Education MAT-MATIK Politics

Is it realistic to implement swimming lessons in Malaysian schools? We calculate!

Malaysians have allegedly once again misinterpreted the Education Minister, Dr Maszlee Malik when he suggested an initiative to promote water safety among children. Uh-oh, another day another issue.

Dr Maszlee said that most Malaysians had only focused 1% on what he said and missed 99% of the suggestion. If ugaiz dunno what happened, Dr Maszlee suggested to introduce swimming as part of the co-curricular activity for school students to prevent drowning among children last month. Here’s where everyone went hoo-haa.

Recently, he encouraged private clubs (not Trec but swimming clubs) and hotels to allow schools to use their pools for this activity. He mentioned that this could be a way for hotels to perform their CSR la buttt the Malaysian Association of Hotels mentioned that hotel pools aren’t suitable for this type of activity since they’re mostly used for leisure.

Well... Image from The Star

Well, especially if the pool looks like this. Image from The Star

However, it looks like most people are missing out on an initial suggestion from Dr Maszlee which is to implement this activity in schools located near public swimming pools. This makes sense although we found out that…


Only special Malaysian schools have swimming pools

Back in those days, parents used to throw their kids into the river to teach them how to swim.

Like this. Image from Bibiranbanar's WordPress

Like this. Lat’s comic retrieved from Bibiranbanar’s WordPress

Nowadays, parents would opt to send their children to swimming lessons and most of them are conducted privately. However, we found out that there are swimming is incorporated in the syllabus in one of the schools in KL. Yeap, Malaysian schools do have swimming pools tau.

As it turns out, most secondary schools with swimming pool facilities are missionary schools like Victoria Institution (VI) in KL and Anglo-Chinese School in Perak. But we said most because there are other non-missionary schools with this facility such as SMK Bukit Jalil (yeap, the sports school) and Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).

We got in touch with a representative from VI named Shah who told us that it is compulsory for students to participate in swimming lessons since it is part of the physical education subject (PE).

“There are 3 components in PE: swimming, field and games. The activities rotate weekly.” – Shah told CILISOS.

Shah informed us that while the lessons are free, students have to buy their own equipment such as goggle and swimming trunk. VI is also known for its water polo team since the school team is said to be a defending champion in this sport on state level. Students who join this extra-curricular activity may have to pay RM5 club fee la. Despite being a defending champion on state level, VI’s water polo may not be as well-known as its cadet corps band.

VI's brass band is so famous it took part in the street parade in Copenhagen. Image from MalayMail

VI’s cadet corps band is so famous it took part in the street parade in Copenhagen. Image from MalayMail

However, Shah mentioned that VI’s swimming facility is only for the school’s students. VI’s swimming pool is not available for other schools although there are several schools nearby such as SMK (L) Methodist and SRK Jalan Hang Tuah.

Although it may be good that students in VI have swimming lessons incorporated in PE…


Most kids in other countries learnt basic water safety skills and swimming by the age of… ELEVEN!?

Most swimming lessons are generally implemented at an early stage. In fact, private lessons in Malaysia are mostly for children under the age of 5 (although some private lessons may be available for adults too).

But since we’re talking about swimming lessons in the education system, most countries implement this lesson in primary or elementary level. As a matter of fact, ang moh kids are able to swim by the age of 11.

Similarly to VI, students in the UK must participate in swimming lesson as it is incorporated in PE. And these ang moh kids are generally expected to swim about 25-200 metres (front and back).

Clark Kent aka Superman who broke Michael Phelps' 1995 butterfly stroke record. Unedited image from Daily Mail Online

Yea, yea, Asians still wanna win. Clark Kent aka Superman from the Philippines broke Michael Phelps’ 1995 butterfly stroke record. Unedited image from Daily Mail Online

That’s not all. These kids should be able to understand water safety besides handling emergencies near water. In countries like Germany and Austria, swimming lesson is part of the elementary school curriculum which leads to an entry level certificate called the ‘Frühschwimmer’ (early swimmers).

But ang moh countries aren’t the only one to implement this lesson. Our neighbouring country, Singapore has also been implementing swimming lesson called the SwimSafer programme which is, according to a Singaporean student, Syasya, sponsored by the Ministry of Education. This programme is introduced by Singapore’s National Water Safety Council in 2010.

“(Swimming lessons are implemented) In primary school. The school will send us to swimming class for one year.” – Syasya told us.

