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The Importance of Social Emotional and Ecological Knowledge (SEEK)

Guest Blog
January 12, 2021

Current education systems in most countries do not prepare children to thrive. Most systems have their rote learning roots tracing back to a “factory model” that emerged in the early 20th century. If the child of 2050 has employment opportunities that we haven’t yet imagined or is competing against robots that do maths and science faster than they do, then how do we equip children for this future? Educators, policy-makers and governments are realising that today’s children need a “breadth of skills approach” to keep up with the lightning pace of today. No matter what path they choose or culture they come from, they require a combination of learning, literacy and life skills. 

The effects of the pandemic

Due to the pandemic, students are facing critical learning loss. In many countries, students have not attended school for a year and are being automatically promoted to the next grade. This translates to almost two years of learning loss (Anir Chowdhury, Policy Advisor, Access To Information Program, Bangladesh). For primary school children, this means that they will be missing out on crucial formative years of their education. Not just academically, but- and perhaps more importantly- the essential social emotional aspects. This can lead to feelings of confusion, loss of self confidence/ esteem, demotivation and general apathy toward studies. 

According to Save The Children’s Global Girlhood Report, 2020, an additional 1.8 to 2.5 million more girls could be at risk of child marriage over the next five years as a result of COVID-19. Clearly, for some students, not having access to learning during the pandemic is due to gender or socioeconomics. These instances present an even deeper problem. They can give rise to bullying and discrimination which will lead to greater demotivation in school.

How to recover and bridge the gap: Social Emotional Learning

As our students re-enter classrooms, we need to motivate them by using a “breadth of skills approach”. We need to adapt how we teach to how different children learn. Child centred, pedagogical methods like playful learning and multiple intelligences should be adopted, to ensure that “no child is left behind” (The Brookings Institution, Policy 2020; Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, 2019 updated). 

Competence in social emotional skills can help bridge the gap in educational inequalities worsened by disruptive events, such as the pandemic. A CASEL (Collaborative For Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) study indicates that social emotional learning (SEL) interventions can support the positive development of students. This is regardless of race, socioeconomic background, or geographical contexts.  

Project Rangeet’s unique SEEK curriculum does just this, using a “breadth of skills approach”, with the crucial addition of monitoring and assessing children in real time. 

Research also suggests that there is an economic benefit to SEL. A  study out of Columbia University shows that for every dollar invested in SEL programming, $11 dollars that would have been spent on costly interventions, remediation, dropout prevention, recovery, etc. is saved (CASEL). 

The importance of social emotional skills

The World Economic Forum and employers alike understand and stress the importance of social emotional skills.

92% of executives surveyed say skills such as problem-solving and communicating clearly are equally or more important than technical skills.

Source : National Bureau of Economic Research, 2015.

The Top 10 skills identified by the World Economic Forum all involve social and emotional competence:

1. Complex Problem Solving6. Emotional Intelligence
2. Critical Thinking7. Judgement and Decision Making
3. Creativity8. Service Orientation
4. People Management9. Negotiation
5. Coordinating with others10. Cognitive Flexibility

And research shows that social and emotional skills and attitudes also contribute to the other skills such as critical thinking.

Source: Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum

The real test doesn’t happen in class. It happens in the real world.

Project Rangeet’s SEEK curriculum will provide children with important knowledge and skills to increase empathy and human values at a critical period in the world’s history. It will also motivate and support them to become better learners of the future and help them to get back on track faster.

Project Rangeet: A Pedagogical Solution

Project Rangeet’s SEEK curriculum is educationally sound. We have identified specifically what works with the psychology of primary school children. Project Rangeet uses proven methodologies that work in classrooms. Each lesson includes Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, designed to be taught in the way different brains think and learn. Our SEEK program involves children as active participants in their own learning process. It does this through music, art, games and storytelling, amongst other activities. 

The added benefit of these teaching-learning tools is that we can also produce better primary school teachers.  Furthermore, according to CASEL’s 2017 study, teachers who possess strong social and emotional competencies are more likely to stay in the classroom longer. This is because they are able to deal with students more effectively, and less likely to suffer burnout.

Project Rangeet has been cited by The Brookings Institution as a model for playful learning methods (The Brookings Institution, Policy 2020). In addition the UN has endorsed Project Rangeet as a global best practice in this area of learning Good Practices in SSTC for Sustainable Development – Vol. 3 (2020)

Through Project Rangeet, schools become vehicles through which children can learn necessary life skills to function successfully in the present and future. Skills which will always be relevant, including:  

  • Collaboration and social engagement.
  • Communication through listening, writing, reading and back and forth discussion. 
  • Thinking critically, as only a human brain can, helps navigate a vast sea of content whilst allowing them to find solutions.
  • Creativity. Students must be challenged to think outside the box.
  • Confidence. A school of the future is a place where learning improves due to the confidence and compassion exhibited by its students.
  • Flexibility. Children must learn how to adapt to changing circumstances, thus developing resilience.
  • Leadership.  Motivating others to accomplish a goal.
  • Initiative. Planning, starting projects and strategising on one’s own. 

(The Brookings Institution, Policy 2020; Applied Education Systems, 2020)

Guest blog by Renisha Bharvani, Project Rangeet

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