The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was founded in 1956 by His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to help young people develop a sense of responsibility to themselves and to their communities. The concept of The Award is one of individual challenge. It offers young people a balanced, non-competitive programme of voluntary activities which encourages personal discovery, growth, self-reliance, perseverance, and responsibility. The Award currently runs in 130 countries world-wide, and to date 7 million young people have challenged themselves by doing the Award.
In 1963 The Award was launched in Canada and opened up to all young Canadians between the ages of 14 to 25. Pilot projects were launched in various cities in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. In 1964 one of the first Award Ceremony was held, with 48 Bronze and 6 Silver Awards presented to participants.
In 1966, the first Gold Award Ceremony was held in Ottawa. His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip presented 18 recipients with their Gold Awards. By the early 1980’s the Award was operating in Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, the Yukon and Northwest Territories.
Once launched within the 10 Provinces and 2 Territories, the Award Programme began to find roots in Canadian soil and by 1986, British Columbia, The Yukon and Quebec had been recorded as to having the highest levels of participation.
The Award currently has some 37,000 participants. As The Award continues to grow throughout Canada, we are projecting 40,000 participants within the next two to three years. There are approximately 5 million young people in Canada between the 14 to 25 age group. Nationally the Programme has developed a number of initiatives to expand The Award so it becomes more accessible to; youth “at risk”, inner-city youth, young offenders, youth with disabilities, as well as northern and aboriginal youth. The Award remains as relevant to young people today as it did when it all began over 50 years ago.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is associated with the International Award for Young People. In 1967 Canada hosted the first International Gold Event which brought Gold Award Achievers from around the world to Canada. In 1988 Canada became a founding member of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association and is currently one of the four largest National Award Authorities. In 2002, Canada hosted its second International Gold Event – Rendezvous 2002.
Historical background of the Award
The Award Programme is based on the philosophy of Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist, who developed many of his ideas from the study of Plato. Hahn was founder and headmaster of Gordonstoun School in Scotland, where Prince Philip was a student. At Gordonstoun, Hahn instituted a badge system which included Athletics, Swimming and Expeditions on land and at sea. This was later extended to include any boy in the county. Plans to extend this system nationwide were shelved by the outset of the second world war. However, it was during this period that Hahn set up the first Outward Bound School in Wales. In the UK in the early '50s there was growing concern about the problems of youth which were aggravated by the gap between leaving school at 15 and entering National Service at 18. It was against this background that The Duke of Edinburgh's Award was set up in 1956, by HRH Prince Philip, Kurt Hahn and Lord Hunt, leader of the first successful ascent of Everest.
The 1950s and '60s
The Award was launched in 1956 for boys between the ages of 14 and 18 and had a four section programme: Rescue and Public Service Training, The Expedition, Pursuits and Projects, Fitness There was great demand for a similar scheme for girls, and this was launched in September 1958, differing in several fundamentals from the Boys', placing less emphasis on physical challenge.
Adventure was preferred as a title to The Expedition and as an option at Gold level girls could undertake Worthwhile Projects. A Section called Design for Living, embracing a wide range of home making skills, replaced Fitness. The other two Sections remained the same but girls were required to undertake an additional Residential experience at Gold level. The upper age limit was extended in 1957 to 19 years. There was great interest in the Award from outside the UK and soon Service schools in Cyprus, Malta and the Far East and youth organisations elsewhere in the British Commonwealth were running the programme. By 1961, the Award was being operated in 13 countries. In 1965, the first revision of the Conditions was made, followed by a further revision in 1969. Building on the experience of the 1960s and recognising the growing trend towards joint activities, the Award Programme was in 1969 re-presented as one scheme for all young people and the upper age limit was once again extended, to 21 years. Participation in the re-titled Sections: Service, Expeditions and Interests was required of both sexes at all levels of the Award, whilst at Bronze and Silver levels the girls took Design for Living and the boys, Physical Activity. At the Gold level participants could choose one or other of these two Sections and the whole Programme was given a more adult look.
By 1971, the Scheme was operating in some form in 31 countries. Throughout the '70s consolidation of the Award was taking place and the first international meetings were held with a major review of the Programme taking place in 1979. By 1980 a straightforward four Section Programme, comprising Service, Expeditions, Skills and Physical Recreation, which would be common to all participants, was agreed upon. The upper age limit was once again extended, to 25.
Up to this time worldwide development had depended almost entirely on resources derived from within the UK. These arrangements inevitably imposed constraints on the ever expanding UK Programme and whilst consultation with other National Award Authorities took place, the UK remained in a lead role in determining policy and practice. It was now time to share more universally the responsibility for both the promotion of the Award worldwide and the provision of resources to meet that commitment. Thus in the early '80s, the first steps were taken towards international partnership which led to the formation of The International Award Association (IAA) in 1988 and the World Fellowship in 1987 to provide its financial base. The first International Forum was held in 1982 in Edinburgh, to provide all NAAs with the opportunity to sit together to discuss the Award, its relevance and its future. This was followed by the second international forum in 1985 in Toronto, where much progress was made towards formally establishing an international body of Award operating countries. This was achieved in 1988 at the third international forum in Brisbane when the Duke of Edinburgh Award International Association was formally constituted.
Throughout the '80s the Award spread to more and more countries, noticeably outside the Commonwealth. By 1989, 48 countries operated the Award on a national basis and there was considerable global interest in the Programme, particularly amongst French-speaking countries. Thus indicating the true international appeal of the Award.
Throughout the '90s the Award has grown from strength to strength internationally. International forums held in Hong Kong in 1991, Mauritius in 1994, and New Zealand in 1997 have seen the Association grow to 60 members and consolidate the operation of the Award worldwide. The Association adapted its Mission Statement in 1994 and at the same time established a corporate identity by adopting new logos to represent the International Award for Young People and the International Award Association. Common to both logos is the global bird, which symbolises the values of the Award Programme: self improvement, excellence, confidence and pride. NAAs may use the global bird or an adaptation of it as their logo to signify membership of a worldwide family.
The Award maintains its strength in 60 member countries and has a further presence in over 40 others. The Award has developed to attract 'youth at risk' and there are a number of initiatives worldwide where the Programme is run to assist with the rehabilitation of young offenders. International Special Projects was launched in 2000 to reach out to those young people who can benefit from the Award Programme and help them to help themselves. The Award remains as relevant to young people today as it did in the 50s when it all began.