The Syria International Social and Emotional Learning Assessment (ISELA) baseline study set out to assess the levels of socio-emotional development of children ages 6 to 12 in five Injaz-supported child centers.1 The centers are supported by the following community-based organizations (CBOs): Partner C (Locations 1 and 2), Partner I, Partner E, and Partner B. These child centers provide psychosocial programming and remedial education to internally displaced children in Raqqa Governorate in northeastern Syria.
Sample Size and Characteristics
A total of 496 students ages 6 to 12 participated in the study, with a near-equal proportion of boys and girls (51 percent male and 49 percent female). Most students assessed (70 percent) fell into the 10- to 12-year-old age group, while 20 percent were 8 or 9 years old and 10 percent were 6 or 7 years old. Since many children were out of school during the ISIS occupation, and some had never attended school, nearly half of the students assessed were in Grade 1, and almost 90 percent were in Grades 1 to 3 (see Exhibit 3, page 6). Most students live in a tent (58 percent) or a house (40 percent), and had changed residences one to three times in the past year. While we assessed children in all five Injaz-funded centers, 60 percent of the students came from two centers: Partner C/Location 2 and Partner B.
We collected data using the most recent version of Save the Children’s ISELA tool. ISELA measures key intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies across four domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship skills. These domains include seven subtasks: self-concept, anti-social/conflict behavior, stress management, perseverance, empathy, pro-social behavior, and relationships. Additionally, the socio-emotional learning (SEL) environment subtask assesses the school/center environment to determine if it is safe and supportive for the development of SEL competencies. We included two additional questions (see page 2) to better understand the most urgent concerns in students’ environments and current emotional states.
The ISELA results are reported by subtask according to the specific scoring guidelines provided in the ISELA instrument. The results will be used to develop age-appropriate and context-relevant learning interventions for children in the five child centers we assessed, and may inform activities for other centers in Raqqa Governorate.
- Relationships: Children have an average of 11.7 people in their social network and access more than half of them when they need help dealing with an emotion or problem. The three people that children consulted most frequently were their mother, closest friend, and teacher. Fewer than 3 percent are secluded and do not access anyone in their network.
- Stress management: On average, children identified 1.76 strategies for coping with stress, out of three possible strategies. Thirty-six percent of children identified three strategies, and 18 percent could not identify any strategies.
- Empathy: On average, children answered 77.8 percent of the empathy questions correctly, with scores ranging from 57.3 percent to 97.4 percent correct.
- Perseverance: Most students (63 percent) attempted all three drawing activities. The average number attempts was 2.1.
- Pro-social and anti-social behavior: Children reported an average of 13.8 pro-social behaviors and 5.8 anti-social behaviors. The most common anti-social behavior reported was getting angry with other people, which occurred about 1.8 times in the last week, while the most common pro-social behaviors were doing what adults told them to do and trying to be nice to others, which occurred an average of three times in the last week.
- Self-concept: Overall, the average percentage of items scored correctly out of a total of 10 items was 55 percent. Most children (71 percent) attempted the task of drawing their future self and were able to describe the scenes/details of what they had drawn, while 29 percent did not attempt the drawing.
Equity analysis did not reveal any major differences in performance based on socioeconomic status or risk factor, but did find several differences in sex, age, and living conditions. Girls and older children (9 to 12 years old) demonstrated slightly higher levels of empathy and pro-social behavior and lower levels of anti-social behavior. Self-concept progressively increased with age, and there was a small increase based on the number of homes in which students had lived.