To cultivate a productive future workforce, schools must teach socio-emotional skills

Educators will increasingly play a key role in adjusting school curriculum that will develop the necessary skills in students to deal with challenges that arise due to the automation age

Updated: Sep 5, 2019 06:04:19 PM UTC

Aditya Natraj is the CEO of Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

As we move towards an era that is increasingly digitised, we are witnessing a renewed focus on building leaders with capabilities that are uniquely human. Educators will increasingly play a key role in adjusting school curriculum that will develop the necessary skills in students to deal with challenges that arise due to the automation age.

Automation and Artificial Intelligence is rapidly changing the world, transforming the nature of work and the workplace itself
The cognitive reapportionment underway between man and machine will cause a dramatic shift in occupations in the future—some will decline, others will grow, and many will change. We will witness new types of occupations emerge and growing occupations will include those with difficult to automate activities. Consequently, there will be an increasing demand for jobs that are more service oriented, interpretative and social. A recent World Economic Forum Study found that the Top 10 skills for the next decade include essential human skills such as critical thinking, creativity and people management. Global Human Capital Trends predict tremendous future demand for human skills such as complex problem solving (63 percent), cognitive abilities (55 percent) social skills (52 percent), and process skills (54 percent).

Finding the right people for this kind of work is already a major hurdle
A recent study by McKinsey reported that 64 percent of CEOs find it difficult to find individuals with problem-solving skills, while 74 percent find it a challenge to recruit talent that is innovative and creative, and 66 percent to find it difficult to recruit talent that is adaptable. A 2017 employer survey shows that over half of the respondents did not have learning programmes for employees to help them build and enhance their skills in order to be future-ready.

Current educational and workforce training models as well as business approaches focus on developing cognitive skills and do not emphasise 'soft skills'. Increasingly, research suggests that apart from focusing on cognitive skills, education must include curriculum around emotional intelligence development such as emotional awareness and social skills that provides them with the ability to co-operate and collaborate with others, and to deal constructively with conflict. To build leaders who are future-ready, schools need to equip children with higher-level cognitive skills, particularly critical thinking, creativity, and complex information processing.

The importance of building social, emotional, and ethical competencies
Social, emotional and ethical competencies can be cultivated through learning and practice on the basis of common sense, experience and scientific findings and be taught in a similar manner to other academic subjects such as mathematics, foreign languages, science, or any other subjects.

Emory University and its Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-based Ethics have developed a Social, Emotional, and Ethical (SEE) Learning Programme, grounded in the idea that education must be expanded to foster values and competencies that lead to greater happiness for both individuals and society, at large. With science behind compassion training (cognitive-based compassion training), the framework focuses on self, others, inter-dependence and systems. This would help people relate to and depend on each other, enabling them to navigate an increasingly complex world.

Educators have a role to play in adjusting school curriculum for the automation age
Research shows that socio-emotional skills must be taught in schools early on, for children to be equipped for a more digitised world. Understanding this need, several schools and initiatives are adopting an approach that encourages the development of these skills.

Socio Emotional Learning and the workplace
The SEE Learning framework covers many broad aspects of one’s work life. Understanding that compassion can be cultivated, helps build interpersonal skills, communication skills and social problem solving skills. This process impacts an individual’s behaviour and how they interact & relate with others, enabling one to handle emotions, successfully.

SEE Learning teaches attention and self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-regulation and helps develop greater self-confidence and self-acceptance. This creates the foundation for navigating emotions, accepting criticism, and dealing with setbacks constructively and with resilience and prevents incidents leading to excessive self-criticism or loss of self-worth that is often the reason for job dissatisfaction.

Gaining insights into how attitude and behaviour supports or hinders compassionate response, helps develop empathy, understand others’ emotions in order to generate a better understanding with less reactive judgment and use this to relate positively and constructively towards others. Training to attend to others, is an important component of empathy and willingness to make an effort to understand the viewpoints and emotions of others, even if their views differ from one’s own. It signals a willingness to collaborate with others, learn and respect from others’ perspectives, opinions, knowledge and experiences.

Interpersonal awareness helps us appreciate how we share social emotional needs, greatly impacts how other individuals affect us and how we affect them. It enables one to recognise and appreciate differences, while acknowledging underlying similarities such as a basic wish for happiness and well-being, creates a nuanced understanding of self and others that is an important aspect of relationship skills. SEE Learning can help build skills to navigate the relationships to a successful outcome, helping team building that is another vital component for corporate success.

The author is CEO of Piramal Foundation for Education Leadership.

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