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Non-cognitive/transversal Skills in Education: Study Begins!

While academic performance measured in international assessments has been impressive over the past decade in several countries of the Asia-Pacific region, there is growing concern as to the impacts of focusing too narrowly on the accumulation of academic or “cognitive” skills.

In some countries, such a focus may have triggered heightened stress levels among students, bias towards privileging what is tested at the expense of other, non-assessed skills and competencies, limited attention to respect for diversity and intercultural understanding, and ultimately, relative neglect of what is of increasing importance in a rapidly changing world: the development of innovative thinking among learners and school graduates.

In addition, there is a growing recognition of what often appears as a mismatch between skills learned at school and the skills needed in the real world of work. 

Indeed, the critical importance of what might be termed "non-cognitive skills" or "transversal skills" was highlighted during high-level regional expert meetings on education and learning beyond 2015 (May and November 2012) and the recent Regional Thematic Consultation on 'Education in the post-2015 Development Agenda in the Asia-Pacific' (28 February - 1 March 2013).

These meetings stressed that education systems should give more attention to ensuring that learners acquire requisite non-cognitive/transversal skills so that future generations can lead responsible, decent and productive lives in a rapidly changing world. 

Despite the importance of integrating non-cognitive/transversal skills and competencies into education, there has as yet not been systematic documentation and analysis of related policies and practices at the national level, let alone at the regional level. In this context, UNESCO Bangkok is undertaking collaborative research on non-cognitive/traversal skills so as to document and compare relevant education policy and practice among countries. 

This research framework was established during the recent Education Research Institutes Network (ERI-Net) meeting from 7-8 March 2013.

Supported by Korea Funds-in-Trust and in partnership with the Global Scientific Information and Computing Centre (GSIC) at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the ERI-Net meeting was attended by representatives from governments and experts from institutions from the region.

This research will attempt to uncover country experiences by focusing (in Phase I) on how different countries of the region define and apply non-cognitive/transversal skills in their education policy documents and the curriculum framework. The research also aims to identify emerging trends and challenges, as well as areas for further regional research. The findings of the research will be presented at the 2013 ERI-Net meeting in October 2013.

For the summary outcomes of the meeting as well as the research framework visit the ERI-Net webpage.

For more information on ERI-Net or the research being conducted, please contact Satoko Yano [s.yano(at)] at the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by  Ms Rachel McCarthy 

Related Links:

•  ERI-Net Seminar 2013

•  Regional Thematic Consultation on 'Education in the post-2015 Development Agenda

•  Education Beyond 2015