About the OECD's Survey on Social and Emotional Skills

Research shows that both cognitive, and social and emotional skills improve life outcomes at a societal and an individual level. Considerable information exists on the development of cognitive skills but is lacking for social and emotional skills. The Survey on Social and Emotional Skills (SSES) aims to help close this information gap. 

What is the Survey's purpose?

The Survey aims to:

• Provide participating cities and countries with information on their students' social and emotional skills.

• Identify factors in students' home, school and peer environments that promote or hinder the development of social and emotional skills.

• Explore how broader policy, cultural and socio-economic contexts influence these skills.

• Demonstrate that valid, reliable, comparable information on social and emotional skills can be produced across diverse populations and settings.

What does the Survey assess?


Which social and emotional skills are included in the Survey?

“Social and emotional skills” differ from cognitive skills, such as literacy or numeracy, because they mainly involve how people manage their emotions, perceive themselves and engage with others, rather than their ability to process information.

In order to assess these skills, the Survey draws on a well-known framework in the field of social and emotional skills – the Big Five model.

The model includes a cluster of mutually related social and emotional skills within five broad domains. For example, the domain of collaboration encompasses empathy, trust and co-operation. Apart from showing their mutual similarity, these groupings also ensure a systematic, comprehensive and balanced consideration of individuals’ social and emotional skills.

The Survey includes 17 social and emotional skills.


How do we measure social and emotional skills?

The Survey takes a single snapshot of two cohorts of primary and secondary school students, at ages 10 and 15. It assesses students' social and emotional skills directly but also obtains information from their parents, teachers and school principals. This allows us to understand the home and school contexts in which these skills develop.

Our formula for data quality:


What are the types of assessment instruments?

The Survey's assessment instruments are reports of typical behaviours, thoughts and feelings.

Questions/items are in the form of simple statements such as “I like learning new things” (item assessing students’ creativity) and “I stay calm even in tense situations” (item assessing stress resistance). We use a 5-point Likert type agree/disagree response scale, with answers ranging from 1 – completely disagree to 5 – completely agree. All of the 17 assessment scales use positively and negatively worded items.

These methods are used the most frequently in social and emotional skills assessments. They provide a simple and efficient way to collect information from a large number of respondents, are cost efficient and simple to administer, tend to produce consistent results, and in many cases provide a remarkably high approximation of objective measures.

How do we collect information on students’ environment?

The Survey collects information on students' and their parent's background characteristics, as well as on family, school, and community learning contexts through four contextual questionnaires developed for: students, parents, teachers and school principals.

The contextual questionnaires aim to capture the most relevant information that influences students’ social and emotional skills development in line with characteristics of this study that tend to be more responsive to policy interventions and adapting teaching methods.


Who is the target population?


How is the Survey administered?

Administration method

• The survey is administrated to groups of students belonging to the same cohort in a controlled school setting. 

• A trained survey administrator delivers the survey, with school staff present. 

• Parents, teachers and principals complete their questionnaires individually.

Assessment mode

• The students fill out the questionnaires online through desktop or laptop devices.

• Parents, teachers and school principals also fill out questionnaires online, but in some participating cities/countries parents can choose a paper and pencil option in case of necessity or personal preference.

• All instruments are provided using a centrally managed online platform.