Social and emotional learning in the early years predicts school success more than academic ability alone.
Building the skills to
do better in school.
Over the last 20 years, numerous studies have confirmed what teachers have already known: that social and emotional learning in the early years is critical to improving children’s well-being, behaviour, and academic success. In fact, research has shown that on average, students with strong SEL skills do 11% better on their test scores!
As parents, teachers, caregivers and early years providers, it’s time to challenge the notion that academic preparedness is the most important part of early childhood development. Acquiring knowledge in the early years is important, but the social and emotional skills required to build a foundation for these competencies are essential.
“During early childhood, growth in academic skill is positively associated with growth in SEL skills.”
– Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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Making the GradeMany studies have shown the importance of SEL skills in school, revealing how they complement academic ability. Through strong social and emotional skills developed in the early years, students have been shown to exhibit an 11% increase in academic achievement, as well as numerous other benefits including enhanced learning, stronger interpersonal relationships, improved self-awareness, improved classroom behaviour, improved attendance, higher rates of graduation – the list goes on and on.
Skills for the Early YearsRather than focus on any one thing, young children benefit from an equal mix of intellectual, social and emotional learning in the early years to better prepare them for school. On its own, SEL is vital for helping children navigate social interactions, manage their emotions, build relationships, solve problems and establish healthy behaviours that promote school success. Combined with the nurturing of cognitive skills, the result is greater curiosity, learning enjoyment, and academic achievement in the long run.
The Threat of Poor SELAs research has proven, the pressures associated with prioritizing academic skills and school readiness in the early years may come at a cost, and should never be at the expense of healthy social and emotional development. In fact, numerous studies have connected poor SEL skills in the early years to a number of negative outcomes later in life – affecting the likelihood of such milestones as finishing school, overcoming emotional distress, obtaining a good job, or staying on the right side of the law.
What Teachers Tell UsPast surveys with teachers have indicated that almost half of all children experience some difficulty entering kindergarten, but not for the reasons you might think. While there has been much emphasis placed on early years academic skills like being able to count, identify letters or name objects, research has found that teachers place significantly more importance on social and emotional skills as a critical component to school readiness, the ability to learn and ultimately, academic achievement.