OCTOBER 22, 1969
The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme in Canada
AN ADDRESS BY His Royal Highness the Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., K.T., G.B.E., P.C.
CHAIRMAN Major General George Kitching
A Combined meeting of the Canadian Club of Toronto, The Empire Club of Canada and the Rotary Club of Toronto
INTRODUCTION Mr. Ian F. Cowie, a Gold Award Winner under the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme
Your Royal Highness, your Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great privilege and a great pleasure for me to have this opportunity of introducing His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh today--and I would like to thank you, the Members of the Empire Club, the Canadian Club and Rotary Club for making it possible.
Your Royal Highness, your interest in young people and the confidence you have in us are well known and will always make you welcome amongst us.
We are only sorry that visits such as this must take you away from Her Majesty the Queen and your children and we would ask you, on your return to Britain, to pass on our loyal greetings and our love to Her Majesty the Queen.
Your Royal Highness I am proud to introduce you to this Meeting.
I am very grateful indeed to the Empire, Canadian and Rotary Clubs for this chance to tell their members something about The Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme.
The Scheme is not very well known in Canada for a variety of reasons, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of you here had never heard of it until you found yourselves coming to this lunch.
Before I try and describe the way in which the Scheme operates I think I had better give you a very short history of it and a few statistics.
This may strike you as doing things backwards but it seems to me that it may be easier for you to understand how it works when you have some idea of its scale. I am, as it were, showing you the whole automobile first before taking you for a drive to see how it goes on the road.
It was launched 13 years ago by a committee of which I was Chairman. Sir John Hunt, now Lord Hunt, the man who led the successful Everest Expedition, was a member of the committee and then took on the job of full-time Director of the Scheme. We ran it for three years on an experimental basis with the help of the major youth organizations.
It started as a Scheme for boys but within five years we had to devise a similar Scheme for girls to satisfy popular demand. This year we joined the two Schemes together although certain parts are reserved for boys and others for girls.
At this point I think I should make it clear that the Award Scheme is not a youth organization in any sense. It is conceived as a service to youth organizations and as a balanced and progressive programme for anyone who wants to use it.
The Scheme grew fairly rapidly in the initial years but recently entry has tended to level out and in Britain there are on average 56,000 new entries each year and the average total of people taking part in any one year is about 114,000. About 25,000 awards are gained annually. Not every entrant stays the whole course for one of the three standards of award and even fewer work their way through all these awards.
The accumulative totals of all awards gained to date counting all the countries taking part is about 257,000 of which some 31,000 are at the Gold level. This is out of a total entry of some 630,000.
Apart from Britain the Scheme is in operation in seventeen Commonwealth countries and similar schemes under different names are functioning in two other countries. It has been operating here in Canada since 1963 and it started in Australia and New Zealand in the same year.
I won't bother you with the administrative structure of the Scheme in Britain. In Canada the Scheme is set up under a National Council of which the Governor General has very kindly agreed to serve as President with the day-today management is in the hands of an Honorary National Coordinator, Major General Kitching, who accepted my invitation to serve in this capacity, and the Executive Secretary, Commander Manson, who is fully engaged in the administration of the Scheme.
In the first year of operation in Canada there were about 600 entries; last year some 4,500 young people were involved, more than half of whom were boys. Last year thirty Gold Awards were gained, this year it is already 169.
Now that you have some idea of the physical size and scope of the Award Scheme and its organization I will try and give you an outline of what it's all about. The concept of the Scheme is relatively simple.
In the first place academic education, and by that I mean classroom work, is not sufficient preparation by itself for a satisfactory adult life. Furthermore, adult life does not consist entirely of working for a living. There are other things to be discovered.
Secondly, young people change their attitudes very drastically at about fourteen. Things which satisfied and amused them when they were younger no longer interest them. They want to be adult and they want to join the adult world. For various reasons youth work in general was concentrated on the under fifteens.
The Scheme was therefore designed to fill this gap between fourteen and full participation in the adult world.
Thirdly, the increasingly crowded conditions of life in the big industrial complexes makes it virtually impossible for parents, and in many cases schools, to introduce young people to the immense variety of interesting activities which are there to be done.
In order to achieve this we divided the extra-occupational activities of adults into five sections.
First, there is Voluntary Service,
Second, there are Leisure Occupations and Pursuits,
Third, there is Physical Fitness,
Fourth, a purposeful Expedition and the
Fifth section covers roughly anything else which doesn't fit into the other four and goes under the title of "Design for Living".
Each section is composed of a large number of alternative subjects each with its own syllabus and the standard to be reached. To gain an award, all that needs to be done is to select one subject, or group of subjects, in four out of five sections, follow each syllabus and then convince the assessors that you have reached the necessary standard of proficiency.
Let me give you an example. One of the many subjects in the Public Service section is First Aid. The syllabus for this is set by a qualified organization such as the Red Cross or St. John's Ambulance Brigade who may also provide the instructor and the assessors. The same thing happens for fire-fighting, life-saving or various kinds of social work.
In the Hobbies and Pursuits Section there is a range of 200 active and passive, sporting or intellectual subjects from which to choose. Say the choice falls on stamp collecting; the Award organization will find someone who knows enough about stamp collecting to help the candidate complete the syllabus and someone else to act as assessor.
In the Fitness Section, the choice is between various combinations of field and track athletics, swimming and various gymnasium-based physical efficiency tests. In this case all the standard times and distances are laid down. This is an optional section for girls who may choose a subject from "Design for Living" instead.
In the Expedition section a suitably qualified person either individually or from a club or youth organization instructs in light-weight camping, map-reading and cooking. He also arranges one or two practice expeditions and eventually sees to it that the full expedition is properly checked out. In this section there are different conditions for boys and girls but in both cases the expedition must have some declared purpose and may be done on foot, by canoe, on horseback or by bicycle.
