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School-based interventions for promoting social capabilities among students: Findings from a scoping review

Aisha Naz Ansari, MPhil Graduate & Research Associate at Aga Khan University- Institute for Educational Development (AKU-IED)

In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of holistic student development (Ansari, 2022; Rogers & Dawson, 2016). This shift arises from the limitations of focusing solely on academic knowledge. As a result, initiatives worldwide have been implemented, including incorporating social domains in assessments, updating curricula with an integration of emotional intelligence, and promoting positive social behaviours (Sutton et al., 2019). Additionally, numerous interventions – such as sports, yoga, good behaviour, forgiveness, resilience and animal protection – have been designed and implemented to support students’ holistic development (Zhu & Shek, 2020).

Capability plays a crucial role in educational outcomes, encompassing various traits and abilities (Bush & Chew, 1999). Social capability, as described by Sen (1999), involves balancing personal freedom and societal demands to contribute to social life. For children, it includes maintaining psycho-socio-emotional wellbeing and exhibiting positive behaviour while interacting with living and non-living entities (Sen, 1999). Social capability involves self-awareness, social awareness, worldview and interpersonal skills (Durlak et al., 2011; Eklund et al., 2018). Nurturing these capabilities is vital for holistic development and wellbeing, covering physical, mental and social aspects of school students (Bush & Chew, 1999). Schools should focus on developing social capabilities to foster positive educational outcomes and prepare individuals for meaningful participation in society.

‘Schools should focus on developing social capabilities to foster positive educational outcomes and prepare individuals for meaningful participation in society.’

A scoping review of published literature between 2010 and 2022 was conducted to examine evidence on school-based interventions for promoting social capabilities among students; in total, 24 studies were included from over 10,000 search results. The review explored school programmes or interventions targeting the development of psycho-socio-emotional skills, and it focused on the role of schools in promoting social capabilities and included studies published.

The scoping review indicates a diverse range of interventions implemented globally for promoting social skills among students, in the form of formal and non-formal programmes. While studies specifically focusing on social capabilities promotion are limited, the review highlights various social interventions in schools. These interventions cover areas such as social-emotional learning, self-regulation, resilience, mental health awareness, prosocial behaviour, mindfulness, parental involvement, mentorship, sports and animal protection. However, a contextual evidence gap exists in school-based intervention studies from low-middle-income countries (LMICs).

The review highlights the significant impact of interventions on students’ social capabilities. Sustaining acquired social skills from school-based interventions is a challenge due to the short-term nature of such programmes, emphasising the need for comprehensive and long-term interventions. There is a lack of contextual evidence in Pakistan that indicates the importance of tailored interventions for promoting social capabilities among students; the review demonstrates the significant and promising impact of interventions in promoting students’ social capabilities. Therefore, it is crucial to develop comprehensive interventions that encompass all components of social capabilities, ensuring long-term efficacy and sustainability of school-based interventions to promote social capabilities among students. Furthermore, the scoping review underscores the contextual gap in developing countries, including Pakistan, where evidence on school-based interventions for social capabilities is limited. This highlights the importance of tailoring interventions to meet the specific needs of these contexts. The implications of this review extend to various stakeholders, including policymakers and school practitioners, emphasising the need to prioritise the holistic development of students within formal education settings.

The review recommends integrating school-based interventions for social capabilities into policies and curricula, while further research is needed to develop school-based interventions in developing countries like Pakistan. These new interventions should encompass all components of social capabilities collectively, aiming to bridge the evidence gap and promote the psycho-socio-emotional development of students in both practising and non-practising countries.


Ansari, A. N. (2022). Exploring social capabilities and life skills of students and the role of school in promoting the same: A mixed-methods study [Unpublished Master’s Thesis]. Aga Khan University.

Bush, T., & Chew, J. (1999). Developing human capital: Training and mentoring for principals. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 29(1), 41–52.

Durlak, J. A., Weissberg, R. P., Dymnicki, A. B., Taylor, R. D., & Schellinger, K. B. (2011). The impact of enhancing students’ social and emotional learning: A meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Development, 82(1), 405–432.

Eklund, K., Kilpatrick, K. D., Kilgus, S. P., & Haider, A. (2018). A systematic review of state level social–emotional learning standards: Implications for practice and research. School Psychology Review, 47(3), 316–326. 

Rogers, C. M., & Dawson, C. (2016). Understanding the whole student: Holistic multidimensional, and multidisciplinary perspectives. In G. S. McClellan & J. Stringer (Eds.), The Handbook of Student Affairs Administration (pp. 209–221). Jossey-Bass.

Sen, A., (1999). Development as freedom. Graduate Journal of Social Sciences, 1(2), 344–347.

Sutton, B. M., Webster, A. A., & Westerveld, M. F. (2019). A systematic review of school-based interventions targeting social communication behaviors for students with autism. Autism, 23(2), 274–286.

Zhu, X., & Shek, D. T. (2020). Impact of a positive youth development program on junior high school students in mainland China: A pioneer study. Children and Youth Services Review, 114, 105022.