The growing international attention to early childhood care and education (ECCE) is given new urgency following the UN Transforming Education Summit (TES) in September, whose global calls to action have a clear connection to young children’s education.
The teaching profession will be a core driving force in achieving these calls to action. It will need much support and unique skills development to enable such change, especially as young children undergo rapid learning and development at the ECCE level.
As pre-primary teachers are enhancing their expertise with 21st century teaching and learning strategies, social and emotional learning may prove a cross-cutting skill to enrich all pedagogies for young children and build a more resilient ECCE workforce.
Benefits of social and emotional learning for young children’s COVID-19 recovery
Social and emotional skills are part of everyday life and begin developing from birth. Children’s social and emotional development often looks like a child forming close and secure relationships with others and understanding their own, as well as others’ emotions within their homes, cultures and societies.
Like other skills such as language and cognition, which begin to develop before children enter schools, social and emotional skills must be taught and understood as they can positively impact one another and together promote lifelong learning and peaceful societies.
Social and emotional learning emphasizes the developmental process of learning and using knowledge, skills and attitudes for building relationships, making decisions, showing empathy, achieving goals and regulating their emotions.
Well-designed social-emotional learning programs have been found to yield an average return of US$11 for every dollar spent, and to improve a range of student outcomes, including social and emotional skills, academic performance, social behavior and conduct, and attitudes.
Social and emotional learning is essential to ECCE teachers for supporting young children when they come to school for the first time, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic took away critical opportunities to develop young children’s cognitive, social, linguistic and emotional skills, simultaneously exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and negatively impacting all learners, especially those from vulnerable and marginalized backgrounds.
Pandemic lockdowns of schools caused at least 7 million children across Asia and the Pacific to lose access to pre-primary education. Children in the region also lost important opportunities for social interaction and consequently have exhibited increased levels of stress due to a variety of factors, including isolation, uncertainty and fear of the future, thus having a negative impact on their resilience and cognitive skills.