The Scout Movement has an explicit purpose:
“To contribute to the development of Young People in achieving their full physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.” 1
It follows that our goal is to contribute to the empowerment of autonomous individuals and to contribute to the development of active citizens in their local and global communities.
But this is a broad goal that needs to be defined in a much more concrete way by each NSO. The educational competencies are a more concrete and precise expression of this goal that we use to make explicit the educational purposes towards which our educational action is oriented.
For each area of personal growth, the final educational competencies imply the sets of values, attitudes, skills, and knowledge that young people are expected to apply to effectively resolve different challenges in different situations. They are final since it is expected that these competencies can be developed by young people prior to their departure from the Scout Movement in the last age section.
These competencies mark the final contribution from the Youth Programme to a young person, as the contribution of the Scout Movement is limited to a certain period of time in their life. Therefore, we term them final, although as we know people do not stop learning and growing throughout their entire lives.
Scouting considers education to be the way society makes it possible for the experience and knowledge of previous generations to empower young people through their learning to respond to today’s challenges. In its broadest sense, education is a lifelong process that enables continuous development of a person’s capacities, both as an individual and as a member of society.2
In most cases, the age range set by an NSO for its last age section is somewhere between 18 and 26. This depends on several factors, such as the human and financial resources available to provide the necessary support to young people and their Scout leaders, sociocultural and legal aspects of the country, etc. It is recommended that the upper age limit be no higher than 26, since it is important to ensure that the Scout Movement remains a movement of and for young people.
The learning experience within Scouting focuses on the young person’s development; therefore, the Youth Programme ends at adulthood (it includes childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood only).3
These final educational competencies should be established based on a combination of desired outcomes as expressed in the Educational Proposal document and influenced by the fundamentals and values of the Scout Movement, as well as considering the individual’s needs for growth in the specific context and time.
A competency is an ability or behaviour built on the components of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values, which is observable and measurable. It is applied when faced with a certain situation, leading to the successful resolution of the challenges posed.
Scouting contributes to the empowerment of autonomous individuals through a system of progressive self-education. Using a combination of these inseparable components in actual life situations leads to the development of competencies. They can be found also in the four pillars of learning.4
The concept of competency implies more than just the acquisition of knowledge and skills; it involves the mobilisation of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to meet complex demands.5
Competencies are achieved as a result of an educational process and can be classified as follows:
- Attitudes and values
- Knowledge: In a world that changes with increasing speed and complexity, the challenge is not to prepare young people to live in a specific way, but to offer them the opportunities to develop cognitive skills that allow them to be aware of and understand the world around them. This means learning to learn, exercising attention, developing long-term memory, and thinking critically.
- Skills: Young people’s capacity to influence their environment is increased by the acquisition of skills like those related to communicating, organising, and adaptability, not just technical and occupational skills for the world of work. Thus, they will be equipped to deal with a variety of different situations, and to work as part of a team.
- Attitudes and values: Learning to be and to live together in a plural and diverse world is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. This encourages the capacity for independent and critical thought, and strengthens their own judgment to determine for themselves what they must do in the different circumstances of their lives. It involves meeting others; understanding each other’s cultural and spiritual beliefs, practices, and traditions; as well as understanding the interdependence required between individuals, working together collaboratively on common projects, and resolving conflicts through peaceful dialogue.
Competencies are developed in action, i.e., knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values are called upon and put into play in an integral way in a given situation.
Possessing knowledge or skills does not equate to being competent. As an example, one may be familiar with First Aid knowledge and skills but unable to apply them when involved in an emergency situation.
Educational competencies in a Scouting context
The educational competencies define the learning (knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values) that enables people to successfully perform critical tasks and functions in a defined setting to resolve challenges.
Although in some contexts, competencies are understood as the required qualification for performance within the productive apparatus, in the context of the Scout Movement we understand them in a much broader sense. The knowledge acquired is a function of the full development of a person in all his dimensions and not only in terms of a work occupation or the productive system.
“The change from the “traditional” educational model to a competency-based model must be done with great care, since the Competencies can be interpreted from very different perspectives (Akhyar, 2010),…, that is, the competencies must be developed to guarantee the quality of life of the new humanity, and not be exclusively a function of the productive apparatus.” (Coll, 2007)6
In this sense, we seek to redefine the term competency, to approach it from a much broader and more humanistic perspective, which considers the entirety of the person. From the perspective of the Scout Movement, competencies focus on education for life.
