This year is the 60th Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for Young People. Initially only for boys and based in a single Scottish school, the Award has now spread across the world to over 140 countries, and over 300,000 young people begin their Award every year.
The International Award is open to all young people from the ages of 14-24, and is a non-competitive, non-formal education programme specialising in leadership training. The emphasis is on “personal challenge”, and all of the participants are encouraged to take on personal challenges and set themselves goals to work towards. It is the philosophy of the Award Programme that young people need more than the formal education they receive in the classroom. With the International Award, young people improve their readiness for work and their employability, while also, perhaps more importantly, realising what it is that they can personally achieve. As the following quotations from important global businesspeople demonstrate, the value of the International Award is recognised throughout the business world:
“The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is a global mark of achievement. Wherever in the world young people may have participated, I know that they will have learned first-hand about teamworking, respect, excellence and courage – values that BP holds dear.”
Dev Sanyal, Executive vice president & group chief of staff, BP
“Whenever I see The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award on a young person’s CV, I know I’ll have something interesting to talk to them about at their interview.”
Michael Smith, Partner, Baker & McKenzie LLP
There are three levels of the Award Programme; Bronze, for 14 year olds, Silver for 15 and older, and Gold for those above 16 years old. Currently we are running successful programmes in Bronze and Silver, and have some participants working towards their Gold Award. Since we began the programme here at BIS, as the first centre in Vietnam to run it under the new branding, we have seen the number of active participants in both Bronze and Silver grow every year. This year we have 35 participants in Bronze and 31 in Silver, both significant increases on previous years.
The structure of the Award is broken up into four sections. Three of the sections are managed by the participants themselves, and consist of Service, Skill and Physical Recreation. As a school we are pleased to be able to provide our participants with many opportunities to complete their individual sections, although many also choose to complete activities outside of school. This year we have had many participants reading or practising mathematics with our youngest students as part of their Service, baking to raise money for charity, organising lectures from guest speakers and many other enriching projects. The fact that so many of our participants are able to complete their individual sections in our school is testament to the wide variety of ECAs provided by our teaching staff.
The section that the participants most look forward to is the Adventurous Journey. Each participant needs to complete two expeditions; one as a practice and the other in order to qualify. Both the practice expeditions for Bronze and Silver were this year in the beautiful countryside of Mai Chau, but for the qualifying expeditions we look to travel further afield.
Our Bronze participants endured rain and thunderstorms in their tents overlooking local villages in Sapa, where they trekked from Ban Den to Ta Van, navigating by themselves with the use of maps and compasses. The experience they had, of coping during difficult weather, digging out their flooded tents, getting lost and finding their route again, as well as exploring a beautiful part of Vietnam, will stay with them for a long time and hopefully nurture their interest in life-long learning. I am pleased to report that at this stage already, one of their cohort has completed the entire Bronze standard and will be presented in a few weeks’ time; congratulations to Minh Thuan!
The Silver participants travelled to Da Lat where the terrain was much hillier and the distances longer. The camping in Da Lat was very special as we are lucky enough to have sites that are far away from the nearest villages, giving our students a full sense of nature and isolation. Warming themselves by the campfires at night, telling ghost stories and watching the stars will be fond memories for all, I hope. The Gold Award participants were also in Da Lat for their practice expedition, but had a much more gruelling time on a much longer route. We hope that they will continue to pursue their individual standards and personal fitness in preparation for their qualifying expedition in the future.
A programme as intensive and important at the International Award can not run by itself, and I am supported here by a fantastic team of volunteers. Unfortunately, as is the case in international schools, some of our Award Leader team are leaving us this year, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them on behalf of the participants, for all of their support, time and guidance over the years. Our thanks and best wishes extend to Mr Dunwell, Ms Phillips, Mr Spall and Ms Lingwood. Ms Lingwood has my particular thanks for helping me three years ago when we were setting ourselves up as the first Independent Award Centre in Hanoi. We wish them all the best for the future, and hope that the can continue their involvement in the Award.
Robert Airdrie, Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Coodinator