The central role of school culture and climate in fostering social and emotional learning: Evidence from Malawi and Uganda

The central role that the school and classroom environment or ‘school climate’ plays in social and emotional learning (SEL) is well documented, albeit mostly from US-based studies. RTI International sought to understand how schools in Malawi and Uganda organized themselves to provide positive and supportive places for children to learn and to develop socially and emotionally. The narratives captured in this study help explain how teacher behaviors and school culture serve to nurture social and emotional (SE) skills. Teachers, students, parents, and school management committee (SMC) members discussed the importance of teacher encouragement, friendliness and approachability, appreciation, understanding of and listening to student viewpoints, and modeling of cooperative teacher–teacher interactions to support SEL. School qualities identified as important for SEL included cooperation, student clubs and sports, a violence-free environment, freedom of expression, and commitment to equality. The findings yield insights into what schools can do to develop a culture of SEL, in and outside the classroom.