Teaching children to swim safely with Swim ABC

11% of the total surface of the Netherlands is open water area. Hence, Dutch children are taught to swim at a very early age. The Swim ABC is a successful national teaching programme that contributes to ­lowering the risk of drowning. 98% of Dutch youngsters nowadays possess one or more swimming diplomas.

choach and children in swimming pool
Photo: Gerben Pul

‘Learning to swim well is learning a skill for life’. This proverb is embedded in Dutch culture: most Dutch children are taught how to swim at a young age. The most critical aspects of learning to swim are being able to save yourself from drowning and being able to enjoy recreational swimming safely.

Swimming is also a healthy and pleasant form of exercise for everyone. Safety, health, and fun go together when swimming.

The Dutch National Water Safety Council (Nationale Raad Zwemveiligheid) aims to ensure that every inhabitant complies with the Dutch National Standard for Water Safety. This is the Dutch national directive that indicates the desired level of swim safety of the Dutch population.

The Swim ABC is a child-friendly teaching method, with safety in a prominent role, which provides all the necessary skills to survive and move around freely in different kinds of water. It consists of three National Swimming Diplomas: A, B, and C. Once children have earned these three diplomas, they will be aware of the safety aspects of swimming in modern swimming pools and in open water.

15 million diplomas

The Swim ABC provides children with increasing skill levels with each diploma. Lessons focus not only on teaching the various swimming strokes but also on moving under­water in a safe and free manner in different situations. Since 1985, the Dutch National Water Safety Council has awarded more than 15 million swimming diplomas to children and adults. Drowning as a cause of death has declined from 9.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1925, to 0.5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2016.

Research is important

It is critical that any improvements in quality concerning water safety and swimming skills, including the Dutch National Swimming Diploma Examination Regulations, are also based on up-to-date knowledge and research.
Project NL Zwemveilig is responsible for gathering knowledge on water safety, drowning, and learning how to swim. The knowledge contributes to the greater goal: attaining the highest possible level of water safety for the Dutch population. NL Zwemveilig is coordinated by the NRZ in cooperation with various partners, including the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS).

Logo Dutch National Water Safety Council


Dutch National Water Safety Council
Website: www.nrz-nl.nl
E-mail: mhol@nrz-nl.nl
Phone: +31 (0)318 83 02 50