Scouting is a Movement of progressive self-education for young people. According to Scouting’s educational approach, each person is born with a unique potential, which can be developed in a constructive direction. Making this potential a reality involves developing all of one’s capacities – physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual. This is done by providing a supportive and organised learning environment, which stimulates and challenges each young person during his or her formative years.
The essential part of the Scouting experience lies in the Youth Programme. Youth Programme in Scouting not only refers to the activities, but also to how and why they are done. Overall, activities are seen as means rather than goals in themselves, and they create opportunities for each person to develop skills, attitudes and acquire knowledge. Young people are the main players in this non-formal educational process that also requires adequate Adult Support, which is usually provided by adult volunteers.
Scouting is also characterised by the fact that it is open to all, and is voluntary, non-political, independent and relevant to the young people of today. Through the Youth Programme, Scouts become active members of society and learn to lead themselves and others; all the while having fun, because – in the words of Lady Olave Baden-Powell – “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t Scouting”.
The Youth Programme is the totality of what young people do in Scouting (the activities), how it is done (the Scout Method) and the reason why it is done (the purpose). It is realised through a partnership between youth members and adult leaders, taking into account the participants' interests, needs and abilities.
The Youth Programme in Scouting offers a progressive process of self-education and personal development for children and young people. The activities themselves differ between and within countries (there is no set list of activities for all National Scout Organizations), but are all done with the shared method and purpose of the Scout Movement. Examples of activities are: camping and outdoor activities, service projects, vocational trainings, games, international expeditions, community development, acting and singing, sailing, and many more.
In order to experience the programme in the best possible way, Scouts are organised according to different age sections. The divisions and names vary between National Scout Organizations to suit different needs and contexts. For example, a traditional division would include Cub Scouts (8-11 years old), Scouts (11-17 years old) and Rover Scouts (17-26 years old). Nowadays, a number of countries divide the age section into two groups (Scouts 11-14 years old and Venture Scouts 14-17 years old) to meet the specific needs of younger and older adolescents.
For more information about the Youth Programme in Scouting, read: Youth Programme: The World Programme Policy, and Scouting – An Educational System.
Although young people are at the very centre of Scouting activities (choosing, planning, executing and evaluating), the support of adults is key. This support can take different forms (educational, organisational, etc.) and varies according to the age range of the Scouts. Children in the Cub section, for example, will probably require a bigger presence and intervention than the young adults of a Rover section.
Today, around seven million adults are involved in Scouting worldwide. These adult volunteers play an essential role, and are a valued and important resource. Being an adult volunteer in Scouting also means personal development. By supporting the creation of healthy learning environments, adults also develop leadership, organisational and communication skills, empathy, self-esteem, etc.
For National Scout Organizations to grow and offer better Scouting to more young people, they need to attract and retain motivated and qualified adult leaders and maintain their drive throughout their time in the association. Their knowledge and awareness about working with young people should also be renewed on a regular basis through refresher courses.
In recent years, many National Scout Organizations have invested time and resources in identifying the trends in volunteering in their country; clearly identifying the volunteers who are needed in their organisation, and developing strategies and plans to recruit and retain volunteers. By building on these ideas, tools and resources to support volunteering have been developed.
For more information, see: Adults in Scouting – World Policy
As a youth organisation, it is important that Scouting offers a safe and fun environment. In order to ensure this, a Safe from Harm programme has been developed. The aim of this educational programme is to prevent any form of abuse from taking place, and to give adult volunteers the tools needed to ensure the well-being of our young people.