Developing skills for life and work: accelerating social and emotional learning across South Australia

Australia South Australia

This paper explores the evidence for the importance of a greater emphasis on social and emotional learning, as part of a holistic view of young people's education.

Recent years have seen significant shifts in the world of work, with the focus moving away from industry, towards innovation and the ‘knowledge economy’. At the same time, the global economic slowdown has meant fewer labour market opportunities, particularly for young people. Consequently, young people today enter a world of unparalleled uncertainty and risk, with the most marginalised and vulnerable facing the greatest threat.

The majority of young people in South Australia continue to thrive, with lower than average youth unemployment, and a well-performing school system. But for a significant proportion of young people, the transition from school to further education and especially to the workplace, remains challenging. Efforts to improve formal qualifications and work-based training have been redoubled in response, but there is also a growing consensus that more must be done to build the ‘softer’ skills which employers say are increasingly important in getting on at work.

These skills include discipline, and the ability to interact with adults, to take feedback, to deal with setbacks and more. The Young Foundation refers to these competencies as ‘SEED skills’:

  • S for social and emotional competencies
  • E for enterprise, creativity and innovation
  • E for emotional resilience
  • D for discipline

And South Australian employers are not alone in demanding them. Across the developed world, employers report frustrations that all too often young people are ill-prepared for life in the workplace. The consequence for young people is often a struggle to find meaningful or lasting employment. Governments too acknowledge that these skills are not just useful for the workplace but help to build cohesive communities with active citizens playing a role in civic life.

The school system in South Australia recognises the importance of social and emotional competencies, and learning approaches that support their development. It has responded by putting in place frameworks and curricula to build these competencies among young people, such as the new South Australian Certificate for Education (SACE). With this groundwork already complete, South Australia is now well placed to experiment with other initiatives to really grow these skill sets in young people. Opportunities present themselves to work further with groups of young people who remain on the margins of learning and work, to build an evidence base of what is working locally and to roll out exemplar schemes more widely.

This paper explores the evidence for the importance of a greater emphasis on social and emotional learning, as part of a holistic view of young people’s education.

Written by Lauren Kahn, Bethia McNeil, Robert Patrick, Vicki Sellick, Kate Thompson and Dr Lucas Walsh.

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