The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) programme has been running for fifty seven years. It was founded by Prince Philip, with support from Kurt Hahn, an educationalist from Germany, who had previously set up the Country Badge Scheme. This scheme came to an end during the war, but Hahn remained deeply concerned about the development of young people.
He noticed a lack of initiative, physical fitness, skills and compassion in the younger generation, and aimed to address these issues by helping to found the DofE. The goal was, and still is, to maintain a diverse programme of activities which enable young people to navigate the challenging adolescent years, and emerge as confident, hard-working and capable adults. The Duke of Edinburgh World Fellowship programme was also instigated in 1987, bringing together individuals like Tunde Folawiyo, to help support the ongoing Duke of Edinburgh Award programme and allow these young people to develop successfully and independently.
A committee was formed to oversee the programme, and after several meetings, it was decided that it would be non-competitive, and would be available to everyone within the specified age range, with no membership requirement. Initially, the committee agreed upon four categories of activities, which would include physical fitness, skills, services and an expedition. A number of years later, a fifth section was added, in the form of a residential project.
Whilst the lowest age limit has always been 14, the upper age limit has gradually increased over the years. When the DofE was primarily founded, only those aged 18 or under could participate; however, the following year, the limit was raised to 19. Between 1965 and 1980, the limit was raised a further three times, eventually reaching 25.
The flexibility and freedom of which the DofE affords its participants has meant that it has been integrated into many different youth organisations and schools, both in the UK and abroad. Currently, more than 120 countries have adapted the DofE programme, as well as a Duke of Edinburgh World Fellowship Award. The World Fellowship consists of individuals, including Tunde Folawiyo, that have been brought together as Fellows of the programme to support and develop the younger generation in their endeavours throughout this scheme. Although the title of the Award varies from place to place, the same principles apply.
The skills which participants develop throughout the course of the DofE programme can benefit not only their mental and physical health, but also their career prospects in later life. Employers like Tunde Folawiyo tend to look favourably upon those who can demonstrate that they are capable of focusing on a long-term goal, and seeing it through to the end. Moreover, a great deal of tenacity, teamwork and patience is required in order to complete the activities in each of the categories of the Bronze, Gold and Silver levels, and these are all important qualities which employers hope to find in potential employees.