Education for life and competencies for life
Generation after generation, Scouting has always been able to identify and respond to the different challenges of society and the world through education.
Through its programme, Scouting enables young people to empower, motivate, and protect themselves, strengthening their resilience to face the increased complexity, the rapid change and uncertainty, and the ambiguity in today’s society.7
As adopted by the 39th World Scout Conference in Brazil, in 2011, the cause of Scouting is “Education for Life”.
But what does that mean?
“Education for Life is based on three fundamental suppositions:
- That human life is the most important subject to teach and learn.
- That the greatest wealth of an individual and a country are its human potentialities and even more when they cooperate.
- That, consequently, the most important individual and social task is the development and use of human potential for a fuller and better-quality life.
These three postulations culminate with the praxis or educational practice of transforming, developing and using the potentialities to become all that one could be and achieve a fuller life, raise the fundamental question of what we understand by “human life”, to know what it is that you have to educate yourself and prepare for.”8
It is necessary to make a genuine effort to internalise this in our educational practices; otherwise, it is nothing more than a slogan or an expression of desire.
Education for Life aims to improve the ability of young people to live a healthier and happier life, intervene on the determinants of health and wellbeing, and participate actively and creatively in the construction of fairer, more equitable and solidary societies.
These competencies are useful throughout a person’s life, facilitating lifelong learning in a world that evolves quickly, meaning that it is not enough to know this but it is also necessary to act to transform it into a better place for everyone.
The main reason to use competencies in the design of your Youth Programme is because they have a close relationship with the Scout Method.
- Competencies cannot be acquired or developed in abstract. Due to their nature they need to be learned in concrete situations. This is in line with the concept of learning by doing. In the Scout Movement, we believe that young people do not obtain knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values in a fictitious environment or divorced from reality, but in direct contact with diverse, rich, and changing realities.
- Competencies are acquired through actions and also through reflection on those actions and consequences in situations (learning opportunities and projects) where there are opportunities to learn, and to find strategies for the adequate resolution of the challenges that arise.
- Life in nature and community involvement are two elements of the Scout Method that offer real learning opportunities to develop competencies. Nature and the communities in which local groups are rooted are magnificent classrooms where young people can put into practice the knowledge, skills, and values necessary to overcome difficulties and challenges.
- In all aspects of learning opportunities and projects, young people have the opportunity to apply their knowledge, skills, and values in an integral manner to effectively and efficiently overcome diverse and complex challenges.
- The development of educational competencies is achieved by first-hand experiences and learning by doing. This allows young people to learn the meaning of responsibility, acquire the ability to negotiate, and seek consensus.
- Being part of a team allows young people to appreciate the value of collaborating to achieve an objective they have identified, and to actively take part in the life of the small group.
- Competencies are assessed through consistent performance of appropriate actions and by close observation, not by taking examinations. The competencies are essentially assessed by the young people themselves, but also by their peers and their educators, who at the same time observe and follow their progress.
- The small group is a protected space that facilitates the acquisition of skills, attitude, and values, where responsibility, teamwork, mutual acceptance and respect, negotiation, consensus building, and effective communication are developed through the assumption of different roles, according to the capacities and interests of young people, in a safe and supportive environment.
- In the educational offer of the Scout Movement, the adult is responsible for creating a conducive and safe environment through the integral application of the Scout Method that inspires character development.
Purpose of final educational competencies
- To express explicitly the purpose of Scouting to help young people reach their full potential, in realistic and assessable terms.
- To provide comprehensiveness and coherence to the Youth Programme, as they serve to structure the entire Educational Proposal in clear and concrete terms, for each of the six areas of growth.
- To establish the educational competencies for each age section9, allowing them to be coherent, sequential, and complementary towards the final competencies, giving unity, integrality, and articulation to the whole educational process of the Scout Movement.
- To express in a clear and explicit way the set of competencies (knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values) desirable and observable in a young person when they leave the Scout Movement.
- To provide a solid basis for establishing personal progression adapted to each of the age sections, and for evaluating the personal progression of each young person.
