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An Educator's Code
principles and responsibilities of all aquatic educator professionals 

Since 1990 there have been periodic international educational gatherings of professionals involved in aquatic programs for the pediatric age group (newborns through 10 years of age by our definition for our purposes). These meetings have confirmed that educator views on professionalism are similar despite diverse program goals.  Recently, cooperative voices from numerous countries have begun calling for a written statement of a shared sense of professionalism, one that is activist in shaping aquatic programs for babies, toddlers and other young children. 

Responding to this challenge, the WABC has developed a "code" to encompass a set of principles of behavior to which all educators involved with aquatic programs for the youngest of children should aspire.  The code supports efforts to ensure that programs and the educators working within them remain committed to student welfare.   Moreover, the code is intended to be applicable to different cultures and political systems.



Professionalism is the basis of aquatic education's contract with society. It demands placing the interests of students above those of the educator, and providing expert advice to society on matters of aquatic skill development, drowning prevention drowning prevention, water safety and / or parent-child interactive-bonding-recreative aquatic experiences relative to the youngest of children. The principles and responsibilities of aquatic educational professionalism must be clearly understood by both the profession and society. Essential is public trust in the aquatic educator, which depends on the integrity of both individual educators and the whole profession.

At present, the aquatic educator profession is confronted by unresolved concerns and questions from the medical community, some non-conformance to generally accepted program guidelines, escalating construction and operating costs for facilities, and struggles for pool time and space.  As a result, educators can find it increasingly difficult to meet their responsibilities to students and society. In these circumstances, reaffirming the fundamental and universal principles and values of aquatic educator professionalism, which remain ideals to be pursued by all educators, becomes all the more important.

The aquatic educator profession everywhere is embedded in diverse cultures and national traditions, but its members share the role of teacher, which has roots extending back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle and the education of children in ancient Greece.  Indeed, the aquatic educator profession must contend with complicated political, legal, and market forces. Moreover, there are wide variations in program philosophy and methods through which any general principles may be expressed in both complex and subtle ways. Despite these differences, common themes emerge and form the basis of this charter in the form of three fundamental principles and as a set of definitive professional responsibilities.


Fundamental Principles

Principle of primacy of student welfare. This principle is based on a dedication to serving the interest of the student. Altruism contributes to the trust that is central to the educator–student relationship. Market forces, parent misinformation and inexperience, societal pressures, and administrative requirements must not compromise this principle.

Principle of parent and student autonomy.  Aquatic educators must have respect for the young student and parent autonomy. It remains a parental choice for the student to learn to swim and adopt water safety behaviors and for the parent and other caregivers to learn drowning prevention strategies and / or parent-child interactive-bonding-recreative aquatic experiences .  Educators must be honest with parents and empower them to make informed decisions about the aquatic education of their young children.  Parents' decisions about their child's aquatic education must be paramount, as long as those decisions are in keeping with ethical practices and do not lead to demands for inappropriate instruction.

Principle of social justice. The aquatic educator profession must promote justice in the education offerings.  Educators should work actively to eliminate discrimination in aquatic education, whether based on race, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, or any other social category.


A Set of Professional Responsibilities

Commitment to professional competence.  Aquatic educators must be committed to lifelong learning and be responsible for maintaining the knowledge and methods and team skills necessary for the provision of a quality aquatic education. More broadly, the profession as a whole must strive to see that all of its members be competent and must ensure that appropriate mechanisms are available for educators to accomplish this goal.

Commitment to honesty with students and parents. Aquatic educators must ensure that parents are completely and honestly informed before enrolling in an aquatic program and as the program proceeds. This expectation does not mean that parents should be involved in every minute decision about the aquatic education; rather, they must be empowered to decide on the course of the instruction. Educators should also acknowledge that educator errors that effect students do sometimes occur.  Whenever students are affected as a consequence of participation or instruction, parents should be informed promptly because failure to do so seriously compromises parent, student and societal trust.  Reporting and analyzing professional mistakes provide the basis for appropriate prevention and improvement strategies.

