Social and Emotional Learning: equipping students for the digital economy

In the report ‘New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology', the World Economic Forum explores how "character qualities" such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking will equip students to succeed in the swiftly evolving digital economy.

To thrive in the 21st century, students need more than traditional academic learning. They must be adept at collaboration, communication and problem-solving, which are some of the skills developed through social and emotional learning (SEL).

In 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEF) published the report New Vision for Education: Unlocking the Potential of Technology that focused on the pressing issue of the 21st-century skills gap and ways to address it through technology. In that report, WEF defined a set of 16 crucial proficiencies for education. Of those skills, 10 were labelled either “competencies” or “character qualities”. Competencies are the means by which students approach complex challenges; they include collaboration, communication and critical thinking and problem-solving. Character qualities are the ways in which students approach their changing environment; they include curiosity, adaptability and social and cultural awareness.

In New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology, WEF follows up on the 2015 report by exploring how these competencies and character qualities do more than simply deepen 21st-century skills. Together, they lie at the heart of SEL and are as important as the foundational skills required for traditional academic learning. As is the case with traditional academic learning, technology can be invaluable at enabling SEL.

As WEF points out, social and emotional skills are critical to the workforce of the future. The kinds of skills that SEL addresses are increasingly necessary for the labour market. According to one estimate, 65% of children entering grade school will ultimately work in jobs that don’t exist today, putting creativity, initiative and adaptability at a premium. SEL confers academic success as well. A meta-analysis of 213 studies showed that students who received SEL instruction had achievement scores that averaged 11 percentile points higher than those who did not.

The report has been prepared in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group. The full report is available here: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_New_Vision_for_Education.pdf