Social and emotional learning

We understand social and emotional learning (SEL) as vital for teaching and learning in most education settings. Positive emotional and social states lead to better engagement with the prescribed curriculum as well as whole child development. 

SEL includes dimensions of learning such as, in CASEL’s model, emotional and social awareness and skills, and the nurturing of responsible decision-making based on prosocial values. In the EASEL lab matrix (Harvard), SEL dimensions include cognitive procedural skills such as executive function, together with social and emotional skills, values, identity, and perspectives. The dimensions of SEL vary with culture and context (NISSEM Global Briefs, Vol. 3).

SEL is foundational for academic learning, engaging students beyond low-level reproduction of facts and formulae. It can contribute to positive behaviors in personal life, often termed life skills, and to greater social cohesion and respect for peace, cultural diversity, and a respect for human rights. SEL is intended to develop skills, competencies, and positive dispositions (attitudes or values) that may – according to context – include self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, perspective-taking, relationship skills and collaboration/teamwork, appropriate assertiveness and negotiation skills, and a sense of agency. 

Embedding SEL in curricula and pedagogy is both viable and valuable in low and middle-income countries. Stand-alone modules of SEL, life skills or (in the State of Delhi) the Happiness Curriculum, have been shown to be effective when teachers and other stakeholders implement them with fidelity and commitment. Moreover, SEL can be integrated into diverse subjects and curricular activities and tailored to contextual factors, such as students’ emerging language skills, teachers’ capacities, and realistic options for young people’s engagement with SDG Target 4.7-related topics. SEL can support classroom pedagogy better if developed and adapted locally, including in under-resourced education settings.

SEL can be conceived of as embodying three perspectives: 

  • Supporting broader societal purposes that policymakers and curriculum planners seek to address, in addition to academic learning outcomes;
  • Supporting conditions for learning and social and emotional relationships between and among teachers and students, within schools’ organizational cultures and practices;
  • Supporting development of the whole child, including their well-being and academic learning, and the development of constructive student identities, life skills, and agency.

SEL-based approaches should underpin the teaching and learning of Target 4.7 themes and values to promote concrete and lasting learner commitment in these areas. and to engage learners in meaningful ways to become responsible actors at the personal, community, national, and global levels. The personal engagement of learners is supported by building positive SEL experiences in early childhood and by broadening the application of these skills over time as students mature and approach adult roles and responsibilities.