Addressing the Supply and Demand of SEL Skills

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Dec 03, 2018
by Louise Hallman
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Addressing the Supply and Demand of SEL Skills

Participants discuss who and what is driving demand for social and emotional learning

The demand for social and emotional learning (SEL) skills is rising around the globe. But why?

This was one of the first questions to be addressed at the program, Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis, which is being held by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with ETS, Microsoft and Qatar Foundation International, together with the British Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank.

One source of demand for these skills is employers. The increasingly automated, globally linked and culturally diverse 21st century workplace will need human workers who are able to work collaboratively, think creatively and critically, solve complex problems, understand and appreciate other cultures, resolve conflicts, and be flexible and resilient in the face of constantly changing labor market demands. These are all skills that are developed through SEL.

Recognizing that employers value such skills, students and educators are also demanding that SEL be better incorporated into existing curricula.

Modern society-at-large also requires such skills. As Michael Nettles remarked in his opening speech, quoting Delhi education minister, Manish Sisodia, “If a person is going through our education system for 18 years of his life and is becoming an engineer or a civil servant, but is still throwing litter on the ground or engaging in corruption, then can we really say that the education system is working?”

Post-conflict societies and those in the thrall of national crises are especially in need of citizens with greater SEL skills, particularly empathy and tolerance.

Resilience is a key SEL skill for both children and adults experiencing displacement and forced migration, which explains why language education providers are increasingly interested in incorporating SEL into their curriculum.

Supplying this demand is a challenge. Not only do students need to develop SEL skills, but also teachers, teacher trainers, parents, employers and existing workers. SEL thus needs to be taught in more locales than just the traditional classroom.

The establishment of SEL courses may require additional resources and funding (though some panelists argued that it could be integrated into existing subjects, such as problem-solving in math and team-building in sports and drama), but many education ministries are cash-strapped. Collaboration – a key SEL skill – is needed between schools, ministries, business and parents to address the gaps.

Answers to this demand question – and many others – will be sought over the course of the five-day program and addressed in co-written Salzburg Statement to be published in early 2019.


The program Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis is part of Salzburg Global's mutli-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World. This year’s program is being held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft and Qatar Foundation International, who will also co-chair the program, together with additional partners, the British Council, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Inter-American Development Bank.