Growing awareness around the importance of integrating social, emotional and cognitive learning into early childhood education was evident on a recent trip to China by Beginnings School Founder and Housman Institute CEO, Dr. Donna Housman.

Dr. Housman had been invited to visit a range of early childhood schools in China and offer her expertise around the integration of theory and practice in children’s emotional, cognitive and social early development.

Her visit came on the heels of growing recognition and research evidencing that skills such as empathy, self-regulation, and emotional competence are foundational to children’s lifelong learning, success, mental health and well-being. The begin to…ECSEL approach, practiced at the Housman Institute’s Lab School Beginnings, has been shown to significantly improve these competencies and children who receive begin to…ECSEL significantly outperform their peers in these important constructs.

The response to Dr. Housman’s visit and her approach was overwhelming. In addition to her many school visits, Dr. Housman spoke to principals, teachers and administrators about the importance of integrating emotional, social and cognitive early learning into daily instruction. Housman Institute Research Coordinator Jingyi Ke joined Dr. Housman, co-presenting at a training workshop in Shanghai for more than fifty teachers and talking with school directors in both Shanghai and Beijing about how to promote these critical skills.

This international interest in the begin to…ECSEL approach coincides with the introduction of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) “Baby PISA”. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial international assessment, which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. Data from the PISA reveals that children who attend high-quality early learning programs tend to score higher at reading at age 15, are better prepared for school, and tend to perform higher academically. To better understand the relationship between early childhood education and the long-term development of children, the OECD initiated the so-called “Baby Pisa”, or the International Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study. The assessment evaluates four early learning domains: pre-literacy skills, pre-numeracy skills, self-regulation, and social and emotional skills. The study is intended to provide countries with a common framework and comparable information for best practices and to allow nations to work together to improve early learning outcomes and overall well-being for children.

The sharing of best practices and collaboration during Dr. Housman’s visit was both instructive and informative for all participants. Housman Institute expects to continue this important collaboration to improve early learning outcomes and overall well-being for children worldwide.

*This piece was reprinted from Housman Institute Lab School, Beginnings School and Child Development Center,