Demographic and societal changes demand more social and emotional skills

As populations age, the demand for healthcare will continue to rise. This is reflected in the
wide range of new and emerging healthcare-related occupations, which require both
scientific skills, and social and emotional skills, such as caring, sociability and respect.
For example, acute care nurses and hospital staff require a high degree of social
perceptiveness to understand emotional patterns and interact with patients (Berger and
Frey, 2015[13]).
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OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
In addition, social and emotional skills, such as empathy,

 self-awareness, respect for others
and the ability to communicate, are becoming essential as classrooms and workplaces
become more ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse. To acknowledge and respond
to these global connections, education may promote certain social and emotional skills that
are considered to be related to cognitive skills. For example, social emotional skills such
as “empathy” would require cognitive skills such as “perspective-taking”. Education may
also foster the types of attitudes and values, such as openness and respect for others as
individuals, that students need in order to be more inclusive and reflective of more diverse
societies. In this context, this particular set of skills has come to be known as global
competence (OECD, 2018[34]). 

Social and emotional skills improve academic and labour market prospects
Achievement at school depends on a number of social and emotional skills, such as
perseverance, self-control, responsibility, curiosity and emotional stability. Some social
and emotional skills are a prerequisite for successful participation and performance in
academic settings. In other words, poor social and emotional skills can impede the use of
cognitive skills. For example, studies that investigated the relationships between social and
emotional indicators and years of schooling show that conscientiousness and openness to
experience is a good predictor of how many years students will spend in school (OECD,
Another study (Heckman and Kautz, 2012[35]) finds evidence of the relationship between
personality and cognitive skills in results from the General Education Development (GED)
programme. The GED allows high-school dropouts to earn a high-school diploma by
passing an academic performance test. The study finds that GED graduates who had
dropped out of high school and later passed the GED test to earn a high-school diploma
have similar levels of cognitive skills as regular high-school graduates, but poorer social
and emotional skills (OECD, n.d[2]).

 While cognitive skills have also long been considered the most important determinants of
success in employment, recent studies show that social and emotional skills also directly
affect occupational status and income. In fact, social and emotional skills can be
equally – and in some cases even more – important as cognitive skills in determining future
employment (OECD, n.d[2]).
Practical and physical skills help students develop other types of skills
Developing physical skills through music and arts can help promote cognitive
and metacognitive skills
Music and the arts are learned physically. To both understand and demonstrate learning in
the arts,

 children must experience them. To date, researchers have been unable to identify
a comparable activity that develops the cognitive capacity of children in the same ways or
to the same extent as music and arts education does. In undertaking the acquisition of
physical skills in the arts, significant cognitive and metacognitive processes must take
place. While the arts are expressed through physical skills, mastery of the arts requires
cognitive and metacognitive processes too (OECD, 2016[3]).
The effects of including high-quality, meaningful and ongoing arts education in children’s
education experience has been researched extensively (Winner, Goldstein and VincentLancrin, 2013[36]). The Dana Consortium (Asbury and Rich, 2008[37]) conducted a metaanalysis of arts research in the area of intelligence and found that engagement in arts
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OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030 Concept Note © OECD 2019
activities improves a child’s attention, 

which, in turn, can improve their cognition (Posner
and Patoine, 2010[38]). Engagement with the arts develops students’ empathic intelligence
(Davis, 2008[39]), which enhances their connectivity, emotional engagement, and sense of
identification with and responsibility for others. Studying and producing visual arts enables
students to engage, persist, commit to a project and follow through with a task (Hetland
et al., 2007[40]). These skills, used in conjunction with divergent thinking, are rarely
developed elsewhere in the school curriculum. Hetland et al. also find that the arts teach
students to “envision”, that is, think about that which they can’t see. These skills are
transferable to other areas, such as developing hypotheses or imagining past events or
predicting future ones. The intelligences developed through the arts have positive impacts
on external measures of students’ success too. For example, Walker, Tabone and Weltsek’s
(2011[41]) study in the United States finds that students who received an integrated arts
curriculum were 77% more likely to pass their state assessment (OECD, 2016[3]).

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