Social and emotional learning and academic achievement in schools

The inclusion in 2018 of “Personal, Social and Learning to Learn” as part of the eight key competences for lifelong learning has underlined social and emotional education as a key priority area in education. However approaches across countries today are diverse and fragmented and one of the arguments against SEL is that it takes precious time away from academic learning in an already overcrowded curriculum. From this perspective, SEL may be seen as having little currency in the face of pressures to increase measurable educational outcomes and the demands of the labour market. It is not surprising that many teachers find it difficult to promote SEL and student wellbeing, either due to time constraints or the lack of support from both the school management and parents alike, who are often primarily focused on academic results. Recent research, however, shows that this superficial dichotomy of mind vs heart, academic vs social and emotional learning, does not hold. It shows that academic and social and emotional learning are inextricably linked and that SEL supports academic learning and enhances academic achievement. This is also supported by research from neuroscience which shows that learning is a relational and emotional process and that classroom relationships and emotional processes impact on how children learn.

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