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Shanghai university releases survey on children's non-cognitive skills

(chinadaily.com.cn) | Sep 13, 2021

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Students learn robot programming at No 1 Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai Normal School in Shanghai, on Sept 1, 2021. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/chinadaily.com.cn]

Participating in extracurricular activities including sports and art can help improve students' creativity and curiosity, resistance to stress and examination anxiety, according to a survey released by East China Normal University in Shanghai on Wednesday.

The survey is a three-year project conducted by the university to measure the non-cognitive skills of students aged between 10 and 15, and is part of the Study on Social and Emotional Skills developed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Ten cities from nine countries participated in the study.

The survey evaluates students' social and emotional competence based on the "Big Five Model" which comprises task performance, emotion regulation, collaboration, open mindedness, and engagement with others.

"The study aims to promote quality education, education practices, learning among countries and the healthy and happy growth of children," said Huang Zhongjing, director of the department of education at the university, during an event to release the survey results on Wednesday.

For youngsters, social and emotional skills will determine how they manage their lives in an increasingly turbulent and uncertain 21st century, said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director of Education and Skills, via a video at the ceremony.

In China, the university surveyed 7,550 students aged 10 and 15, 3,800 of whom were 10 years old, from primary and secondary schools in Suzhou, East China's Jiangsu province.

According to the report, the surveyed children from around the world showed common characteristics in social and emotional abilities. For example, social and emotional skills, especially curiosity and persistence, proved to be significant predictors of school performance.

The group of 10-year-olds was found to be more satisfied with their lives than those in the group for 15-year-olds. Optimism was a key factor in children's satisfaction levels with life.

In addition, the survey found that the level of anxiety toward examinations increased as children grew older, especially for girls.

Boys were found to be more energetic and better at regulating emotions and being sociable than girls.

Girls were found to be more responsible, empathetic, and more willing to cooperate.

The survey discovered that improving resistance to stress can alleviate students' test anxiety, while increasing their trust in others can enhance life satisfaction. In addition, empathy can enhance students' sense of belonging to schools.

On July 24, the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council issued a "double reduction" education policy to reduce students' homework and after-school tutoring pressure. The policy aims to ensure education equality and ease students' education burden.

"In this context, the assessment and improvement of non-cognitive skills for a holistic education are crucial," said Yuan Zhenguo, professor of the Faculty of Education of the university and head of the project.

Mark Bray, a professor of comparative education of the university, advocated a tracking research to follow the development of students from 10 to 15 years old to determine how their non-cognitive skills will change.

"In this way we can see the personal development of the children and the impact of the 'double reduction' polices and find better solutions to enhance their skills," Bray said.

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