Should social and emotional learning in schools be compulsory?

Should social and emotional learning in schools be compulsory?
Tasmania’s Labor party has urged the state’s government to make Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) compulsory for primary and secondary school students. 

SEL educates children on how to get along with others in a group, as well as how to manage frustration, anger, anxiety, disappointment and other negative emotions.

The classes also use positive reinforcement by encouraging students to identify their personal strengths and set goals.

Many schools around Australia are already using a range of strategies in order to implement whole-school approaches to SEL, however there have been calls to make the classes mandatory.

Labor announced the policy during Mental Health Week in an address that outlined why confronting mental health issues early was important.

Health spokeswoman, Rebecca White, told the ABC that the SEL classes would be age appropriate and allow students to discuss issues about mental health.

"The same way we teach physical education and focus on children's physical health, we want to have a focus on children's mental and emotional health as part of the regular classroom learning," White said.

"Provide opportunities for young people to talk and discuss mental illness and talk and discuss their symptoms and the issues involved and to support one another as they deal with these things through adolescence."

According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) quality teaching of SEL promotes student satisfaction, success and academic engagement, outcomes and achievement.

Connie Digolis, Tasmania's Mental Health Council chief executive, said she supports the idea.

"If we can accept that our children need to have built within the curriculum learning around physical health, and how to look after themselves physically, then we're overlooking things if we don't also take the same steps to make sure they are looking after themselves socially and mentally," Digolis said.

She added that reframing the issue as a discussion about social and emotional learning helped to make it a more everyday subject.

"I think that's a great step to breaking the stigma down, actually talking about it in the sense of social and emotional learning rather than talking about mental health as such."