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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

irish scout decision time

In just under 2 weeks time it will be decision time for the members of Scouting Ireland. Just 5 years after the vote on the merging of the two associations, we now have to decide on the creation of a new programme for our youth members.

This is a very topical subject because with this new programme come lots of other changes like section ages and names. I will point out some of the main issues people seem to have with the new programme. And when I say new programme, it really is the 1st programme ever offered by the new association since its formation.

Tracker Book Cover
Me on the Cover of the Tracker Scouts Book!
Programme
The development of the proposed programme uses the tools and techniques that come straight from the World Organisation of the Scout Movement:
The Renewed Approach to Programme (RAP) is a new approach in developing youth programmes, which has been launched in the Interamerican Region some years ago under the name of MacPro and then adopted at world level. It is the approach that National Scout Organisations are advised to use in order to update or improve their youth programme.
The development team, along with the handful of brave groups who volunteered to pilot the new programme have spent the last 2 years running, refining and improving all aspects of this new approach to programme.

From what I've seen, groups who fully embraced the pilot have flourished and found it beneficial, while some other groups who were more skeptical and didn't implement it correctly seem to have a less positive view of the whole pilot.

The bottom line here is that groups have tried this first hand, and the vast majority of them gave it the thumbs up. That is hard fact that is difficult to argue with. Yet people choose to ignore it.

Age
By far the biggest issue people have with the new ages for the sections is that they lose 6 year olds. The main reason is that most groups see them as the money making section in the group. So if we were going for money making, why not bring children on board at the young age of 5 like in some countries or even the age of 3 like in India? Think of the money rolling in then!

I believe that the programme for Beavers (6 to their 8th birthday) doesn't give the kids a good grounding in the basic scouting experience that they learn as the progress through their scouting lives. It is a baby sitting service, and yes the kids enjoy it and have fun, but from what I've seen, the 7 year olds in the pilot are getting way more out of the section than I've ever seen compared to a Beaver at the same age.

Section Names
Everyone is now a Scout. For the new programme to work I think that there needs to be a new identity, we don't want people falling back into their old way of thinking. These sections are new and nothing like the sections that already exist, and the new names help give a fresh perspective on the sections and a fresh start.

Around the world there are many different names for different sections. Even in the UK there are two different scout sections, Scouts and Explorer Scouts. I believe calling all sections Scouts the a great first step, and this is always an evolving process and will be refined as the years go on.

My Views
As you can probably tell from reading most of that, I'm pretty much in favor on the new programme proposals. I am a Discovery Scout Leader so I have experienced it first hand. It is no way perfect, nor should it be followed blindly. There are parts we didn't fully implement and parts we changed to suit ourselves. What it has going for it is that it's a start, a step in the right direction and a bold way of thinking that will pay its dividends in years to come.

My only fear is that after National Council, and after nearly 4 years in our new association we won't have a proper programme in place for our youth members. Groups will still be stuck in their old way of thinking and Scouting in Ireland won't be able to cater for the changing demands of the young people in society.

Investiture
That's me again, investing a Scout :-)

For Your Information
Current system:
Beavers - 6-8 years
Cubs/Macaoimh - 8-11 years
Scouts - 11-15 years
Venturers - 15-21 years

Pilot scheme:
Tracker Scouts - 7-10 years
Explorer Scouts - 10-14 years
Discovery Scouts - 14-17 years
Rover Scouts - 17-21 years

Further Reading
I do hope at least something gets voted in and that we can all look towards the future with Scouting in Ireland. Afterall, once upon a time we didn't even allow girls in!