Commitment to maintaining appropriate relations with students. Given the inherent vulnerability and dependency of students, certain relationships between educators and students must be avoided. In particular, aquatic educators should never exploit students for any sexual advantage, personal financial gain, or other private purpose.

Commitment to improving quality of instruction. Aquatic educators must be dedicated to continuous improvement in the quality of their educational programs for young children.  This commitment entails not only maintaining teaching competence but also working collaboratively with other professionals to reduce professional error, increase student safety, minimize misuse of resources, and optimize the outcomes of instruction.  Aquatic educators must actively participate in the development of better measures of quality of instruction and the application of quality measures to assess routinely the performance of all individuals, organizations, and systems responsible for education delivery.  Educators, both individually and through their professional associations, must take responsibility for assisting in the creation and implementation of mechanisms designed to encourage continuous improvement in the quality of instruction.

Commitment to improving access to instruction.  Educator professionalism demands that the objective of all educational programs be the availability of a uniform and appropriate standard of instruction. Educators must individually and collectively strive to reduce barriers to equitable instruction.  Within each system, the educator should work to eliminate barriers to access based on education, laws, finances, geography, and social discrimination.  A commitment to equity also entails the promotion of water safety and drowning prevention, and parent-child interactive-bonding-recreative experiences as well as public advocacy on the part of each educator, without concern for the self-interest of the educator or the profession.

Commitment to scientific knowledge. The future of the profession's contract with society is based on the integrity and appropriate use of pedagogical and scientific knowledge.  Educators have a duty to uphold pedagogical and scientific standards, to promote research, and to create new knowledge and ensure its appropriate use. The profession is responsible for the integrity of this knowledge, which is based on scientific evidence and educator experience.

Commitment to maintaining trust by managing conflicts of interest.  Aquatic educators and their organizations have many opportunities to compromise their professional responsibilities by pursuing private gain or personal advantage. Such compromises are especially threatening in the pursuit of personal or organizational interactions with for-profit industries, including swim equipment and clothing manufacturers along with swimming pool and water safety companies.  Aquatic educators have an obligation to recognize, disclose to the general public, and deal with conflicts of interest that arise in the course of their professional activities. Relationships between industry and opinion leaders should be disclosed, especially when the latter determine the criteria for reporting education results, writing articles, editorials or educational guidelines.

Commitment to professional responsibilities.  As members of a profession, aquatic educators are expected to work collaboratively to maximize student learning, be respectful of one another, and participate in allowable and appropriate processes of self-regulation. The profession should also help define and organize the educational and standard-setting process for current and future members.  Aquatic educators have both individual and collective obligations to participate in these processes. These obligations also include engaging in internal assessment and accepting external scrutiny of all aspects of their professional performance.



The practice of aquatic education for the pediatric age group is beset with unprecedented challenges in many cultures and societies. These challenges center on increasing disparities in determining the legitimate needs and capabilities of young students relative to aquatic education, the legal ramifications of conducting aquatic programs and of endorsing certain courses and methods of instruction, and the temptation for aquatic educators to forsake their traditional commitment to the primacy of students' interests. To maintain the fidelity of aquatic education's social contract during this turbulent time, we believe that aquatic educators must reaffirm their active dedication to the principles of professionalism, which entails not only their personal commitment to the welfare of their students but also collective efforts to improve the aquatic education for the welfare of society. This Code on Pediatric Aquatic Educator Professionalism is intended to encourage such dedication and to promote an action agenda for the aquatic educator profession that is universal in scope and purpose.  

copyright World Aquatic Babies & Children, Inc. 2002  renewed and reaffirmed in 2008, 2011.

Note: code may be reproduced in its entirety with the complete information below: 

  permission to reprint from World Aquatic Babies & Children

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