In recent years, socio-emotional skills have become a topic of interest for the education sector, from the skills that are essential for the labor market to the attitudes that become shields of risk behaviors. The truth is that these skills have found more benefits than aloe vera.
The big question for any education system and, consequently, for any country, is how and when is it convenient to invest in them, especially in the context of an education reform as several countries in Latin America are currently undergoing. The SES are those tools of life that, according to Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), allow us to identify and regulate our own emotions and understand those of others, as well as show empathy, develop and maintain positive relationships, set positive goals and make responsible decisions.
Considering that any learning process, social interaction and even a production, is influenced by emotional management, assertive communications or the ability to solve conflicts, these skills can make a big difference for the personal, academic and professional future of children and youth and, of course, for the productivity and development of a country. In particular, for adolescents, SES help prevent risk behaviors such as addictions, violence, or early pregnancy.
Therefore, it is so necessary and important that education systems incorporate and promote SES into their teaching methods, not only from an early age, but even during adolescence, especially when there is a high exposure to social risk factors. For example, in Mexico evidence shows that both the most important, but also limited skills for the labor market are teamwork, communications and leadership. Although the SES are increasingly attractive in the workplace, the truth is they are not only complementary, but also a necessary condition for cognitive and personal development, as shown by international evidence.
Certainly a strategy to promote the development of SES at school is modifying and energizing the curriculum framework, however this process takes time. Another possibility is to strengthen the capacity of the school to develop these skills in students or, in other words, start working directly with teachers and even principals to develop activities and exercises in the classroom and school. An example of a large-scale intervention to develop SES in adolescents in public schools of urban and rural areas is the program Construye T.
Construye T currently operates in 2,500 secondary public schools in Mexico with a total enrollment of more than 2 million students. The program basically consists of training teachers and administrators in three dimensions: Conoce T, which covers the skills related to self-esteem and self-knowledge; Relaciona T, that develops better skills to communicate and relate to others; and Elige T, that promotes responsible decision-making among youth.
Increasingly, the evidence will reveal how such innovative interventions contribute to promote a comprehensive quality education, guide young people in their personal development process, empower teachers and principals and strengthen relations between the members of a school community.
*Paula Villaseñor is an Education Policy Specialist. She works in the Sub-secretariat of Higher Secondary Education in the Ministry of Public Education in Mexico. She is an Economist of the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM) and has a Master degree in Public Administration and Economic Development (MPA / ID) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (HKS). The views reflected in this blog article are solely those of the author.