- To clearly define the desired outcomes to be achieved. Only after having formulated them is your NSO able to evaluate whether the educational experience it offers to young people is effective, and to identify how it needs to be improved.
- To inform Scout educators, and above all, the young people who participate in the process. This makes the competencies educational, since they constitute an invitation to acquire a set of knowledge that allows them to grow.
In Scouting’s educational approach based on the concept of self-education, the set of competencies defined by your NSO will provide the “north” that will guide and encourage each young person along their path of personal growth. All the learning experiences lived in their local group through a system of progressive self-education (Scout Method) will contribute to develop and equip them with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values required for active citizenship today and in tomorrow’s world.
The 1996 report to UNESCO, Learning: The Treasure Within (often called simply the Delors report) aimed at answering the question: “What kind of education is needed for what kind of society of tomorrow?”
The report takes a broad view of education, speaking of “learning throughout life”, though the main focus is on formal education. It asserts that
“Education must, as it were, simultaneously provide maps of a complex world in constant turmoil and the compass that will enable people to find their way in it”
and it goes on to point out that in order to do that
“Each individual must be equipped to seize learning opportunities throughout life, both to broaden her or his knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and to adapt to a changing, complex and interdependent world.”
The report asserts that in order to be successful in its tasks,
“Education must be organized around four fundamental types of learning which, throughout a person’s life, will in a way be the pillars of knowledge: learning to know, that is acquiring the instruments of understanding; learning to do, so as to be able to act creatively on one’s environment; learning to live together, so as to participate and cooperate with other people in all human activities; and learning to be, an essential progression which proceeds from the previous three.”
In GPS language, the four pillars of education should be covered as broad competency areas when establishing the educational competencies of your Youth Programme in Scouting in terms of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values.
Learning to know
Learning to know can be explained as combining a broad general knowledge with the opportunity to work in depth on a few subjects.
This pillar also encompasses learning to learn, so as to benefit from learning opportunities throughout life; a desire for knowledge; and knowledge management in a broader sense, not just how to acquire knowledge, but also to discover the pleasure of personal research. This personal research encompasses understanding, knowing, discovering, being selective of what we learn ‘by heart’ through a critical facility based on a knowledge of the scientific method, and independence of judgment.
Learning to do
Learning to do can be explained as acquiring not only occupational skills, but also, more broadly, the competencies to deal with many situations and work in teams.
This pillar also encompasses acquiring the competencies to act in the context of young people’s various and varied life experiences within formal, non-formal, and informal education, but also outside educational situations, in their social life, and at work.
Such competencies are a mix, specific to each individual, of knowledge, skill, social behaviour, an aptitude for teamwork, and initiative and a readiness to take risks.
Learning to live together
Learning to live together can be explained as developing an understanding of other people; an appreciation of interdependence; and an adherence to the values of pluralist democracy, mutual respect, peace, and justice.
This pillar encompasses education taking two complementary paths: on one level a gradual discovery of others and, on another, experience of shared purposes throughout life.
On the path of discovering others, the report explains that educators whose dogmatic approach stifles young people’s curiosity or critical spirit instead of inculcating these qualities in them can do more harm than good.
Learning to be
Learning to be can be explained as developing your personality and being able to act with ever greater autonomy, judgment, and personal responsibility.
This pillar also explains that education must not disregard any aspect of a person’s potential10 – the complete fulfilment of people in all the richness of their personality – and that it should no longer prepare young people for a given society, but continuously provide them with the powers and intellectual reference points (learning to know) they need for understanding the world around them and behaving responsibly and fairly.
Learning throughout life – lifelong learning
After the four pillars of education, the second principle of the Delors report is learning throughout life.
The concept of learning throughout life – or lifelong learning – is seen as a key to accessing the twenty-first century. It links up with the idea of the learning society, where everything is considered a learning opportunity and thus an opportunity for fulfilling one’s potential.
Lifelong learning is a continuous process for each individual, whereby they add to and adapt their knowledge, their skills, their judgment, and their capacities for action.
Learning throughout life crucially combines non-formal and formal learning. It also combines developing innate abilities with acquiring new competencies. Lifelong learning requires effort from every person, but through this effort, it brings the joy of discovery.
The concept of Scouting as education for life is as relevant today as it was at the beginning, which reinforces the ultimate importance of National Scout Organizations (NSOs) in delivering an updated and relevant Youth Programme, able to equip the next generation of young people with the competencies to find innovative answers to the world’s complex challenges.
