“SEL is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions” (CASEL).

There is no doubt that in the 21st century, scholastic skills such as numeracy, scientific literacy, civic literacy, and being able to read and write are necessary to make a successful career. However, they alone may not be sufficient to prepare students for fast- paced rapidly advancing world. Children across the world are facing an adverse situation where the challenges of poverty, violence and inequalities are highlighted without any instant solutions.

We asked our guests of EI Dialogues on what they thought were the post-pandemic opportunities in education, and what was their best piece of advice on how to make it happen. One of the themes that came up was on the increased importance of the role of Social and Emotional Learning.

Aditya Natraj, Kaivalya Education Foundation (KEF)

Preeti is studying in Grade 6 of a government school in the Dungarpur district of Rajasthan. She used to be a happy and confident child. During the pandemic, Preeti’s father lost his job and she witnessed her parent’s frustration in the form of violence towards her. Preeti is also unable to access the online content shared by her teachers as there is no money to get the phone recharged. Preeti has now become unusually quiet due to insecurities and uncertainties.

What Preeti is experiencing in Dungarpur is being experienced by millions of children across the country – the beginning of a massive mental health crisis. The question is – given that stress and ambiguities are going to be the way of life, what is most critical for our children to learn to navigate the future – Should we only train the mind or should we train the heart too?

The pandemic is an opportunity to institutionalize Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in schools. We always knew it was important to train children to navigate conflict, connect with others, and build resilience, but the pandemic may have given us an opportunity to make this as important as academic development.  If we do this well, we know that the positive emotions will further improve children’s cognitive abilities and help them to overcome the learning gaps because of school closures.

To create SEL-enabled ecosystem in schools, we must build the SEL skills of all the adults in the value chain – the officials, educators, teachers, and parents – for the social and emotional well-being of self and others.

Watch EI Dialogues with Aditya Natraj to know more about the role of empathy and listening in creating systemic change: https://youtu.be/yMun_QMMzso

 Vishal Talreja, Dream a Dream

While the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the toughest challenges confronted by humanity in modern history, there could also be no better time than now to move away from quick-fix solutions to radical reforms. As children have struggled with anxiety, distress, uncertainty through this year, the need for schools to be spaces for child wellbeing developed through life skills approaches and SEL integration has come to the forefront of all conversations.

We have a real opportunity to repurpose education from its traditional linear, industrial approach, focusing on resource extraction/workforce development, and metamorphose it to help children learn to thrive in an unpredictable and complex world. For this to manifest post the pandemic, our invitation is for our school systems, teachers, and parents across the world to let go of the anxiety of completing an already outdated syllabus and choose to invest in being trauma-responsive, to begin with, and then integrate Life Skills and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) within education systems. A caring and responsive system invested in every child’s potential to thrive will go a long way in bringing about this change.

Watch EI Dialogues with Vishal Talreja to know more about the vocabulary and conversation on Life Skills and their role in ensuring children thrive in adverse situations: https://youtu.be/OoH5xHaLHUc


In partnership with WIPRO, EI conducted the ‘Quality Education Study. As part of this study 23,000 students, 790 teachers, and 54 principals were covered to understand the overall quality education situation. Students from Grades 4, 6, and 8 were assessed for their socioemotional skills, specifically, the skills of compassion and social empathy, social growth and communication skills, and cultural awareness. Through student assessments and teacher and principal questionnaires, an overall understanding of existing values and beliefs was established.


These write-ups are sent to us by our guests on EI Dialogues. EI Dialogues is a video series centred around initiating and furthering dialogues around impacting development in education at scale. Dialogues attempt to synthesize perspectives around education reforms, technology for social impact, and systemic transformation by speaking to individuals from varied roles working to improve education in India.

All episodes can be found on www.youtube.com/eivideos and Spotify, Apple, and Google Podcasts.

Pranav Kothari

Pranav Kothari

Pranav Kothari heads the Large Scale Assessments and Mindspark Centres divisions at Educational Initiatives. This includes all the work with Governments, Foundations and Corporate CSR in the domain of learning level assessments, interventions and advisory consulting. Prior to EI, Pranav worked as a management consultant with Boston Consulting Group in USA, Germany, Chile and Argentina. He also worked as a Private Equity investor with GTI Global in USA and India. Pranav graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.Tech in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Pranav Kothari