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October 03, 2011

What You Learn in School

We send our children to school around the age of three. We fervently hope that they will get a good education. What is a good education? Schools  primarily  focus on academic excellence in the classroom. In the initial years children are taught the 3 R's. Physical development on the playground and cultural activities are optional add-ons. Some schools throw in an occasional event centered round nature and the environment. But social and emotional learning (SEL) is hardly ever mentioned.

Experts in child development emphasize that pre-school sets the tone for the child’s perception of social interactions. This is often a child’s first experience in a structured social environment among strangers. The pattern of behaviour that a child learns here can persist throughout high school, college and later, in the work place. The impact of these initial experiences on a child's personality cannot be underestimated. If so, shouldn't SEL also be in the school curriculum?

Social and Emotional Skills
In the 'good old days' a household  was large and stable. Two or three generations of the extended family and many siblings lived under the same roof. Relatives, neighbours and friends joined in the regular social and religious events. In this informal school a child automatically acquired social skills.  Children  raised in this environment also learnt emotional skills without the stress of coping with strange or unfamiliar patterns of behaviour.

Nowadays the norm is a nuclear family. Both parents may have careers or there may be a single parent. Daycare centers too may be part of the set up. Perhaps we need a school for social and emotional skills. Or a system that incorporates them in the existing school curriculum. This is not a new concept. Several years ago, educational experts in the US  identified a set of non-academic skills that are essential for a child. SEL was introduced  so that schoolchildren learn to handle their emotions, deal with bullying and conflicts, develop concern for others and make ethical decisions.

The goal of SEL is to enable a child to form positive relationships both inside and outside of the classroom. The most effective method is through the four E’s of learning  – Example, Education, Experience and Encouragement.  A recent report  discusses whether SEL programs have worked in the school environment.

Whatever the schools may or may not do, the parental role is indispensable. See my post on the tremendous influence that you have on your child's educational prospects.

Bullying is a serious problem among children of all ages. It can happen to your child too.  Click here to know more.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Children don't think and react like adults. Their perceptions are coloured by what they have seen and experienced. Here's an example:

A Sunday School teacher asked her class why
Joseph and Mary took Jesus with them to Jerusalem.
A small child replied, "They couldn't get a baby-sitter."

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