What we are doing differently with Basic Unit Leaders Training Course 2023 – how we “unlearned and relearned” and continue to do that “thing”.

Training our adult volunteers to deliver an effective and relevant youth program is essential for us to achieve the purpose of scouting, which is 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.

For years, we have conducted the Basic Unit Leaders Training Course (BULTC) through the traditional approach of organizing 4- to 5-day training camps, where we do PowerPoint presentations and practice sessions on the knowledge of scouting (fundamentals, the scout method, and various administrative know-how of how to run a unit) along with spare time activities (STA) on practical scout craft skills for leaders (knot tying, camping skills, and other aspects of membership requirements).

The next step after the Basic Unit Leaders Training Course has been to offer the Advance Unit Leaders Training Course (AULTC), after which those who participate in the course are asked to work on their Wood Badge ticket (assignment). Like the BULTC, the AULTC is also carried out in a camping setting.

While these courses have helped us to produce “trained” volunteers to help functionalize scouting units across the country, we continue to get feedback that these courses do not fully address the needs of young people, especially in achieving the purpose of scouting—our intended result. In all honesty, we have not been good at evaluating the outcome of these trainings in unit and scout group settings. This is in no way an easy task to undertake.

There has been a need to redefine how we train our volunteers and how we address the issue of ensuring that our volunteers are equipped with the skills and competencies required to facilitate and fulfill our intended result. This, too, is in no way an easy task to undertake.

But we needed to start somewhere.

With the global COVID-19 pandemic necessitating a shift to e-learning, many recognized the immense potential of this modality for continuing education and training. This COVID-19 experience proved invaluable for both educators and students across the globe, as it facilitated meaningful connections and fostered collaborative learning despite being physically separated across different locations. In 2022, we embarked on a journey to enhance our Basic Unit Leaders Training Course by embracing the world around us.

We already had experience conducting the “Introductory” course for our volunteers, so why not experiment with an e-learning tool and conduct our BULTCs virtually?

Using the content at hand, we took to Canvas (by Instructure), uploading PDF content and building quizzes. We started our BULTC for volunteers who could potentially lead pre-cub, cub, and scout units, followed by virtual discussion to engage in collaborative learning.

But there was so much to learn. We were still stuck with the question of how effective it was. We still needed answers. Did we help realize, to at least some extent, the result we intended?

So, in 2023, we had dived even deeper.

Step one was for us to revisit and overhaul the content. A team of four came together: the Chief Commissioner, the National Commissioner for Adult Support, a Leader Trainer (4B), and an Assistant Leader Trainer (3B). First, we agreed to “unlearn and then relearn”. Asking the principal question on each piece of content material that was put forward: the question “why?”.

The team spent months overhauling what we had as passed-down content from years of BULTCs. The key methodology had been to debate, disagree, discover and agree. A course outline was drawn, informed by objectives tailored using Bloom’s taxonomy. We had the Adult Support Committee of the National Scout Council endorse the outline, giving us the go-ahead to tailor the content appropriately.

The overall objective of the course was to develop unit leaders who are skilled in working effectively with young people and other adults in Scouting. This new BULTC aims to develop the following among unit leaders:

  • An understanding of the background, principles, structure, and spirit of Scouting.
  • The ability to use the Scout Method and the skills of scouting to meet the needs of young people adapted to various age ranges
  • The ability to apply the team system that enables youth involvement and empowerment.
  • An induction to plan, implement, administer, and evaluate the Sectional Youth Programme that will contribute to the personal growth of young people.

Step two was to break boundaries! The Scout Association of the Maldives made an open call for potential volunteers to sign up for the new hybrid modality training. The 2023 BULTC was announced, informing participants that there are three learning modalities that they will have to go through. 1. virtual e-learning (via Canvas by Instructure), 2. virtual discussion sessions (fostering collaborative learning), and 3. residential camping (the practical experience). Approximately 500 participants signed up, and we decided to allow everyone to join!

Step three was to convene and convince other facilitators to unlearn and relearn! We called on the members of the National Training Team, all available Wood Badge holders, and others interested to come to a kick-starter workshop to unlearn and relearn, to understand the conceptual framework we had put together, and to prepare to meet the largest batch of BULTC participants ever. Course Directors for each section, Course Directors for Educational Methods, and a team of Mentors and Facilitators were identified and tasked with leading the way.

