Since its establishment by Prince Philip in 1956, The Duke of Edinburgh Award has been given to more than 8mn participants worldwide.
It stemmed from the system of the Moray Badge and County Badge, created by headmaster Kurt Hahn CBE in 1936 to address his concerns regarding the development of young men. Once World War II had ended, Hahn approached Prince Philip with a view to bringing his initiative back to life.
The major concerns of Hahn were the Six Declines of Modern Youth: fitness; initiative and enterprise; memory and imagination; skill and care; self-discipline; and compassion.
In response, Prince Philip offered to chair a committee, and in 1956 Baron Hunt KG PC CBE DSO acted as the first director to the newly amended and titled The Duke of Edinburgh Award.
With his extremely impressive background of having led, in 1953, the first successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest, Hunt brought a lot to the table.
In the years that followed, the success of the programme continued. In 1958, it was extended to include girls and, later, it was transformed into the prestigious, five-component programme that it is today.
In order to attain the gold award, participants must complete the following sections: Volunteering, Physical, Skills, Expedition and Residential.
Everything from improving leadership skills, developing physical abilities, overcoming challenges and realising one’s own potential are gained by all participants in the award programme.
Despite once being only a UK-wide programme, The Duke of Edinburgh Award spread to over 140 countries worldwide, leading to the creation of the International Award Association in 1988.
In 1995, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Japan was set up, and has met with much success. Bringing a piece of British tradition and culture to Japan, it has played a significant role in the development and advancement of youth within the country.
While competition for employment in today’s climate continues to be fierce, 83% of award participants surveyed in August 2014 said that their taking part in the programme would help them gain future employment.
That belief is founded in participants feeling that, while taking part, they gain skills in teamwork, communication, problem solving, self-management, as well as a positive approach to work.
One example of the award’s facilitators within Japan is the British School In Tokyo (BST). It runs the International Award Programme with assistance for many aspects from the Evergreen Outdoor Centre in Nagano Prefecture.
In keeping with the trend worldwide, this year BST has welcomed the most participants of the award to date and got an increasing number of staff involved.
Mark Grimshaw, outdoor co-ordinator for BST, believes it is a vital part of the school’s provision of outdoors education.
“We have certainly found that the International Award gives students a sense of adventure and responsibility—something that would otherwise be difficult to achieve in urban Tokyo”, he said.
“We believe the aims of the award run in parallel to the aims of the school: to provide our students with the opportunity to develop into balanced, resilient, independent, thoughtful, inquisitive, sensitive and honest individuals.
“These traits are developed particularly in the expedition and volunteering aspects of the award”.
The growth and spread of this originally British, and now international award within Japan is extremely promising.
The philosophy and goals of this programme are timeless, continuously encouraging young people to realise their full potential and constantly propel themselves towards a future with more opportunities.
The original motivation to create the programme is just as relevant today, if not more so.