We’re a land of water lovers. From pools in our private homes to nearby community centers, many of us love living near bodies of water for easy access to swimming, fishing and a variety of water sports. And although it’s easy for us to focus on the fun aspects of spending time in the water, water safety is an all-too-important topic we sometimes overlook in our school curriculums.

The true key to drowning prevention is learning how to swim. Many countries have established swim lessons as a main part of their compulsory educational curriculum, but there are far more places that do not. Swimming isn’t just a life skill, it’s a survival skill. Every individual should have the opportunity to learn how to swim.

Every year the number of individuals, both children and adults, who drown in a swimming related incident is both tragic and astounding. This number can be dramatically decreased by bringing swim curriculums into schools. Though this is not the only solution to drowning prevention, it certainly helps! This is why some countries have already started implementing ‘Learn to Swim,’ programs.

In England, all schools must provide swimming instruction to children before they finish their primary education. They are required to be taught to swim confidently over a distance of at least 25 meters. The little swimmers of England must be able to use a variety of strokes, including front and back crawl. In addition to this they need to be able to perform a self-rescue in different water-based situations! Talk about preparing yourself for an emergency! Largely due to their mandatory swimming instruction; the UK and England have the 6th lowest drowning rate in the world.

In Canada and the U.S. swimming lessons are optional based on municipality and the availability of a swimming pool for the school. There are a large number of curriculums in these countries that have swimming as a part of the curriculum, many in places you wouldn’t expect. In Juneau, Alaska for example, the government has made swimming a large part of their curriculum, due to their proximity to the coast. They have ensured that every student before the age of 10 will be able to swim confidently and independently, through the Learn to Swim Program. The government in Alaska is even subsidizing the cost of the use of the pool and the lessons, because they are aware of how important this life skill is. Some areas in the USA like San Diego have swimming lessons available for free in the community. The same goes with Canada, if the primary or secondary school has access to a swimming facility, then swimming is a part of the educational curriculum. Once again, they importance of swimming is reflected in the drowning rates, with Canada being the 19th lowest and the U.S. being the 35th lowest in the world.

It is apparent that in order to see the number of drownings decrease globally, it would be beneficial to consider implementing swimming programs into educational curriculums. Whether or not it is subsidized by the government for that country or municipality, swimming is a valuable life skill that cannot be overlooked. The well being of all children should be our number one priority. Now it’s just up to the educational system to start being more proactive about water safety!