What is SEL and why is it important?

Growing up in the 21st century is hard work. Children and adolescents today face a unique set of challenges that have never been seen before. The advent of the digital age and popularity of social media coupled with globalisation and the current economic climate have brought their own share of issues that have a drastic effect on the youth today. Ninety percent of school leaders have reported an increase in the number of students experiencing anxiety or stress over the last five years. One way of dealing with this is to implement social and emotional learning (SEL) in school.

 

Why would social and emotional learning benefit young people?

Our everyday lives consist of hundreds of interactions on both personal and social levels. This means that it is essential for us to understand and manage individual emotions so that we can understand the emotions of others. Social and emotional skills are fundamental in shaping future citizens and workforce as they help prevent and reduce behaviours such as bullying and violence.

 

Social and emotional learning refers to skills that allow individuals to understand and manage emotions with respect to themselves and others. They are then able to forge positive relationships, develop empathy for others and learn responsibility. CASEL, the organisation behind this framework, define five primary skills that they would like to see develop in young people:

 

Self-awareness: The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a “growth mindset”.

Self-management: The ability to successfully regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviours in different situations – effectively managing stress, controlling impulses, and motivating oneself.

Social awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathise with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures, and the ability to understand social and ethical norms for behaviour.

Relationship skills: The ability to establish and maintain healthy and rewarding relationships with diverse individuals and groups, and the ability to cooperate with others, resist inappropriate social pressure and seek and offer help when needed.

Responsible decision-making: The ability to make constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms.

 

Why should social and emotional learning be implemented in school?

Students in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries spend a huge amount of time in school – an average of 7,750 hours in school over the course of their primary and lower secondary education. Schools also bring children from various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds together via the common goal of learning. Should this learning be limited to academia? Absolutely not – never has an emphasis on social and emotional learning SEL been more important than now. Young people today are under relentless scrutiny, both academically and socially, making it crucial to provide them with an environment they can deem safe and inclusive. Schools are an obvious choice – not just because of the sheer amount of time that is spent there, but also because it already has the essential infrastructure for any sort of learning.

 

If implemented properly, social and emotional learning can have a far-reaching impact, and play a vital role in how future generations treat both one another and the planet.

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