Hot Topic - Why Is There a Demand for SEL and Who Is Driving This?




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Dec 03, 2018
by Kwasi Asiedu and Anna Rawe
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Hot Topic - Why Is There a Demand for SEL and Who Is Driving This?

Salzburg Global Fellows share their views during Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis

A select number of Fellows at Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis were asked: "Why is there a demand for SEL and who is driving this?" We have published their answers below.

“Demand for social and emotional skills is being driven by the students themselves. We conducted some research, published at the start of this year, where we asked 4,000 students to prioritize the skills that they feel were most important for their education and 50% of them placed social and emotional skills in their top three.

"When we asked the question around ‘How prepared are young people now for the world of work?,’ employers have also said the area they lacked the most [was] social-emotional skills; the ability to persist, to work with one another, to self-regulated, to be self-aware. We also looked at what the future of work might require. If we take the impact of automation, changing the nature of many occupational categories, and then we project them to what the roles of the future might place a premium on, between 30% and 40% of growth jobs... place a premium on [social] and emotional skills. Essentially having humans do what they do best and allowing artificial intelligence and advanced technologies to do what it does best.”

Mark Sparvall, USA
Thought Leader for Education, Microsoft
“The demand is coming from a variety of different levels… Our students are telling us they are very aware of the world and they are telling us what they want to be learning and how they want to be learning. And they are very specific as far as the what they want to learn: the kinds of skills to be engaged citizens, productive, have good employment opportunities and basically, be able to live a happy life… They want to learn in a very interactive type of pedagogy where they are learning to have opportunities to learn from each other, they have the opportunity to learn deeply themselves and they have a teacher that facilitates that as opposed to transacting knowledge and skills…

"[Also], the business community is recognizing that technical skills change so quickly that they know that they’ve an obligation to be able to continue technical skill development. What they’re looking for in students when they come in is that they are good communicators, they are ethical decision makers, they can work collaboratively, resilient, they show up to work on time, all those types of skills where it doesn’t matter what sector the students are going into, those are important to skills.

"We quickly realized that teachers can’t teach those skills unless they as adults have them themselves. If a teacher doesn’t collaborate with fellow teachers, it is very hard to create a learning environment in the classroom where students are learning together... It’s not just about teaching the children, [but we have to also] facilitate opportunities so that the adults in our system are developing those skills as well.”

Jennifer Adams, Canada
Director of Education, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
“I think what’s driving demand for SEL is the times we live in… There are deep fractures in societies for different reasons, and the space for reasonable conversation seems to be disappearing, and people are building walls instead of trying to find common ground. I think teachers deal with that every day in communities, whether it’s bullying, whether it’s countries that are struggling to take in citizens or just temporarily relocating citizens from countries that are war-torn, refugees or migrants. Everyone is struggling with some aspect of how do we create more inclusive communities.”

Maggie Mitchell Salem, USA
Executive Director, Qatar Foundation International
“I think there are several factors [driving demand for SEL]. One is coming from the business field… Ironically they realize that people who have those soft skills are better at producing their work, so it comes from an economical and financial [motivation]. Also, from an educational perspective, I think in our societies where we have a lot of exclusion, a lot of people who live in the margins of society, a lot of war, a lot of conflict, I think it’s becoming really urgent to develop these skills, and not developing them in parallel with the existing curricula but integrating them within the formal education. So when you come and learn some maths you also learn to work in a team and value your team members’ point of view and collaborate, and problem solve, etc.”

Leyla Alkoury-Dirani, Lebanon
Associate Professor, American University of Beirut (AUB)

“In the Sri Lankan context, there are two driving factors. One is that as a society as a whole: moving in a post-conflict environment, after having a conflict that lasts for three decades, there is a strong need for Social and Emotional Learning in our younger generation to ensure that we don’t get into such a circumstance in the future. And that, together with the political chaos and sporadic religious and ethnic violence that we see throughout the country, demands that social and emotional skills are integrated into the educational system so that we have a generation of young people coming into the society as leaders and citizens who would have all those values and traits of a global citizen, who embrace diversity and have respect for the differences in their society.”

Manjula Dissanayake, Sri Lanka
Founding President, Educate Sri Lanka

The program Social and Emotional Learning: A Global Synthesis is part of Salzburg Global's multi-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.