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 and importance 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.

• Provide insights as to how students’ social and emotional skills relate to key life outcomes.

• 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?

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 16 social and emotional skills.


How do we measure social and emotional skills?

In the first round, the Survey took a single snapshot of two cohorts of primary and secondary school students, at ages 10 and 15. It assessed students' social and emotional skills directly but also obtained information from their parents, teachers and school principals. This allowed us to understand the home and school contexts in which these skills develop.

In the present, second round, the Survey targets one cohort of 15-year-old students, and the inclusion of the younger cohort of 10-year-old students is optional. Students’ social and emotional skills are measured directly through self-assessment, and students, teachers, and school principals also provide information to allow us to understand the home and school contexts in which these skills develop. Parent participation in the second round is optional.

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’ curiosity) 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 assessment scales use positively and negatively worded items, in view to adjusting for potential response bias.

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' background characteristics, as well as on family, school, and community learning contexts through three contextual questionnaires developed for: students, teachers and school principals. A fourth contextual questionnaire for parents is optional.

The contextual questionnaires aim to capture the most relevant information that influences students’ social and emotional skills development in line with characteristics of this survey 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 from participating schools in a controlled school setting. 

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

• Teachers and principals (and optionally, parents) complete their questionnaires individually.

Assessment mode

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

• Teachers and school principals (and optionally, parents) also fill out questionnaires online. 

• In exceptional circumstances, some participating cities/countries can administer paper version of the questionnaires. 

• All instruments are provided using an online platform.


Who are the Survey participants?

In the current, second round of the Survey, 16 sites (including both countries and sub-national entities) representing 15 countries are participating. Two of the sites, Helsinki (Finland) and Bogotá (Colombia), also participated in the first round of the Survey.

In the first round of SSES, 10 cities from nine countries participated:

  • Bogotá (Colombia)
  • Daegu (Korea)
  • Helsinki (Finland)
  • Houston (United States)
  • Istanbul (Türkiye)
  • Manizales (Colombia)
  • Moscow (Russia)
  • Ottawa (Canada)
  • Sintra (Portugal)
  • Suzhou (China)

What is the timeline of the Survey?

The second round of SSES takes place over several years, with preparations for and administration of the Field Trial in the first half of 2022, Main Survey preparations in the second half of 2022, and the main data collection in the first half of 2023. The analysis will take place in the second half of 2023, and reporting in 2024-25.