- Paula Adamo Idoeta
- BBC News Brazil in Sao Paulo
What makes 15-year-olds feel less creative, curious, persistent, and responsible than 10-year-olds? And what could the consequences of this be for your future?
These are some of the questions addressed in a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on socio-emotional skills that are considered crucial for the present and future development of school-age children and youth.
To measure these skills internationally for the first time, the OECD conducted a survey in ten cities: Bogotá and Manizales (Colombia), Daegu (South Korea), Helsinki (Finland), Houston (United States), Istanbul (Turkey), Moscow (Russia), Ottawa (Canada), Sintra (Portugal) and Suzhou (China).
Questionnaires were applied to 10 and 15-year-old students about their behaviors, attitudes and preferences, to assess whether they saw in themselves a set of 15 socio-emotional skills: from responsibility and curiosity to perseverance, resistance to stress, cooperation, tolerance, sociability, self-control and creativity.
What caught the researchers’ attention is that, in general, 15-year-olds they seemed to have much less developedas almost all socio-emotional skills compared to 10-year-olds.
That is, there appears to be a significant drop in these skills as children reach adolescence.
This drop was more marked in the girls in most of the skills analyzed: although on the one hand the girls showed more empathy, cooperative spirit and responsibility than the boys, they showed more emotional control, sociability and energy than the boys.
“This drop (between the ages of 10 and 15) is very clear when it comes to creativity, which appears at much lower levels among 15-year-olds, “said OECD education director Andreas Schleicher during a recent seminar.
“It may be that these young people are more insecure and shy [que los de 10 años], but It may also be that our education systems are not fostering creativity Of the youngs”.
Schleicher highlighted the value that these emotional skills have for the professional market of the future and for the behavior of citizens.
“We know how important curiosity and creativity are in the world we live in. The ability to create is what differentiates us from artificial intelligence in computers.”
In addition, he noted that creativity is not something isolated: “the most creative students also exhibit much higher levels of empathy, tolerance and responsibility.”
Changes in adolescence
During a webinar at the US National Center for Education and Economics (NCEE) on October 27, speakers highlighted that adolescence is a time of great emotional and physical transformation for young people.
Susan Rivers, a social-emotional skills researcher, argued that the OECD findings may not take into account “the role of puberty and brain growth during adolescence.”
“It is also a magnificent, rich and challenging time, so it is not surprising that young people need stronger skills to navigate these waters,” he said.
This same observation is raised by other researchers.
“Children have a type of requirement of their socio-emotional skills and then adolescence arrives and everything changes,” explains Ricardo Primi, researcher at the Laboratory of Educational Policies and Practices of the Ayrton Senna Institute in Brazil.
There is an “emotional turmoil” that puts these skills in check in adolescence, causing young people to see themselves as less capable, Primi adds.
At the seminar, Schleicher agreed that these factors are relevant.
But he argues that even if this decline in creativity is mere self-awareness, what really matters is the impact it will have in the expectations of these young people about their own future.
“Because if a 15-year-old girl perceives herself as less creative, or if a 15-year-old girl sees herself as less creative than boys, this will influence the decision she will make. it sucks, “said Schleicher.
“The way we see ourselves has a lot of influence on our development, so the role of adults is to help during this period, to open doors to young people, rather than letting them close as a result of this self-awareness.”
“Weapons against the greatest threats of our time”
In its report, the OECD argues that “success in education today is not cognitive development, but character development“, and questions whether as children grow, schools are reducing the space for this development.
“It is about curiosity (opening minds), compassion (opening hearts), and courage (putting our cognitive, social and emotional resources to work),” says the text.
“These qualities, called social and emotional skills, are also weapons against the greatest threats of our time: ignorance (a closed mind), hatred (a closed heart) and fear (the enemy of action).”
Another important point is that, according to the OECD survey, students with acute social and emotional skills they tend to do better academically.
“Being intellectually curious and persistent are the skills most strongly related to (good) grades in school, for both 10-year-olds and 15-year-olds in reading, math and the arts,” the report says.
For Andreas Schleicher, these skills must be actively (and intentionally) developed in children and adolescents, as we do with traditional knowledge of mathematics, for example.
And this is the great challenge for schools.
For her part, researcher Susan Rivers highlighted that “there is already a great burden for educational networks and educators,” along with a lack of institutional support “so that children, teachers and families themselves can foster and nurture these skills “in young people.
In Schleicher’s view, it may be necessary redesign plans of school study, giving more prominence to the development of these positive characteristics.
“Some curricula are being radically redefined, as in Singapore, no longer with subjects (such as math and languages) playing a central role and tracking socio-emotional skills,” he explains.
“When you teach a physical education class in Singapore, you don’t need to think about how sport makes students more athletic, but about how you can shape your character, create empathy and responsibility for themselves and others, “says the OECD’s director of education.
By the way, Schleicher views the loss of space in the arts and sports classes in the curriculum for adolescent students as a loss of opportunities to develop useful skills.
“Children participating in artistic activities demonstrate higher levels of creativity and curiosity, in all the places studied, “he says.
In addition, a pleasant school environment was identified at the NCEE seminar as crucial to allow socio-emotional capacity to flourish, especially empathy and emotional control.
Most of the students interviewed by the OECD said they like their school. But it is worrying that around a quarter of them said they “don’t feel like they belong in school, they don’t make friends easily and they feel lonely.”
Kimberly Schonert-Reichl, who studies the topic at the University of Illinois at Chicago and was also a speaker at the NCEE event, said her own research shows that stressed-out teachers or students end up “rubbing off” on each other with more stress and anxiety. , which inhibits the development of emotional skills.
“When the teachers were stressed and exhausted, an analysis of the students’ cortisol levels (obtained from saliva samples) indicated that the students were also under stress,” he noted.
Finally, the OECD highlights that social inequalities play an important role.
“It appears that students from less affluent backgrounds have more challenges to overcome and fewer opportunities and less support to develop these skills,” the report says.
The people who showed greater capacity for self-management (such as perseverance and organization), confidence in their potential and openness to the new were those who had the most tools to overcome the obstacles imposed by poverty and low education.
Thus, experts argue, teaching and promoting these skills from an early age, in childhood and adolescence, would help not only to improve the school performance of young people, but also to prepare them for the challenges of adult life.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.