The Design for Living section offers a very wide choice of subjects particularly suitable for girls and it includes everything from baby-care to home-nursing.
Quite naturally there is a wide difference in the capacities of boys and girls of fourteen and young men and women of twenty-one. To allow for this the Scheme is divided into three standards based on the average capacities of boys and girls of fourteen, fifteen and sixteen. Candidates must be over fourteen to attempt the Bronze standard, over fifteen to attempt the Silver standard and over sixteen to attempt the Gold Standard. There is an arbitrary upper age limit of twenty-one in each case. There are of course special conditions for the handicapped.
That, except for a few details which I won't bother you with, is all there is to it.
Now let me just make a few comments on the whole thing. The Scheme can be used by anyone or any organization, it is not a youth organization itself. In fact we have gone to considerable trouble to allow the Scheme to be adapted for use in all the uniformed youth organizations, in most cases making use of their own badge systems.
As in all things to do with young people, leadership is vital. Success in gaining awards depends more than anything else on the enthusiastic encouragement of adults and particularly on the people who take on the task of helping and advising the young throughout the Scheme. The more adults who take an interest in any part of the whole Scheme, the more awards will be gained. There is no lack of willing young people once they know what is expected of them and as soon as adult help is available.
All this rather suggests that young people do nothing unless urged and led. This is very far from the truth. A great many of them are in fact doing everything that is required of them in the Scheme without realizing it. When these people enter for the Scheme, the awards are really a recognition and an encouragement.
As the figures I quoted indicate, there is a high proportion of drop-outs. This is not quite as serious as it might appear because it turns out that quite a large number become so deeply committed to a subject in one of the sections that they give up the rest of the Scheme in order to concentrate on this one subject.
I count this a success for the Scheme as these young people have probably come across something which is going to give them increasing pleasure and interest for the rest of their lives. It has not been unknown for young people to decide on their future career as a result of their experience in the Award Scheme.
No membership of any organization is involved either before, during or after undertaking the Award Scheme. It can be done by anyone individually or through whatever organization they belong to. However I must add this: everyone who has had anything to do with the Scheme has been delightfully surprised by the number of Gold Award winners who have offered their services as helpers and instructors either to their own organizations or to anyone operating the Scheme.
They are in fact providing that vital leadership.
This is the most heartening feature of the Scheme and for this alone it is worthwhile.
If anyone were to ask me which feature of the Scheme I considered most important, I would have no hesitation in saying the Public Service Section. This provides a real and valuable encouragement and opportunity to become involved in some form of voluntary service. It provides a chance to participate in serious adult work and this is most important for the well-being of any community.
This sounds easy and obvious in principle but in practice we found that it was not quite so simple. We were amazed to discover how many first aid, rescue and social aid organizations refused to admit that youngsters of sixteen could be trusted or trained to be of any use. In the end most of them agreed to give it a try and I know of none who have been disappointed. Most of them indeed discovered to their astonishment that these young people showed as much, if not more, enthusiasm, concern and responsibility than many adults.
You will notice that there is no element of preaching in this Scheme; its philosophy is simply participation. It is severely practical and no-one need feel morally, politically or in any other way compromised because they have gained or attempted to gain an award. The awards themselves are simply certificates and the right to wear a small badge, but these things are purely symbolic. They are really only personal reminders of a personal achievement.
As so often happens it is not the direct results which are necessarily the most important. In many cases the side-effects can be just as significant. One of the side-effects of this Scheme has been to bring into contact many adults and young people purely on the basis of sharing a common interest and enthusiasm for a particular activity. It is this sort of contact which breaks through the generation gap because for once these adults are neither parents nor teachers.
It simply doesn't matter how many years there are between two people who enjoy fishing, playing chess or doing voluntary duty as life-savers. This contact is frequently the first step to membership of an adult club or society.
I have tried to explain the bare bones of the Scheme, and I am aware that this is bound to be a little dull and uninspiring. To get the full flavour and excitement you have to witness a display of award activities put on by the youngsters themselves. I have seen many such displays most recently in St. John, New Brunswick, Cartierville, Ottawa and Peterborough.
It is at those displays that the whole thing comes alive and you begin to get an idea of the ingenuity and enthusiasm and competence of these young people. I am constantly being surprised by the variety of things they choose to do and by the standards they achieve. If you are feeling a bit jaundiced by the actions of some of the young, one of these displays is a complete and thorough cure.
Now before I sit down I want you to meet a few young Canadians who have gained the Gold Award and tell you what they did to qualify. You can then judge for yourself the quality of these young people.
I don't claim for a moment that this Scheme of Awards is either the best or the only answer to all our problems. I only claim that in operation it has achieved a considerable measure of success with those who have entered for it, and it has gained considerable support among adults most closely associated with its operation. It is no "patent-medicine" type cure-all; I think it might be better described as another, and I believe reliable, plank in the bridge leading from adolescence to a full and rewarding adult life.
His Royal Highness, the Prince Philip was thanked by Miss Nancy Clarke, a Gold Award Winner under the Duke of Edinburgh's Award Scheme:
Thank you, your Royal Highness, for being with us today and for speaking to us.
This has been a wonderful occasion for everyone in this room--but particularly for the eight of us who have taken part in your Award Scheme in Canada and who have been honoured by you at this luncheon.
As a small token of our respect and admiration for your leadership and your interest in young people, I would ask you to accept a small gift from us.
It is a goblet, designed especially to commemorate the Investiture at Caernarvon of your son as Prince of Wales.
Your Royal Highness, I would ask you to accept this gift with the love of the young people of Canada who are taking part in your Award Scheme.