SEL: A New Vaccination for the Next Generation

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Mar 11, 2019
by Louise Hallman
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SEL: A New Vaccination for the Next Generation

Using Social and Emotional Learning to develop better citizens

The teaching of social and emotional learning (SEL) should be seen as a “vaccination,” declared one Fellow as the sixth Salzburg Global Seminar program on SEL opened on March 10.

But a vaccincation against what? Many countries’ education systems focus on producing future workers, and while “soft skills” including communication, collaboration and critical thinking have all been highlighted as vital in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” workplace, SEL can teach so much more: SEL can help produce better future citizens.

Besides teaching children “traditional” skills, as educators, it is also “our responsibility to make sure children do not grow up to be racists, rapists, suicidal or violent,” and this is where the teaching of SEL comes in, with students learning such skills and values as empathy, respect and resilience. 

But how and when should SEL be taught? Many teachers are worried about being overburdened by the introduction of new subjects, especially if accompanied by new testing and assessments. However, rather than being introduced as a standalone course, panelists in Salzburg recommended that SEL be integrated into other subject areas, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), advocating for a “transdisciplinary” rather than simply multi- or interdisciplinary approach.

As well as being integrated into the curriculum, SEL should be offered at all school levels, starting as early as possible. While the human capacity for learning continues throughout life, moral development starts from age three, making pre-school a vital time for SEL.

Teaching of SEL does not belong only in the formal classroom. Children can learn much from their peers, communities and families – and can teach others, including parents, as well as learn from them.

As well as aiding individuals’ and societies’ positive development, SEL can also help countries meet the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG4 (quality education) SDG5 (gender equality), SDG8 (decent work), SDG10 (reducing inequality), SDG16 (peace and justice) and SDG17 (partnership for the goals).  

The five-day program, Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action, is being held by Salzburg Global Seminar in partnership with ETS, Microsoft and Qatar Foundation International, together with Porticus, the USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network and  the British Council. The 50 participants, including representatives of Ministries of Education, experts in education in crisis and conflict contexts and researchers, academics and practitioners, will tackle core topics in the development of SEL curricula, training and assessment.

Read more in Issue 1 of the program newsletter:

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The program Social and Emotional Learning: Time for Action is part of Salzburg Global’s long-running multi-year series Education for Tomorrow’s World. The program is held in partnership with ETS, Microsoft, Porticus, Qatar Foundation International and USAID’s Education in Crisis and Conflict Network.