COVID-19: Unmasking the education realities
This World Youth Skills Day, some of our youth advocates reflect on the role that non-formal education plays in developing the skills and knowledge of young people, and how the global pandemic has highlighted this.
Co-authored by World Scouting’s Youth Representatives: Celie Denez (France) and Nadine Shili (Tunisia)
While more than 90% of schools and universities around the world were closed between the end of March and the end of April according to UNESCO, and millions of young people continued developing their skills and education. We have seen many young people demonstrate this through community volunteering.
Before COVID-19, physical volunteering was the most common way of community service such as cleaning up local parks or visiting the elderly and orphanages.
During the COVID-19 crisis, new forms of volunteerism emerged to meet the new needs including sewing masks, distributing food, shopping for the elderly and more. With the global social distancing measures, people took volunteering online.
A great example is the initiative of thousands of Scouts around the world who are mobilizing their groups to volunteer in supporting their communities deal with COVID-19. Scout volunteers succeeded in delivering non-formal education and reaching young people, online and in person and helped them develop their skills even during this critical situation.
How do volunteering skills equip young people for the workplace?
At a time where many hard skills are becoming obsolete with the rapid growth of technology, soft skills and life skills are more important than ever, helping young people adapt as they enter the new workforce.
Formal education provides young people with essential hard skills and technical knowledge that should help them perform jobs successfully. It’s true that without technical skills, we may not be able to operate in a specific workplace. Yet interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication, creativity, team work, solving complex problems, conflict resolution, adaptability and many other skills can’t be taught in classrooms. This is where non-formal education plays it’s crucial role.
It has been proven that these skills ease the integration and progress of new employees in the workplace and even help people in getting recruited for jobs. Based on a Wall Street Journal survey, in 2016, 92% of executives reported that soft skills are as important as technical skills.
As a global youth movement of 54 million members, Scouting creates a safe space with endless opportunities for youth development and skills building through non-formal education since 1907.
How does non-formal education enable the acquisition of soft skills?
Through non-formal education, the Scout Method equips young people with a wide range of skills. The Scout Method is based on an educational method that facilitates ongoing learning and development through “learning by doing” which provides a non-formal learning environment. In Scouting, working in small groups referred to as a “patrol system” is a way to experience leadership, responsibility and team-building. These acquired skills in addition to the knowledge and education that Scouting provides, will be surely useful in the professional sphere for any young person.
How does Scouting help young people acquire necessary skills for the workplace?
One of today’s challenges is youth employment. As the world’s largest educational youth movement, the value-based Scouting ensures that their Youth Programme offers young people the opportunity to develop their knowledge and competencies, yielding significant results.
In fact, an international study done in 2018 aiming to measure Scouting’s Impact on the Development of Young People found that Scouts scored 16.2% higher on life skills and employability, 12% higher on leadership and 6% higher in resolving problems than young people who are not in Scouting.
This showed us that Scouting strengthens the capacity of young people to be more equipped to overcome challenges and enter the workforce.
How does Scouting ensure the continuity of non-formal education during COVID-19?
On the grassroots level, while most countries were under lockdown, we witnessed local initiatives being led by Scouts both online and offline. Some Scout groups distributed sterilized activity packs that can be done at home by young people even those who don’t have access to the internet. Scouts in many countries stepped in to assist the elderly in their community, partnered with their governments for sterilization campaigns, and even installed hand-washing stations in the streets like Scouts in Haiti.
On a global level World Scouting launched a special edition of the annual Jamboree On The Internet (JOTI) were young people across the globe had access to
a virtual safe and diverse space to participate in online activities, skills development sessions and live shows. Even when regular in-person activities are cancelled, our impact never stops!
What does COVID-19 tell us about our learning systems?
According to UNESCO, during the crisis, schools were closed in more than 180 countries.
Consequently, many schools worldwide shifted to online classrooms. However, this adaptation emphasized some inequalities, where according to the World Economic Forum, 3.7 billion people have no access to the internet. This shift also puts a reliance on parents/guardians to help with the at-home education, which poses a challenge for families that do not have the same level of education as their child.
This pandemic led us to wear masks but unmasked certain realities related to equality, education, skills, and the importance of community service.
This pandemic was an opportunity for us to rethink our learning systems and emphasize on the necessity to complement formal education with non-formal education and skills building for young people to achieve their full potential.
It is a time for education leaders to use this period of disruption to ensure what young people learn is truly relevant to their lives and to the survival of the planet.
What is the future of education after COVID19?
Evidently all education approaches are important as well as complementary, and when blended equally offer an integrated development and learning environment for young people. That’s why, we reaffirm the outputs of the World Non-Formal Education Forum. In fact, governments and civil society jointly need to invest more in non-formal education and soft skills programmes through increased fundings, developing research and strengthening partnerships among non-formal education stakeholders. Recognition of non-formal education outcomes and innovative methods of learning are an urgent need so that when formal education and in-person learning get disrupted for any reason, we can rely on a strong non-formal education system.