What Are Socio Emotional Skills, Why Must Schools Include It In Their Curriculum?

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Image Credits: National Education Association

According to the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, Indian schools should strive to offer a comprehensive education that “develops all human beings’ capacities—intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical, emotional, and moral in an integrated manner.” It is significant to note that this message makes reference to socio emotional learning. Unfortunately, due to their one-sided emphasis on very competitive exams that primarily evaluate for rote memorization of academic knowledge, curriculum and examination processes today do not successfully support such objectives. This has caused schools to place extracurricular objectives secondary.

The growth of socio emotional learning, or SEL, has, however, recently piqued the interest of policymakers, educators, parents, and researchers. This requires involving kids in educational activities that develop their information, abilities, and mindsets, necessary to thrive academically as well as foster positive mental and emotional health, successful job placement, and civic engagement.

It would be wise for schools to focus SEL curriculum and instruction-related efforts on the most extensively researched framework in the world – the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL – while we wait for research to emerge in this field in India. This framework provides guidance for schools planning to implement SEL programmes that are both developmentally appropriate and evidence-based, albeit in an international setting.

According to the CASEL study, developing knowledge, abilities, and mindsets in the areas of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relational skills, and responsible decision-making, are crucial. 

Self-aware people are able to recognise their advantages and disadvantages. They are aware of how their own feelings, thoughts, and personal beliefs influence their behaviour. These people have the capacity to self-regulate or exercise impulse control, handle stress, plan their actions and thoughts, and control their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in ways that help them accomplish their objectives.

Students who develop their socio emotional skills are better able to conduct themselves around and with people from various socio-cultural backgrounds. They can comprehend, empathise with, and explore different points of view. This is essential if they are to develop the interpersonal skills necessary for effective communication, conflict resolution, and teamwork. 

SEL programme content is said to be structured on the five main competencies. However, according to international studies, the curriculum will be most effective if it is implemented in a sequence that is active, focused, explicit, or safe. Sequential instruction implies that material and instructional strategies must progressively increase in complexity and volume throughout grades. 

Instead of the usual lecturing, we frequently witness, active instruction requires students to be cognitively engaged in learning through project-based methods, collaborative work, and discourse. Focused instruction refers to the study of intentional, developmentally appropriate content that is guided by a predetermined set of learning objectives. Last but not least, explicit instruction mandates that schools reserve enough time in their calendars for the examination of Socio Emotional Learning topics.

Even though creating an effective SEL programme and putting it into practice in accordance with research recommendations are extremely challenging tasks, it’s important to remember that even the best programmes will not be effective unless specific school-level supports are made available. Positive classroom and school climates are arguably the most crucial form of support. 

If SEL-related learning engagements are to be guided by open exploration and honest discourse, students must experience adults’ nonjudgmental supervision. The setting must encourage kids to develop a growth mindset and to view failure as a necessary and common component of learning.

In order for shared social agreements to be developed in classrooms and for children to feel emotionally safe, there must be a strong feeling of community and inclusivity. The high SEL capacity of school administrators and teachers themselves is another element of school-level support essential for the success of SEL initiatives. The abilities, information, and mindsets that we want kids to develop must be modelled by the adults in the classroom. Professional development that is provided while in-service must be designed to meet this demand.

Additionally, a dedication to ongoing reflection and SEL programme improvement based on student learning data is essential to guarantee that the program’s design is supported by evidence or confirmation of its efficacy from our own school setting. Finally, parent and school collaboration are essential to bolster and promote SEL. 

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