by: Maria Alejandra Correa, Coschool volunteer.
There are more and more institutions in the world that prioritize the emotional health of their students, consolidating academic curricula that promote a holistic and interdisciplinary education. This emphasis on socio-emotional learning has as a cornerstone the promotion of empathy and self-knowledge in young people, and also includes other essential aspects for their integral development, among which they highlight the ability to self-regulate emotions, the ability to adapt to different environments and situations, and good stress management. Similarly, this type of individual skills can be translated into social awareness, interpersonal relationship and extroversion.
For many pedagogues, guaranteeing the application of methodologies that allow the learning of socio-emotional skills (in English, social emotional learning or SEL) from an early age is key for the future of children, and can mean the acquisition of a series of skills that They can make a difference in their lives in the long term. Despite being a relatively new educational approach, there is academic evidence that supports it. A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states that in the United States, students who drop out of high school and validate their baccalaureate from a standardized test develop fewer socio-emotional skills than those who complete school. These young people, the study shows, are more likely to smoke, divorce, manifest violent behavior and be imprisoned.
Similarly, a report by the University of Pennsylvania and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, links the learning of this type of skills during primary school with greater chances of success throughout life. The research concludes that those who manifest attitudes such as extraversion, kindness and empathy are more likely to succeed. Likewise, it is demonstrated that socio-emotional learning reduces the risk of children developing behavioral problems, emotional instability, and guarantees the optimization of cognitive abilities that materialize in a better academic performance.
There are certain schools in Cundinamarca that are committed to the application of educational methods focused on the social-emotional well-being of children. Next, we will mention five of these institutions, the methods they apply and the results:
The Gimnasio Moderno, a school with more than a century of history, is one of the educational centers in the country that is implementing methodologies to cultivate happiness, well-being and positive psychology in its students. According to its vice-chancellor, Juan Sebastián Hoyos, the institution currently has curricula designed to promote the development of character, mindfulness, gratitude, emotional intelligence and resilience, from preschool to high school.
The methodologies applied in the Modern Gym vary according to the grade and the theme, but include meditation and relaxation practices, active listening to music, gratitude letters, emotions diaries, talks on neuroplasticity, reflections on happiness and on situations of life, identification of emotions, active and profound listening exercises, among others. For Hoyos, promoting this type of non-cognitive skills, together with a comprehensive education, is especially relevant in a country like Colombia. “You have to develop all the dimensions of being and not just the intellectual. If we want happy people, people who relate better, we need to work on these aspects. People who can live in peace. To achieve social peace, we need first internal peace, “he says.
For almost 30 years, this school, located in the town of Usme, has as its mission to educate young people in an integral way, mainly through extracurricular activities that aim at their physical and cognitive development. This is how in this educational center, according to its president, Leidy Peña, the classroom is transformed into a space dedicated to promoting the strengthening of character, the recognition of virtues and talents in students; Ideally, students internalize this type of knowledge and externalize it in their individual environments. Andrés Escobar School has a particular way of achieving this and of ensuring that its students are happy: through the sense of belonging by the institution. According to Peña, the main objective is to promote a pleasant, healthy and familiar environment for young people at school, which is strengthened by including the rest of the locality in activities that promote joint work and interest in social welfare.
In the same way, its rector considers that one of the best methodologies to strengthen socio-emotional skills, whether in students or teachers, is through physical activities. “The playful activities are of great importance, since they allow a positive feedback on the topic seen, in addition to the activities developed in this area, being experiential, are really assimilated by students or by the entire educational community,” he says. Among the results of the implementation of these methodologies are the decrease in absenteeism and the increase in student performance.
Jaime Garzón School, in the town of Kennedy, is one of the 11 educational institutions that are part of the Educational Alliance, a non-profit organization. Its president, Mery Alcira Jiménez, leads an institutional project that is based on the strengthening of social and emotional skills in its students. To achieve this goal effectively, this school has a program called “Safe Sailing”, which consists of the allocation of weekly spaces with the direction of teams of wellness professionals as guides, doers and process verifiers, which in turn are responsible for meeting the particular needs of students (from first grade to eleventh), alluding to the development of socio-emotional skills.
According to its president, the results of this approach strongly based on positive education and holistic training are visible in different areas. Since its implementation in the school Jaime Garzón, the rate of pregnancy in the student body decreased considerably (today is 0); there was a reduction in the dropout rates, as well as in the consumption of psychoactive substances and in the failure rate of the school year. “In Alianza we think that forming socio-emotional skills is not only important, it is vital, since they are the tools that students, once graduated from school, begin to try to respond to an increasingly intolerant and competitive world. These skills, along with cognitive ability and academic results, open or close the doors of opportunities, “says the educator.
The educational model of this institution is based on the philosophies of Sathya Sai Baba, who was a spiritual leader of India, and on the Educare pedagogical methodology. “All the strategy imparted is oriented towards the awareness and development of our full human potential, merging secular and spiritual education, we are integral beings. The fundamental difference is in the focus of the gaze, we start from the inside out, from the “I to the Us”, comments his rector, Sonia Campo. Currently, the school has 100 students, only transition and primary, who receive an education that revolves around five essential values: peace, love, truth, rectitude and nonviolence. The purpose, according to Campo, is that the child develops skills that allow him to start a process of transformation from the development of self-awareness.
The methodologies taught at the school are rare compared to other centers in the country. Children and managers begin their day with moments of silent reflection, meditation and breathing exercises; In addition to this, morning assemblies are held that allow dialogue and interaction between students and educators through songs and conversations, and strategies aimed at co-evaluation, hetero-evaluation, and positive discipline. In the same way, children are encouraged to have a diary in which they record their emotions, learning, concerns and introspections that they consider relevant. In addition to this, educators who are admitted to this center are trained in a diploma focused on human values dictated by the school, which lasts one year and an intensity of four hours per week.
Recently, the Colegio Gimnasio Sabio Caldas has sought to promote a pedagogical model linked to positive psychology. For Sandra Ramírez, a professor of technology and computer science at this institution, contributing to her students learning about the management of their emotions is a vital aspect of their education at this institution. That is why this school has been strengthening educational strategies that appeal to socio-emotional skills, aimed at the development of character strength, growth mindset, resilience and gratitude. “From transition to eleven, our students have identified their strengths; we involve the whole school in this, “says the educator.
To guarantee an effective transmission of this educational project, and that the integral training model is more beneficial for children and adolescents who attend this educational center, teachers and managers have attended training workshops to assimilate the techniques and principles that they are taught in the institution.