In that country, they had high drowning rates. In their search for strategic solutions, a group of initiators found. Our country, where drowning rates are relatively low. The country where almost every child obtains the same swimming diploma. They were jealous of us. A system such as the Swimming was their example. Their wish was to award the same swimming certificates all over the country. They were convinced that this would increase swimming safety and reduce drownings with Lifeguard Training.
We left as ambassadors of the Swimming, as lobbyists for a national swimming diploma. We were at the ministry, with swimming pool directors and we trained swimming instructors. Much has been set in motion. The discussion about swimming safety is still heated to this day. Awareness has grown enormously and swimming education is developing rapidly. But there is (still) no National Swimming Diploma.
The role of swimming diplomas
Why are clear swimming diplomas important? According to, a diploma is ‘written proof of a successful examination’. In an exam, you test whether the (learning) objectives have been achieved. During diploma swimming, children show which skills they master. Those skills are related to the goal of learning to swim: to be swim-safe. Obtaining your swimming certificate is proof of a kind of ‘starting competence’ for swimming safety. You can expect to be able to get yourself (in certain circumstances) to safety.
We have put a lot of energy into researching the skills you want to test in recent years. As part of the project, we have been working hard on a definition of swimming safety since 2016.† Based on the latest research, the exam programs for the Swimming have been re-established (2018). These programs consist of a list of important skills that contribute to ‘being safe to swim’. The minimum implementation (standardization) of such a skill is formulated with the aim of swimming safety. It’s about moving forward in the water with a certain stroke and maintaining it. Or to go underwater and orientate. The desired performance of a swimming stroke, of diving or swimming underwater, is described less technically and explicitly than was previously the case.
The demands made on the circumstances, such as the water depth and the total water surface in which people swim, have remained as important for the new examination programs. In swimming lessons, you prepare children for circumstances in which they can end up in our water-rich Netherlands. And in which they can bring themselves to safety. During the diploma swimming, you want to test whether this has indeed been successful. You prefer to do that ‘as real’ as possible. How far you want to go as a training organization has become much more flexible than before. You can opt for diploma swimming in the ‘normal’ swimming pool with a water depth of 1.80 meters, but the recreational pool (with the waves on) or even open water is also an option.
Clarity as the basis for safety
An unambiguous swimming diploma provides clarity (you must demonstrate these skills) and also (basic) security (possession of the diploma is proof of basic swimming safety). In our country, it is mandatory in most swimming pools that you are in possession of at least an A (or sometimes B) diploma to be allowed to swim in the deep end. You can set this condition if you know what the meaning of an A diploma is. If we let go of unambiguity, the pressure on our supervisors will increase. They will have to assess on the spot much more often whether a swimmer is sufficiently safe to swim, you can no longer just rely on a minimum skill level. The chance of unsafe situations in swimming pools is increasing. It’s just like driving a car. If there were different driving licenses, you can no longer rely on the minimal driving skills of road users. The risk of accidents increases. And that’s annoying, for everyone.
Clarity of course
An unambiguous swimming certificate is in line with the expectations of parents. We know in the Netherlands that the vast majority of parents think that there is only 1 swimming diploma in the Netherlands. They want the best for their child, ‘we’ know what that is. Parents simply assume that every swimming lesson provider pursues the same goal, has the same quality and that this leads to the same diploma. The surprise is often great when it turns out that this is not the case. And I can imagine that.
Like the parents, I assume that everyone who offers swimming lessons strives for the same goal: to ensure that children feel comfortable in the water and can cope when they go swimming. But, now that there are more and more different swimming diplomas in the Netherlands, there is no guarantee whatsoever. As a swimming industry, we have a lot to explain. The existence of different diplomas for something as important as swimming safety is actually unimaginable. What does a swimming diploma stand for? What is the difference between diplomas? Which degree is best? On the basis of which criteria should parents make a choice? What happens if a child drowns and a parent finds out that maybe the swimming certificate they obtained was not good at all?
Togetherness as the basis
Clarity leads to more swimming safety. They found that in Taiwan too. They failed to make it happen. There are (too) many different interests among providers of swimming lessons. The common interest has not yet prevailed. In the Netherlands, solidarity in the swimming industry is in danger of gradually crumbling. Our interests also change. We confuse methods of learning to swim with swimming certificates. And use that as an argument to develop your ‘own’ swimming diploma. In terms of content, it is not all that different from each other. But we are gradually losing an overview of the quality of the exams and the circumstances. This has a negative effect on swimming safety in and outside our swimming pools. And causes misunderstanding among our customers.