About The Award

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History of the Award

The Award Programme grew out of the efforts of three men, who were responding to a common anxiety about how best to engage young people. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was set up in 1956, by HRH Prince Philip, Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist, and Lord Hunt, leader of the first successful ascent of Everest. Based on the philosophy of Hahn, the Programme was designed around four sections: Rescue & Public Service Training, the Expedition, Pursuits & 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 Programme continued to evolve over subsequent decades, until 1980. At this point, the upper age limit was extended to 25, and the Programme took on its current four Section format of: Service, Adventurous Journey, Skills and Physical Recreation.

The Award Goes Global

As soon as the Award was launched there was great interest from outside the UK. It spread initially through the enthusiasm of international schools, but soon youth organisations across the British Commonwealth were running the Programme. By 1971 the Award operated in 31 countries; this had increased to 48 countries by 1989 as it spread beyond the boundaries of the Commonwealth. Such rapid expansion led to the formation of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award International Association (IAA) in 1988. At the same time, the overall title of The International Award for Young People was adopted to describe the Award worldwide. Many countries adopted different names for their Award Programme particularly those outside the Commonwealth. These different names still exist today but whatever the name, the Award’s the same!

An Award for All Young People

Global expansion over the last 50 years has enabled the Award to reach more and more young people. Today there are over 120 countries operating the Award – 60 of these on a national basis. However, the Programme 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 kids and aboriginal communities. The impact of the Award on many of these young people is extraordinary: it transforms their lives. The Award has come a long way since 1956, when it was launched in the UK. It is as relevant as ever and has something to offer every young person in the world, wherever they are, and whatever their circumstances.