Seeing red over scarlet-marked homework

SYDNEY Tue Dec 9, 2008 11:25am EST

A pupil looks at exam results in a file photo. REUTERS/Jon Super

A pupil looks at exam results in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Jon Super

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Teachers using red pen to mark students' work could be harming their psyche as the color is too aggressive, according to education strategies drafted by an Australian state government.

The "Good Mental Health Rocks" kit, which was distributed this month to about 30 schools in Queensland state, offers strategies such as "don't mark in red pen (which can be seen as aggressive) - use a different color."

Other tips include structuring time for peer tutoring every day, apologizing to students when necessary and asking students to conduct a "personal skills audit" where they focus on their individual strengths rather than their weaknesses.

The kit, designed to help Queensland teachers address mental health in the classroom, suggests social and emotional wellbeing has been linked to young people's schooling, among other things.

The education aid has sparked a row in parliament, with deputy opposition leader Mark McArdle calling it "kooky, loony, loopy lefty policies."

But Health Minister Stephen Robertson, whose department devised the kit, said youth suicide was a serious issue.

"If mental health professionals determine that as one of a number of strategies teachers should consider, then I'll support them every day of the week," he told reporters recently. "This is not a matter for ridicule, this is serious."

According to some Australian mental health groups, the greatest number of people with mental illness are aged between 18 and 24 years, with 14 percent of Australian children and adolescents suffering from some sort of illness.

Boys are slightly more likely to experience mental health problems than girls and depression is one of the most common conditions in young people and increases during adolescence, the website of mental health group Mindframe said.

(Reporting by Pauline Askin, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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