Japan, on the contrary, has a high rate of public pool school establishment internationally that it becomes a characteristic of the country. Yeap, most of its public schools have swimming pool. This has made it easier for the Japanese schools to teach students on survival swimming aka what to do when you accidentally fall into the water.

They even make anime based on swimming itself! Gif from Giphy

When you gracefully fall into the pool. Gif from Giphy

But, sometimes, swimming lessons implemented in schools in some countries don’t really last. For instance, most Dutch towns recently have abolished swimming in order to cut expenses. OMG, if this is so then how much does it really cost the gomen to implement and sustain this lesson in schools?


The gomen may need some RM3.75bil just to build swimming pools in EACH school!

We got in touch with swimming pool contractors to find out how much does it cost to build a swimming pool. Not just any swimming pool but those suitable for swimming lesson.

We're pretty sure you don't want your kids to learn swimming in any of these pools... Images from and Hilton.

We’re pretty sure you don’t want your kids to learn swimming in any of these pools… Images from and Hilton.

One contractor we spoke to from Modular Pool told us that a suitable pool for swimming lesson would cost around RM500k-RM550k. Modular Pool also added that the ideal size of pool for swimming lessons would be 25m in length x 15m in width and 1.2m water depth.

However, another contractor we talked to from Desjoyaux Malaysia, who have built swimming pools for international schools and colleges, told us that a pool can cost more than RM200k with an estimated pool size of 12m x 6m (much smaller than the one suggested by Modular Pool).

“As long as the coach finds sufficient space to teach the number of students. It depends on space availability and class size.” – Desjoyaux Malaysia on the suitable space to build a pool, for CILISOS.

Having said that, the gomen may need to fork out a lot of money to build swimming pools in each school. At the time of writing, it was reported that Dr Maszlee has launched the Life-Saving Skills Programme and Water Safety and Rescue Awareness Module for Malaysian Schools 2018. It was reported that this module will be implemented from pre-school to secondary schools.

That would be about 10,000 schools nationwide! So, if Malaysia were to follow Japan who has this facility in nearly each elementary school, then the cost of to build swimming pools in each school in Malaysia would be:

RM375k (average cost based on cost given by Modular Pool and Desjoyaux Malaysia) x 10,000 = RM3.75bil

But let’s be a bit logical la cos not all schools have the space to build swimming pools. And we even mentioned how several schools already have their own swimming pool. Not to mention how some schools may be located near public swimming pools.

Dr Maszlee even noted that most public swimming pools are underutilised, hence why he suggested that this lesson would be implemented in schools nearby these facilities first. Even so, there may be some rental charges to use these facilities.

Yeap, we have quite a number of public swimming pool even in KL and Selangor. Screengrab from Google Maps

Yeap, we have quite a number of public swimming pool even in KL and Selangor. Screengrab from Google Maps

So, we surveyed the rental charges of public swimming pools and found out that it varies from RM1 (yeap, THAT cheap) to RM4 per head (ofcos for kids under 18 la). Calculate that with the total amount of students in both primary and secondary schools and the rental cost the gomen has to bear is about:

RM2.5o (average rental charge) x 4,772,995 = RM11.93mil

However, this is just a rough calculation of how much the gomen has to pay just to get a swimming pool for each school. And we didn’t even include the cost of swimming instructors (yes, swimming lessons must be conducted by a licensed instructor), lifeguards, swimming pool maintenance and transportation from school to the swimming pool. That may cost the gomen more than the amount we came up with.

“It was crucial to ensure the presence of trained instructors and lifeguards during lessons.” – Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, chairman of Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia in an excerpt from The Star.

As a matter of fact, one Facebook user was quick to point out that the Ministry of Education (MOE) may need to put in more thought on this idea as it may not be ideal to have over 40 students in one pool. As a matter of fact, an ideal student to teacher ratio should not exceed 20:1.

Not only that, many other Malaysians including Balingian assemblyman, Abdul Yakub Arbi, have voiced out their concerns on the accessibility of students in rural areas to these facilities.

We also mentioned how Shah told us that schools may not cover the cost of swimming equipment and suit which may be quite expensive la. One swimming suit can range from RM20 to RM100.

While most Malaysians were giving suggestions, others were a bit creative with their suggestion.

As creative as this guy. Image from Mohd Shaharuddin's Facebook

As creative as this guy. Image from Mohd Shaharuddin’s Facebook

But, at the end of the day, the main question that still remains is: Will this swimming module introduced by MOE sail or sink in the long run? We shall just sea see…

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