Step four was to push our 500 participants to complete their Canvas e-learning. Mentors were assigned to participant teams to guide and motivate participants to focus on and interact with the new content. A total of 346 participants completed the Canvas e-learning course. Participants engaged with content focusing on: Safe Scouting (Safe from Harm), Fundamentals of Scouting, Youth Programme, Patrol System, Progressive Advancement of Youth Members, Programme Planning, Role of Unit Leaders, Unit Meetings: Ceremonies in Scouting, Camping and Outdoor Activities, Scout Craft Skills, and Scouting Organization.

Step five was to again break boundaries; we organized 59 virtual discussion sessions within a month. The purpose of the virtual discussions was to ignite the flame. Diving deeper into participatory collaborative learning, in-depth discussion on relating the e-learning content by provoking discussions, keeping in constant check with the relevance, the how, and the purpose of scouting In groups, participants addressed the content, constantly checking on the realities of young people and the scouting education we hope to provide. Virtual discussions focused on topics that included fundamentals, characteristics of young people and youth programs (section-specific), growth areas focusing on the SPICES (section-specific), personal progression (section-specific), program planning, and the role of unit leaders.

Step Six has been to organize, accommodate, and deliver residential camps for 272 volunteers (Cub and Scout Leaders) across the Maldives. As I write this, we are “in progress”. At the end of the residential camping component, we are hoping that the participants will be able to:

  • Apply the experience of a team system when working with young people.
  • Engage and support young people in planning, implementing, and reviewing effective and safe troop/pack camps and outdoor activities.
  • Conduct meaningful and purposeful ceremonies.
  • Conduct fun and engaging campfires.
  • Engage and support young people in periodic program planning that is realistic in achieving their personal self-development.
  • Encourage and support young people in planning, implementing, and reviewing fun and engaging troop or pack meetings that provide effective learning opportunities that contribute to SPICES and personal progression.
  • Relate personal camping experiences when applying to young people.

The camping component is designed to be twofold: 1. experiencing camp life; and 2. participating in practical workshops. Experiences and workshops were built around practicing team systems, experiencing and designing camping and outdoor activities, practicing program planning, experiencing and planning campfires, and continuously reflecting on the experiences both individually and collectively.

So far, we have concluded two residential camps, one in Farukolhu (Hulhumale) and one in HDH Hanimaadhoo. A total of 117 volunteers have completed their BULTC certification after completing this last component of the 2023 BULTC. More camps are coming up.

So, are we close to achieving the intended results?

We have successfully trained 81 Pre-cub leaders through this process, and an additional 117 Scout and Cub leaders have successfully gone through this process. We are hoping for another 155 volunteers to complete the residential camp and be certified through this process this year.

In some senses, we may have touched the tip of the iceberg, but I am certain that we have done more than just scratching the surface. This is and has been part of a much grander scheme of “things”.

We are in the process of transforming how we do scouting in the country. Reforming our ways and approaches most certainly requires “unlearning and relearning”, reflecting on the relevance, the how, and the purpose of Scouting, and going back to the key question “Are we achieving our intended purpose?”.

Redefining and transforming Scouting means approaching our youth programme with a clear conscious, thinking progressively, and constantly asking ourselves the questions “Why?”, “How?” and “What?” again and again.

We hope to put forward, for the first time, a National Scout Youth Program Policy and revise our Adults in Scouting Policy. Again, this will be step one in that transformation agenda. There is more that will need to happen. The most challenging and important of all “things” on this agenda is to help our existing leaders realize the potential of unlearning and relearning.

These policies, coupled with even more guidelines, webinar discussions, and targeted resources, are what will be needed to complement the learnings of these newly trained Leaders and achieve the intended result. There is much work at hand. This, too, is in no way an easy task to undertake. But BP reminded us to kick the “IM” out of the word “IMPOSSIBLE”. We must get there in order to see the fruits of our attempt to do BULTCs differently. This batch of trained Leaders will be our case studies as we monitor and evaluate success, which can gauge for us whether we made a difference.

What we know for certain is the fact that in many senses, the transformation of scouting is based on our willingness and desire to “unlearn and relearn”. I invite you all to do this “thing” with us.

Maeed Mohamed Zahir
Maeed Mohamed Zahir