Japanese schools have had their own pools for decades, sometimes built into the very roof to save space. Many Japanese adults probably fondly remember the PE classes they spent swimming with their classmates under the summer sun, laughing and splashing under the strict eye of their teachers.
Unfortunately, according to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, younger generations may not get to make those same fond memories in the future. Due to the financial and emotional burden of conducting swimming classes on campus, a lot of public schools are choosing to shut down their pools and send their students to a private pools and swimming schools instead.
The number of schools choosing to do so is steadily increasing. In 1996, there were more than 20,000 elementary schools nationwide that had their own pool, but by 2015 that number had decreased by about 25 percent, to just over 15,000. While part of those are schools that closed because of the declining birth rate, it still leaves about 1,000 elementary schools that decided to close just their pools.
That’s partly because many campus pools are quite old and are in dire need of repair. At this time, about 70 percent are over 25 years old and need some major touch-ups, and within the next 15 years a large share of the pools will be over 45 years old, which means they will have to be completely rebuilt. The cost to repair and renovate the pools is extremely high, so many municipalities consider the investment to not be worth the trouble.
Even if the pools are in decent condition, maintaining them racks up a large bill. Unlike other janitorial duties, the maintenance of campus pools is delegated to hired professionals who are not part of school personnel, which can be expensive. And that’s not to mention the cost of the water, the chemicals needed to keep it clean, and the cleaning of the area around the pool, as well.
One elementary school in Sakura City, Chiba, is estimated to save about one million yen every month after switching their classes to a private pool. If all of the city’s 34 schools were to do the same, the school district could probably save an exponential amount of money every year, great sums that could be applied to other more necessary but equally outdated facilities.
Making use of private pools also helps the teachers out immensely. Swimming classes conducted at the pool on campus require the PE teacher to be in charge of the children’s safety in the water, and for someone who is not a trained swimming coach, that is a heavy burden to bear.
Not only that, but school teachers also appreciate having the extra hands in the “classroom”, so to speak, that are present when the children are learning at a private pool or with a professional swimming coach. Overall, not leaving the teachers in charge of swimming classes lessens their stress by a fair amount.
That’s not to say the switches don’t come with challenges. There is a lot of logistic planninginvolved; transporting the students and arranging chaperones is a major concern, especially when classes are large or when they have to travel longer distances. Then there’s the problem of scheduling if multiple schools are using the same facilities, and whether there will be enough facilities for all of the schools plus the local population.
Yet it seems that the plan is in motion across the country. Japanese students, for one, seem to appreciate the change. In a survey conducted by Sakura City, about 98 percent of the students who participated in an off-campus swimming class said they enjoyed the lesson, and 85 percent said their swimming improved. Another benefit to using private pools and swimming schools, which are often indoor pools, is that swimming classes can be conducted throughout the year, instead of just in summer; what kid wouldn’t love a P.E. class spent in the pool, at any time of the year?
Japanese netizens generally seem to be in favor of the idea, as well, though some weren’t exactly on board:
“The cost and the burden on the teachers is pretty high. Maybe it is better to outsource the responsibility.”
“I think it’s a pretty good idea to have swimming classes at private pools instead. But it sounds like the transportation costs would be pretty high in the countryside.”
“They should invest in air conditioning instead of spending money on pools.”
“It might be expensive, but there’s no disadvantage to having them learn. The methods for building pools have improved a lot, so if they just rebuild them it shouldn’t be any problem.”
“It seems to me that the number of kids who are able to swim will decrease, or the number of drowning incidents may increase.”
There are still thousands of schools with their own pools, so many Japanese children might not miss out on the quintessential experience of an on-campus pool day any time soon. However, with the high expenses for schools and a slowly shrinking population to fund them, we might see more and more abandoned campus pools as time goes on.
Source: Livedoor News via My Game News Flash
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