Where we started


The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award grew out of the efforts of three men: The Duke of Edinburgh; Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist and founder of Outward Bound, and Lord Hunt, leader of the first successful ascent of Mount Everest. The Award was first launched in The United Kingdom in 1956 for boys aged 15-18 to motivate them to become involved in a balanced program of voluntary self-development activities.

Based on the philosophy of Kurt Hahn, founder and headmaster of Gordonstoun School in Scotland (where HRH The Prince Philip attended), the Award was designed around four sections: Rescue and Public Service Training, the Expedition, Pursuits and Projects, and Fitness.

Although initially only available to boys aged between 14 and 18, there was great demand for a similar scheme for girls, and this was launched in September 1958. The Award continued to evolve over subsequent decades, until 1980 where the upper age limit was extended to 24, and the Award took on its current four section format of: Service, Adventurous Journey, Skills and Physical Recreation.

The Award Goes Global

As soon it launched in the United Kingdom, The Award quickly spread and was soon running in many schools and youth groups outside of the British Commonwealth. The unique composition of the Award program is made it easy to be adapted and integrated into many different cultures and societies. To find out more the global reach of the Award visit The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation.

The Award in Canada

The Award was officially launched to Canadian Youth in 1963. Many of the first Award groups were established thanks to early Operating Authorities including several different youth-serving organizations and secondary schools and colleges. The Air Cadet League of Canada and the Y.M.C.A were particularly instrumental in supporting The Award in several different provinces. We are a federally registered charity and are in every Canadian province which has been segmented into ten divisions to better serve young Canadians. Each division is a separately registered charity that is licensed by the National Office and operates to provide direct support for youth and organizations who embark on the Award throughout the country. 

Enrollment grew gradually but steadily. By November 1964, the very first Bronze and Silver Award recipients were honored in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. In 1966, the first Gold Award Ceremony was held in Ottawa. His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip presented 18 recipients with their Gold Awards. Over the years the Award program took root in Canada and an estimated 500,000 young Canadians have since benefited from the program. Download a history of The Award in Canada from 1963 to present.

For All Young People Everywhere

Global expansion over the last 50 years has enabled the Award to continue its growth and touch the lives of young people in more than 130 countries. The International Foundation continues to evaluate and modify the program to suit the changing demands of modern society and needs of young people.  The Award is now expanding in other ways, targeting those who have not previously had opportunities to develop themselves. Recent Award projects around the world have focused on involving young offenders, those with disabilities, street children and aboriginal communities. The impact of the Award on many of these young people is extraordinary: it transforms lives.

The spread of the Award across the globe is testament to its universal appeal and the vision of its founder.  His Royal Highness has remained committed to the Award since its inception over nearly 60 years ago. He continues to be involved, particularly in recognizing the achievements of Award participants and the adults who support them.