This section tries to answer the following question: How to integrate the development of social-emotional competences into subject areas in order to promote democracy in schools?
Developing socio-emotional skills at school is something beyond simply feeling good at school. This mental availability also allows for a better quality of attention to others, increasing listening and empathy skills, which favors altruistic and supportive behavior. It also promotes the mobilization of self-regulation skills of emotions and behaviors, which also contributes to the development of a calm school climate.
Giving more importance to the issue of well-being in school is an opportunity to reinforce the development of psychosocial skills necessary for the construction of a supportive society where democracy and the power of action of individuals are respected.
Nowadays, it is clear that schools need to engage for a holistic development of the students. This idea is reinforced by the recent importance given to soft skills or 21st century skills. There is not a fixed list, but we could define them in general terms as „the ability of a person to cope effectively with the demands and challenges of daily life of daily life (…), to maintain a state of mental well-being and to demonstrate this through adaptive and positive behaviour in interactions with others, his or her through adaptive and positive behaviour in interactions with others, culture and the environment“ (Encinar, Tessier & Shankland, 2017).
The OECD (2021) defines them as „a subset of an individual’s abilities, attributes and characteristics that are important to his or her success and social functioning. The OECD also highlights the importance of having a holistic approach of the students’ development, not only focused on subject-specific learning, but also focuses on developing skills that are essential to participate fully in society as active citizens.
In order to give students, the citizens of tomorrow, the means to meet these complex challenges, education must also education must also promote the development of cross-cutting skills such as critical thinking critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and collaborative decision making (Ata, 2019), with respect for otherness and differences between individuals, respect for truth and scientific truth and scientific facts and, finally, respect for the planet (Malet, 2021).
20th century educators such as John Dewey, Célestin Freinet or Paolo Freire already talked about transforming the classroom and the schools into „micro-society“ and places of emancipation, where democratic values are shared, taught and democratic values are shared, taught and implemented.
To make this idea of democracy in schools, Feu et al. (2017) talk about four concrete dimensions:
Even assuming that there is a consensus on the definition of democracy, implementing ‚democratic practices‘ in the classroom and promoting socio-emotional skills is not self-evident. This is why we have prepared some hand-on resources to help teachers to incorporate the teaching of these skills into their daily school life.
Feu, J. Serra, C., Canimas, J., Lazaro, L. & Simo-Gil, N. (2017). Democracy and Education: A Theoretical Proposal for the Analysis of Democratic Practices in Schools. Studies in Philosophy and Education.