preschools (anganwadis) have primarily served the purpose of nutrition rather than school readiness,  children are already entering formal schooling without adequate readiness. This also brings additional stress on the children, which hinders their classroom adjustment, and eventually, their learning outcomes. 

  • Self-regulation enhances academic readiness and early classroom adjustment – both predictively and concurrently – Children who have difficulties dealing with negative emotions also find it difficult to process information, focus on learning and participate actively in classroom tasks/group work. This also impacts their social interactions, thus on their overall learning experience and outcomes. Evidence suggests that children who are better able to self-regulate also participate better in classrooms, thus enhancing social interaction and strengthening personal resources to learn. 

Social and emotional learning in early years

  • Children’s ability to understand emotions is important to their concurrent and later school success -Since emotions carry critical information about oneself and others, and act as a guide to social interaction, children who are unable to identify/understand emotions from an early age can find the school/classroom environment to be confusing and overwhelming – limiting the ability to process information. Indeed, studies have found that 5-year-olds’ emotional knowledge predicted their academic competence at age 9. 

 

  • Relationship skills provide a foundation for school success -Components of relationship skills such as participating in play, initiating conversation, cooperation, listening, taking turns, etc. enable children to develop positive interactions with others. Children with poorer relationship skills are likely to have difficulties with participation, co-operation, and interest in school, all of which directly affect learning. Relationship skills have also been shown to predict promotion and retention post first grade.

 

  • Children’s ability to demonstrate responsible decision making can indicate social behavior – The nature and complexity of social interactions changes over the development span, and thus,  children’s ability to comprehend and manage increasingly complex social situations, set prosocial goals, and manage differences with peers becomes critical to the development of skills such as critical thinking, which is known to be a core cognitive skill. 

The Vision – Education 2050 

Education isn’t complete if it focuses solely on cognitive while neglecting emotional awareness and social skills, the ability to cooperate and collaborate, and to deal constructively with the conflict. There is an imminent need to expand the current definition and narratives of education to foster values and competencies that lead to greater happiness for individuals and society.  And the focus has to be on every stakeholder of the system – children, teachers, and parents. The time to embrace it is Now so that the Future of education is socially and emotionally healthy.

How about working towards the vision- Education systems will have learning frameworks that combine academic, social, and emotional skills as part of daily teaching practices.”

Are you onboard? 

 

References: (Graziano, Reavis, Keane, & Calkins, 2007; Shields et al., 2001; Trentacosta & Izard, 2007). 

(Izard et al., 2001) 

(Agostin & Bain, 1997)

(IECEI Study, 2019)

 

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Anjali Sharma and Subbu Parameshwaran

Anjali G Sharma is North India Lead- Education at Charter for Compassion. Subbu Parameswaran is the Founder and CEO of the Learning Curve Life Skills Foundation.

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