Updated: Aug 27
Learning "soft-skills,” is essential to ensuring that young adults have the skills needed to be competitive in today’s job market. These skills also help promote happiness and overall emotional well-being.
When we think back to our high school experiences, most of the time this involves reminiscing over studying for science and math tests, trying to get out of running during physical education, and taking language classes. Yet, one subject that almost never makes it to the list is emotional education.
It is rare to find a life skills class on any student’s school schedule because these kinds of classes aren’t seen to be as important to teach children as the standard subjects - math, science, reading, writing, history - and thus are pushed to the background in many school curriculums.
In recent years, the focus has shifted a bit more towards introducing more social and emotional learning classes to schools because of the increase in research being done on its benefits.
Adding this type of learning to schools has been found to improve achievement by 11 percentile points (Durlak et al., 2011), while also increasing prosocial behavior, giving students a better attitude towards learning, and decreasing depression and stress in students.
With this research in mind, more and more first world countries, like Japan, the USA and Sweden, are beginning to realize that this emotional education needs to be part of all school curriculums. We are starting to see life skills classes in public schools, which is an important step to improving these countries’ education systems.
In countries like Singapore, China and Great Britain, educators are taking the time and money to further research which character traits are the most important to have and how they can effectively teach their students these skills.
Learning “soft-skills,” or the intangible skills, like open-mindedness and adaptability, that we acquire throughout our lives, is essential to ensuring that young adults have the skills needed to be competitive in today’s job market. These skills also help promote happiness and overall emotional well-being in people.
Employers place an emphasis on employees having the necessary soft skills for the job. Although the hiring decision is based on a combination of the required hard and soft skills necessary to get the job done efficiently, soft skills are applicable to any career, and thus are needed to be competitive with other job candidates.
Overall, greater social and emotional competence can increase the likelihood of high school graduation, readiness for postsecondary education, career success, positive family and work relationships, better mental health, reduced criminal behavior, and engaged citizenship.
However, the prevalence of social and emotional education stagnates in places like South East Asia, where countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and the Philippines have educational systems in dire need of change. Cambodia is a prime example of what an education system with very little social and emotional learning looks like. It allows for the continuous cycle of inaction and refusal to change that halts the country from making progress.
The main reason why Cambodia is like this is because there is very limited access to the research findings and general knowledge on social and emotional education in rural areas, which makes it even harder for children to develop effective emotional educations either on their own or in school.
This situation is not helping the gender gap in Cambodia, which according to the World Economic Forum ranked 93rd out of 149 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2018.
Cambodia’s education is in shambles because of the Khmer Rouge Regime of the 1970s. During this time, many of the country’s intellectuals and teachers were killed, meaning that most of the people qualified and able to effectively teach the country’s youth were wiped out.
The country is still trying to rebuild their educational system and society from this dark time in their history, and they have a long way to go. The way to transform Cambodia’s education system, so that it most is the most beneficial to the students attending school, is to add social and emotional learning classes, like many other countries are beginning to do.
Not having the ability or opportunity to learn emotional education hinders activism against it, which in turn prevents Cambodia from attempting to make changes - you can’t push to change something that you know nothing about. It also severely limits job opportunities for students later in life and also prevents people from gaining the emotional intelligence they need to have a strong sense of inner wellness.
This is where ‘Women Going Beyond’ steps in. This organization is dedicated to supporting young women in South East Asia so that they can be the generation that kickstarts the future of education in their countries. By offering students social and emotional learning, as well as advanced science and technology classes, in places like Cambodia, Women Going Beyond gives students the opportunity for self-growth and improvement that they would otherwise not be exposed to.
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