Face Off: should students be able to swim before they graduate?

Face Off: should students be able to swim before they graduate?

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week’s topic is ...


Should swimming be a requirement for graduation?
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 17, Li Po Chun United World College

Swimming is an important skill for students to have. Knowing how to swim at a fairly competent level is essential: according to Safe Kids Worldwide, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death of people aged between one year and 14.

This swimming test rule is now in effect in many institutions, like Cornell University, Columbia University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. In fact, MIT added this requirement because of many MIT graduates that drowned during the Second world war was. They didn’t know how to swim.

Swimming is also a great form of exercise. Let’s face it, loads of students at university don’t do much exercise. Swimming is such a great activity, and improves heart and lung capacity. Passing a swimming test means a student has a certain degree of physical fitness, which is a great thing to have.

Qiu Long, the President of Tsinghua University, recently imposed this rule in his university because he believes that “the regulation helps to promote physical fitness and exercise among students”. If students aren’t able to swim 50 metres across one of the school’s pools in breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle or backstroke, then they have to take a swimming course.

Like any other subject, making passing a swimming test necessary for graduating seems like the only way to get students to take it seriously. People argue that schools don’t have swimming facilities, and that the swimming test would create more stress for students, but it’s not like the universities force people to take swimming classes. They just require them to actually pass the test at the end of the year. If you want, you could avoid swimming up until the last second.

Requiring success in a swimming test is a good thing, because who doesn’t want to avoid being a victim of an accidental drowning?

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Joshua Lee, 18, Cardiff University, Britain

Students in Hong Kong are often under a lot of pressure to perform well in exams. This means they feel a great deal of stress, and stress can lead to a decline in mental health. Sure, regular exercise releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and improve well-being, but why does that mean students need to be forced into doing it in order to graduate? Isn’t that just putting more pressure on them?

It’s not like many schools have the resources or facilities needed to provide swimming lessons. A vast majority of secondary schools in Hong Kong don’t have swimming pools on their grounds, so they’d have to find the money (from their very limited budgets) to provide transport to public swimming pools, as well as hiring qualified swimming instructors. Using public swimming pools means that they wouldn’t be accessible to the public for that time either, which might cause resentment between students and members of the public.

Students already face so much academic pressure. Why do we need to add to it with a test of their physical abilities too? Plus, taking the time to learn how to swim means you’re taking away time they could use to study their actual school subjects. We could all do with one less exam to worry about, don’t you think?

Swimming tests are pointless and impractical. If students want to exercise , then they can – but they can do it in their free time, or as part of their own extracurricular activities. Let’s keep exams out of the swimming pool.

Edited by Ginny Wong


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