While you’re probably aware that Scouting exists in other countries, what you might not know is that there are over 50 million participants in Scouting, worldwide! In fact, the United States only makes up about 5% of that figure, with around 2.3 million youths involved in BSA Scouting. In this article, I’ll be giving you a brief background on how Scouting is practiced around the world today! 🙂
I thought to do a bit of research into this topic as, when I was a scout, we actually went on a campout with an international troop visiting from Singapore. The Singapore Scouts that we met were a great coed group of around 20 boys and girls. During that camp, they taught us to make cultural crafts from Singapore and broadened our minds with stories of their homes.
In writing this article, I was eager to learn about Scouting around the world and answer all of the questions I had about scouts in other countries. While the program that I was involved in, the Scouts BSA, was based in the United States, I found that Scouting exists in over 216 countries and takes on many different forms!
Each Scouting organization has its own unique culture, yet all of Scouting can be traced back to the radical ideas of one person. To see if you have the mindset necessary to succeed in Scouting, check out my article on the 9 signs you’ll be a successful scout, here. Now, let’s take a second to briefly recap the origins of the Scouting movement…
A Brief History of Scouting
The Scout movement was started by Lord Baden Powell, a past British Lieutenant General, in the year 1908. From that point, Scouting quickly was adopted in many countries throughout the world, including the UK and United States!
In fact, even 100 years later, Scouting is still being adopted in some countries. Just in 2016, Scouting began in Myanmar. As of 2020, they now have over 25,000 registered scouts!
Not only is Scouting constantly growing — it’s also evolving! While Scouting began as an exclusively male activity, with the Girl Scouts being a separate organization (WAGGGS), over the course of Scouting’s history, many organizations have modified their original regulations to allow girls to join.
The Scouts BSA in the United States recently amended its own policy, making Scouting coed in 2019. Currently, around 4/5ths of Scouting groups worldwide accept both males and females!
Now that you know how Scouting began, let’s learn more about how this activity continues around the world, today. While a full history of Scouting is outside the scope of this article, I’ve included an extremely informative documentary (54:52) below if you’re interested in learning more:
What is the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM)?
When referring to ‘Scouting Organizations,’ I’ll be talking about any groups that are recognized as a part of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). BSA Scouts, formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America, are one of many organizations that are part of the WOSM.
What is the World Organization of the Scout Movement? The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) was first established in 1922 and serves to support National Scout Organizations (NSOs) through training, projects, and events. The WOSM is broken up into 6 regions: Africa, Arab, Asia-Pacific, Eurasia, Europe, and Interamerica.
Within these 6 regions, each consisting of between 9-41 countries, there are Regional Scout Committees that are elected to serve for 3 years. Reelections are held during triennial Regional Scout Conferences, with the next conference taking place in Egypt and set for 2020.
These committees determine regional Scouting program policy, build partnerships with charity organizations, and coordinate efforts among countries to give young people the opportunity to contribute to society.
To see an example of how WOSM (And you as a scouter) helped impact the world in 2019, check out this quick video (1:53):
What Other Countries Around The World Have Scouting Programs?
Given that the WOSM has organizations in 216 different countries, it’d be easier to name the countries that don’t have Scouting programs! There are only five countries that completely lack any form of Scouting, plus a few countries that are questionable, as of 2020. The five that we know for sure do not have Scouting are:
- Cuba: Previously had the Asociación de Scouts de Cuba from 1927 to 1961. This was banned and replaced by the Communist, José Martí Pioneer Organization.
- North Korea: Shared history with South Korea’s Korea Scout Association from 1922 to 1950. Following its separation, this organization was banned in North Korea and replaced by the Korean Children’s Union, also called the Young Pioneer Corps.
- Laos: Previously had the Scouts Lao from 1959 to 1975. This was banned by the Pathet Lao (Laotian Communist party) in 1975.
- Andorra: Previously had the Scouts d’Andorra which went inactive in the 1980s. Located between France and Spain, most youths interested in Scouting simply attend groups in either country.
- Vatican City: There are not, nor have there ever been, Scouting organizations established in Vatican City. This country covers less than 100 acres and has a population of fewer than 1000 individuals.
There are also countries whose active Scouting organization statuses are questionable. After doing a bit of research into mainland China’s Scouting program, I found that there is no current website for the Scout Association of the People’s Republic of China. Furthermore, the last online mention of this group dates back to before 2014.
Your takeaway here should be that it’s understandably very difficult to track so many different Scouting organizations — even with a central organization like the WOSM. However, Scouting undeniably does something right, having been adopted by so many countries and cultures all throughout the world.
What is Scouting Like in Other Countries?
You might be curious as to some of the differences and similarities of Scouting programs in other countries. While uniforms across different forms of Scouting take on a variety of appearances, virtually all forms of Scouting are governed by the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Let’s quickly run through some of the similarities shared amongst global Scouting programs:
- All Scouting programs teach core outdoor survival skills and recognize the knowledge learned by awarding a ‘merit badge.’
- The motto, ‘Be Prepared’ is used in some way by virtually every Scouting organization.
- All Scouts wear official uniforms respective to their organizations.
- Practically all Scouting organizations recognize Lord Baden-Powell as the founder of the Scouting Movement.
- All Scouting organizations have an age cutoff (although some extend to as late as 25 years old).
While Scouting may have many similarities between countries, each country has also been able to put their own unique spin on some of Scouting’s practices. Some of the differences between Scouts BSA and other international Scouting organizations are:
- Scouting in other countries is largely non-religious whereas, in the US, one of the points of the Scout Law is that a scout is reverent. However, the BSA is officially “nonsectarian in its attitude toward that religious training.”
- In many countries in Asia like Indonesia, Scouting is an official institution and is run with firm military discipline, as opposed to the laid back, volunteer-parent atmosphere seen in the US.
- In the UK, most troops are financially well-established and own their own facilities.
- The range of merit badge activities differs significantly amongst Scouting organizations.
- Commemorative patches and scout memorabilia are not nearly as common in other Scouting cultures as they are in the United States.
Having met a few scouts from other international organizations, in my own experience it seems as though every Scouting program helps to instill a sense of responsibility and service in its members. True to Lord Baden Powell’s vision, Scouting is now a worldwide phenomenon that teaches young people the skills needed to give back to their world.
Fun Facts About International Scouting
I figured I’d leave you with a few final facts about international Scouting before wrapping up this article. In doing this research, I learned that there’s so much more to discover about each and every Scouting organization. Watch this quick video (7:00) for more exposure to Scouting around the world:
- Indonesia has more scouts than any other country on earth (With 21,599,748 members as of 2012).
- The WOSM was founded in 1922, 14 years after the start of Scouting.
- The WOSM only recognizes one Scouting organization per country.
- Canada is the only country to have two distinct recognized Scouting associations, due to a divide in language.
With over 50 million members, the Scouting movement continues to grow and give back to communities everywhere. As a part of Scouts BSA, it’s easy to forget that there are so many more individuals just like us all around the world. However, it’s up to us to broaden our horizons and try to support Scouting, not only within our own country’s borders but globally as well! 🙂