“Non-cognitive” skills to combat early school exchange

The Educator Giorgio Chiosso

It is precisely in difficult times, such as those we are going through, that it is necessary to draw on resources such as grit, resilience, social intelligence, self-control, endurance and other qualities that help people “meet the challenges.” modern world “, as the OECD writes in the report on so-called” soft skills “. In recent days, Parliament has been unanimously approved and is now being reviewed by the Senate. next school year and for a three-year period of “national experiments”. Finally, the Ministry of Education submits a report to the Chamber. To fund the experiments, including r teaching staff, were allocated 350,000 euros per year.

“Around the world, attention to non-cognitive skills leads to a decrease in school dropouts, fosters self-esteem and motivation to learn, especially in unhappy children or those who have returned from past mistakes.” Italy, too, though years later, is moving in the direction indicated by Professor Emeritus for Pedagogy and History of Pedagogy of the University of Turin, Giorgio Chiosso. And it does so with the law unanimously passed in the House in recent days and now being reviewed by the Senate. A choice that should help in the legislator’s intentions against the plague of early school leaving, now 13.5% compared to a European average of 10.3%, but with peaks of 33% among young immigrants.
Professor, what are non-cognitive skills and what are they for?
Linda Darling Hammond, one of America’s most important educators in education, formerly a lecturer at Stanford University, wrote that the survival of the human species depends on at least equal parts of our technical knowledge and skills. cultivating those personal dispositions and skills such as contrasting, collaborating with others, communicating in an empathetic way, resisting the stress generated by various factors according to age (studies, work), a great mental openness and a healthy critical sense have got. It is now widely understood that this is due to the pedagogical cultivation of these non-cognitive abilities (no others social emotional skills) not only work success depends on the adult, but also and above all the achievement of balance and maturity of the person.
And do school results improve too?
Every sensible teacher knows well that the best academic results are achieved by those students who, in addition to good intellectual skills, know how to compare them with stability, interest, personal initiative and the ability to work with colleagues and teachers. This empirical intuition is today confirmed and reinforced by a variety of studies and research, committed on the one hand to improve people’s skills and on the other hand equipped to confront the reality of the future, marked by technological change and Transformations into the world of work.
Why should non-cognitive skills be taught in school?
The non-cognitive abilities they are not predetermined, but they are largely flexible and influenced by the pedagogical behavior of adults, parents, school life and even informal “au pair” relationships. If you leave these provisions to yourself and do not cultivate them properly or do not develop them – with the consequence that people are unhappy and dissatisfied with theirs, for example, shyness, inability to relate to others, etc. – Or they develop in distorted forms, as happens in the cases of aggressive, intolerant, antisocial people. Many cases of youth bullying, to name a single example, unfortunately more and more common, depend precisely on the inadequate pedagogical care of various aspects of the character. The potentially good emotional resources that each of us has in the neglect of someone who is persecuting and correcting them are scattered and unfortunately degenerate. This is why joint action between parents and teachers is very important.
How does it integrate with traditional subjects?
Nothing could be more wrong to think that the time allotted should be established non-cognitive abilities in addition to traditional subjects integrated into the timetable. These skills grow and mature in a context of mature adults who are able to transfer good human qualities through consistent behavior. Research on how school can be a decisive factor in this sense converges on the need for a school climate based on positive elements and values ​​such as respect, responsibility, fairness, honesty, coherence and generally convey a sense. of the common purpose for which the school is worth visiting. In this context, language, the presence of crisis management and conflict support systems, the consistency of official declarations (such as the training offer plan) with daily reality are important.
How do they avoid early school exchanges?
The vast diffusion of technology and digital is increasingly exposing our young people to an imprint of ordinary social skills. Added to this is the pandemic crisis which has accentuated pre-existing situations of inconvenience, increased relational critiques, made social inequalities and students much more vulnerable. These situations, as is well known, lead to more and more early school exchanges, a phenomenon which must be understood on a broad spectrum: not only with the actual refusal of participation, but also with a poor performance and passive presence (the student who enters the School goes, but it’s as if he is not missing). On the one hand, the personalized improvement of the non-cognitive potential of the “at risk” student can be a support point for his recovery, on the other hand, the school climate, which can prove the usefulness of the school, is an incentive. not to interrupt the school class. But it must also be said that the phenomenon of dispersion can not only be defeated or reduced with the strategy of non-cognitive skills and other interventions (including social) are required to support the schools concerned.
Some see the risk of the “Big Brother” style approval of students: is this a justified fear?
The thesis of those who fear that the cultivation of non-cognitive abilities risks bringing a general functional homologation to the interests of the economic world and the weakening of personal critical sense is exaggerated. Just two observations. The choice in favor of non-cognitive abilities it goes in the opposite direction: it wants to avoid a conformist and deterministic school, some might be those built on tests, standardized tests and similar “measurable” initiatives. The scholastic history of recent decades has, in that sense, been under pressure from OECD surveys and European recommendations. On the other hand, there are aspects of the human personality that are equally edible and important that escape this approach and that need to be re-evaluated. Secondly, the non-cognitive abilities they propose a subject that has often escaped the technocrats of our time and that is the unity of the human person out of intelligence, volitional ability, feeling. To what little I know of “Big Brother,” it seems to me that it is going in the opposite direction as a place and occasion of the most obvious banalities of our time.

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