Evidence & Research

The importance of fundamental changes and improvements in education has been researched for decades and is more vital now than ever. Our academic review is a tour of this agenda and identifies the opportunities and challenges of creating a Curriculum for Life.

Literature Review Summary

For many decades the prediction of academic success has been widely attributed to cognitive factors such as intelligence and academic abilities. However, in recent years researchers have recognised that ‘non-cognitive’ factors and skills play a crucial role in educational success and achievement. Researchers now firmly believe that non-cognitive factors and skills are equally or even more important than cognitive aspects in educative process and employment potential. Studies across the fields of education, economics, and psychology indicate that non-cognitive skills also predict a variety of further outcomes, including employment, financial stability, criminal behaviour, and health. Overall, when identifying the personal qualities required for functioning well in the 21st century, the role of non-cognitive factors are now often highlighted in academic discourse. Some of the key findings are described here below.

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Non-cognitive factors have a wide conceptual and theoretical basis

What is known about non-cognitive skills? What are they? Why are they important and how do they affect the educational process? This section explores the academic literature on these questions and how non-cognitive skills are important for successfully transitioning through the educational pipeline. The literature suggests that the development of such skills from childhood to adolescence could help in success in school and beyond.

Non-cognitive skills improve academic performance

This section covers evidence from empirical research studies related to non-cognitive factors and skills in academic achievement and educational success. The literature shows that non-cognitive skills can improve educational effectiveness in academic achievement as well as in other areas such as attendance and psychological well-being among students.

Non-cognitive factors and skills positively impact life outcomes

Empirical research on how non-cognitive skills improve career and life success are also prevalent in the literature. It is widely documented that the development of social and emotional skills can increase positive attitudes towards self and others and nurture the well-being of individuals and communities. Indeed, it has been found, on average, that every dollar invested in SEL programming yields $11 in long-term benefits such as reduced juvenile crime, higher lifetime earnings, and better mental and physical health.

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The skills and character traits required to prepare people for the modern world are changing

Calls for Change

There is an increasing body of evidence which suggests that the current thinking in education is not preparing young people with the skills, attitudes and behaviours they will need to take on the challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century. Subsequent calls for change from students, educators, employers and beyond highlight the importance of a Curriculum for Life.

Navigating the field of social and emotional learning is complex

Navigating SEL

Illustrative of both the opportunity and the challenge presented by work in the field is the number of frameworks that exist. Primarily focusing on early years social emotional learning, all are intelligently formed and useful. They often have overlaps in terms of what they respond to and what they wish to achieve. Our work is informed by all of the frameworks, as identified in the excellent work by the Harvard SEL team, and guided by the OECD Learning Compass. Our agnostic and pluralistic approach means that the curriculum will be adaptive and learner centred.