In many countries, swimming lessons are part of the compulsory school curriculum - but not in all.
In Australia, more than 15,000 people have signed a petition launched by the Royal Life Saving Society calling for swimming and water-safety lessons to be taught to all children. The society estimates that one in five children in the country is unable to swim and believes that an increase in drowning among 15- to 24-year-olds is linked to a drop in swimming skills over the past 10 years.
In England, where swimming is part of the compulsory school curriculum, all children are expected to be able to swim 25m by the end of primary school and to be taught personal survival skills. But a recent survey by the ASA, the national governing body for swimming, found that just 49 per cent of state schools and 63 per cent of private schools were achieving this goal. The biggest barrier was budget - 44 per cent of schools cited this as a factor.
In 2004, drowning was the 13th most common overall cause of death among children under the age of 15, according to the World Health Organization, which says that swimming lessons can provide some protection against drowning. But it adds that knowledge beyond basic strokes is necessary and that children should be taught to swim safely in open water.
Quality of water-safety education at school, including swimming lessons*
IN THE US
70% of African American children cannot swim.
60% of Latin American children cannot swim.
40% of white children cannot swim.
Source: USA Swimming (bit.lyUnableToSwim)
Proportion of children aged 7-11 able to swim 25m
Source: The 2013 School Swimming Census, ASA (bit.lySwimmingCensus2013)
North West 57%
North East 49%
East Midlands 52%
South West 63%
West Midlands 54%
South East 54%.