FEATURE STORY

Emotions are worth as much as knowledge

June 15, 2015


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Public school in Manchay, Lima. 

Julio Cesar Casma / World Bank.

Social skills facilitate job success and can contribute to reducing poverty.

Experience or personality? Which is more important in a job interview?  Until very recently, employers most valued a job candidate’s knowledge of his work area. An individual with more studies or years of experience had an advantage over someone with fewer years of schooling or pertinent experience.

Today, however, employers are starting to pay attention to other characteristics, especially those related to personality.

According to a World Bank study, grit (defined as the perseverance to achieve long-term objectives) is one of the most sought-after personality traits by organizations.  Future employers also highly value problem-solving, resilience, ethics and team work skills.

“I increasingly see ads that say ‘ability to work under pressure,’” says Rommel Cáceres, who has worked at several Peruvian companies. “It is important to develop this skill while you are still in school; if not, it could be difficult to keep a job,” he says.

What are social-emotional skills and why are they important?

Social-emotional skills are characteristics that enable people to interact successfully in life. It all begins with good nutrition, good health and a stimulating environment during the first 1,000 days of life. These skills are later developed at home and in school.

Traits such as empathy and tolerance, self-confidence, creativity, self-control and grit are developed in childhood. Individuals who attain these skills before age five are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drug use, teen-age pregnancy, gang involvement and even criminal activity.

According to UNESCO, the Latin American and Caribbean region has nearly 117 million school-aged children and adolescents. In general, Latin American educators believe they are adequately educating youth for the labor market whereas employers complain about young people’s lack of social and emotional skills.

This is mainly because education focuses on cognitive development. Teachers devote little class time to developing students’ social skills. In most cases, teachers are not trained to develop and talk about control of emotions; this task is even more difficult in poor areas with high levels of social violence.



" Several studies demonstrate that developing social-emotional skills is crucial for success in life. In many cases, these skills improve the possibilities for escaping poverty since they enable the individual to obtain and keep a better job, and have better job performance. Social-emotional skills serve to establish healthier relations with members of the family, society and the community.  "

Ines Kudo

Senior Education Specialist - World Bank


The cost of not having social skills

If children do not develop social-emotional skills, as adults they will have limited capacity to control feelings such as frustration or anger, and thus will be much more likely to react inappropriately and impulsively.

Consequently, these individuals have difficulty keeping a schedule, establishing good relationships with colleagues, negotiating conflicts or adapting to change, according to experts. They often are incapable of holding down a steady job, which in addition to negatively affecting the individual can also impede societal development.

“Several studies demonstrate that developing social-emotional skills is crucial for success in life. In many cases, these skills improve the possibilities for escaping poverty since they enable the individual to obtain and keep a better job, and have better job performance. Social-emotional skills serve to establish healthier relations with members of the family, society and the community,” says Inés Kudo, a World Bank education expert.

Initiatives in Latin America

In Peru, a World Bank pilot project  is working with teachers to promote the development of social and emotional skills.  According to public schoolteacher Beatriz Montañez, “the session on short-term and long-term goals was the one I was most impressed by and that was very important for the students. I think that session had a significant impact on students because during the fourth and fifth year of secondary school, they are exploring vocational interests.”

Other experiences, such as that of Jamaica, have shown that play is a key part of human development. Some countries have gone even further. In Colombia, for example, the Peaceful Classrooms initiative focuses on reducing school violence by improving interpersonal relations between students and community members. In Brazil, the Schools of Tomorrow project employs innovative educational techniques to reduce violence, particularly in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.

Training the Latin American labor force is a long-term task. Aristotle summed up the importance of including social and emotional skills in this effort: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.



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