Scout movement originated in Britain in 1908. Sir Baden Powell was its patron. Slowly the movement extended to every civilized country including India. It started as a trial experimental camp in 1907 but the movement spread with speed to almost every part of the world. In 1908, a handbook “Scouting for Boys”, was published. Over 1,00,000 scouts served in his majesty’s forces during the First World War and 10,000 gave up their lives. These underage scouts performed public duties at home like coast-watching. When the war broke out again in 1939 thousands of scouts once more joined the armed forces. During this war, too, those scouts who were underage rendered particularly good service. Many of them were decorated for gallantry.
The principle underlying the Boy Scout movement is the development of good citizenship among the youth. Active self-expression is encouraged among the scouts and emphasis is laid upon their natural desire to learn rather than their passive reception of instruction. There is no distinction of class, creed or colour among scouts. The movement is non-military, non-class, non-sectarian, non-political and non-denominational; “honour” is the ideal. The scout law, which forms the basis of the movement and which every scout has to obey, was taken from the Code of the Knights and as such has its roots in the code of honour and gentleman line.
Scouts are sub-divided into three groups (1) reverse, i.e. scouts of 17 years and above; (2) Boy scouts of 11 to 17 years; and (3) wolf-clubs, between 8 and 11. The training is carried out generally under four main features f (i) character and intelligence; (ii) skill and handicrafts; (iii) physical health and self-care; (iv) the practice of service to others and to the State. In other words scouts are trained with a view to developing their individuality and making them loyal members of the State. The training is given mainly through open air activities and scouts are encouraged to follow the examples of frontiersmen, tribesmen and explorers in daring and initiative. There is an elaborate system of badges for proficiency which serves to stimulate the boys to develop their natural gifts and become all round handy men.
Naturally with its high aims, objects and programmes, scouting deserves praise; the movement is praiseworthy on account of its wide scope and humanitarian motives. Scouting develops both the physical and moral attributes of boys through practical training. As such it should be regarded as a necessary part of education in schools and colleges.
Education should never be confined solely to the teaching of books. It should aim at developing the whole personality. The place of scouting in educational institutions is, therefore, very high. It is for this reason that almost every good school nowadays has its scout master and its group of scouts. But it is necessary to widen and accelerate this movement especially in India where its progress has not been satisfactory.
In our schools only a superficial attention is paid to scouting. Indian schools possess only the form, but not the spirit of scouting. And yet, in India more than anywhere else we need that sense of universal brotherhood which scouting fosters and develops. The communal and sectarian institutions existing in our country are opposed to the very spirit of scouting and, therefore, scouting show and parades are little more than a farce here.
Educationists should recognize the importance and value of scouting. Just as public schools in England have taken up scouting as a means of developing among the boys the spirit of service to the community, India could give similar moral instruction to our boys. Already Indian boy scouts perform a very useful social service by controlling crowds at fairs, arranging drinking water during summer months, restoring lost children to parents and so on. The most important is the inculcation among them of a non-communal and nationalistic outlook. Scouting has a unique power of bringing together the different elements that go to make our nation. Scouting can contribute towards national integration.
Fundamental principles and laws are in every country identical with those of the parent movement, but the details of training differ slightly here and there to suit climatic and temperamental differences. In many countries, like Ghana and Nigeria, scouting is being utilized with satisfactory result by educational authorities and in Asian countries scouting has made equal strides with marked effect on the youth.
There is hope that scouting will help greatly in bringing about the spirit essential for the maintenance of peace, the spirit without which suggestions for disarmament, arbitration, etc. can be futile. The movement has covered girls also. Girl guides are now as common in English schools as boy scouts. This is a welcome extension of the movement although in India the Girl Guide movement has not yet made progress. Effort should be made to promote this movement among girls as well.