What challenges are young people facing today?
The world today is home to the largest generation of young people in history, some 1.8 billion, aged 10 to 24 years. They are facing unparalleled and complex challenges in their lives, such as:
- “How to make all development sustainable.
- How to fight vulnerability, inequality, exclusion, violence, and cultural and religious intolerance, which are increasing despite economic growth.
- How to end gender inequality and violence against women and girls.
- How to face climate change, environmental degradation, and an upsurge in natural disasters created by unsustainable patterns of economic production and consumption.
- How to properly implement and protect human and civil rights for everybody everywhere.
- How to prevent or resolve conflict, physical or emotional abuse, and structural or systemic violence.
- How to respond to the social and economic consequences of digital transformation in a time of exponentially advancing technologies.”
These challenges were identified in 2015 and gathered into the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnerships.
At the core of the 2030 Agenda, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) raise awareness and propose answers that can only be achieved through education, requiring:
“A fundamental change … , in the way we think about education’s role in global development, because it has a catalytic impact on the well-being of individuals and the future of our planet. … Now, more than ever, education has a responsibility to be in gear with 21st century challenges and aspirations, and foster the right types of values and skills that will lead to sustainable and inclusive growth, and peaceful living together.”
What is Education for Sustainable Development?
“Education for Sustainable Development is about empowering and motivating learners to become active sustainability citizens who are capable of critical thinking and able to participate in shaping a sustainable future.”
Education for Sustainable Development is fully aligned with Scouting’s Mission and Vision, preparing young people to be active citizens locally and globally, creating positive changes in their communities, and contributing to create a better world.
The Youth Programme is the means through which Scouting equips young people with the competencies they need to be active global citizens, that is, to be autonomous, supportive, responsible, committed, and culturally sensitive.
How do we align the Youth Programme with the Sustainable Development Goals?
By working toward its purpose of creating active global citizens, Scouting contributes to the achievement of the SDGs. Aligning means looking at Scouting’s Educational Proposal through the lens of the SDGs. This allows us to amplify what Scouting is already contributing to the 2030 Agenda, which also encourages us to go further and use this opportunity to strengthen the educational proposal of our Youth Programme in empowering Scouts as active global citizens.
This alignment can be achieved at three specific points in the process of designinr or reviewing your NSO’s Youth Programme:
- When writing the Educational Proposal
Important steps need to be taken by NSOs in step 1 of the Guide to Youth Programme in Scouting (GPS), when defining their educational priorities, namely the reflection on the main challenges that young people face in their lives and how the NSO educational proposal will be relevant to give answers to both the needs and aspirations of young people and to the demands of society.
- When setting the final and section educational competencies
As presented in steps 3 and 5 of the GPS, in Scouting’s educational approach, which is based on the concept of self-education, the set of competencies defined by your NSO will provide the “north” that will guide and encourage each young person along their path of personal growth to become an active global citizen. During the process of setting the final and section educational competencies, a broader discussion and reflection will be needed to include competencies for Sustainable Development in all age sections.
- When identifying learning opportunities for active citizenship
All the learning opportunities lived at a local level group through the Scout Method, will contribute to develop and equip young people with the competencies required for active citizenship today and in tomorrow’s world.
The Better World Framework, as a set of coordinated programmes, campaigns, calls to action, and events, is specifically designed to develop the competencies of young people to become global active citizens by taking action around issues related to sustainable development.
This framework can help your NSO to align its competencies related to active global citizenship and its work on community development to global common goals. NSOs can use the Better World Framework to align their own community development initiatives with specific SDGs and competencies for sustainable development.
To discover more about how 54 million Scouts are making the world’s largest coordinated youth contribution to the SDGs, visit https://sdgs.scout.org/
As a Movement of young people, it is fundamental to design National Youth Programmes that can equip them not only with the resilience to face challenges but also with the competencies to be part of the solutions.
“Young people constitute a tremendous and essential asset worth investing in, opening the door to an unparalleled multiplier effect. At the same time, young people are also facing incredible challenges and even life-threatening risks, disproportionately carried by girls and young women in many parts of the world.
The way young people navigate their transition into adulthood, are critical for the progress of humankind and the health of the planet.”