Friday 30 October 2015

We are the people we’ve been waiting for

John May address to delegates of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Forum 2015 in Toronto, Canada

Your Royal Highness, Honourable ministers, Chairman, My Lord, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

I was in the office of a ‘master of the universe’ the other day. Or at least that’s what we used to call people in the financial services industry. He’s responsible for the business of one of the world’s largest banks and we were talking about hiring the right people from university. “The problem is”, he said, these kids have brilliant qualifications, but they have absolutely no interpersonal skills. They can’t work in teams; they don’t relate well to customers; they can’t plan effectively. And these are the brightest of the brightest – fighting to get on our graduate trainee programme. If I have to read another application letter that tells me that a young person has wanted to be a merchant banker since she was eight years old – I will scream. I will genuinely scream.”

And then we talked, as he knew we would, about The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. How it helps young people broaden their horizons.  And I won’t say there was a sudden epiphany. My friend, the master of the universe, didn’t suddenly spring from his chair and punch the air, screaming eureka at the top of his voice. But he did say that he would look much more closely at a candidate’s resume for mention of The Award on it. Because a mention would tell him a great deal. 

 As Michael Smith of the law firm Baker McKenzie, a great supporter of the Award here, in Canada and the USA, says, ” We employ people from many different countries and we are proud of the diversity of our workforce. Being an Award holder shows that a young person has developed exactly the range of skills, behaviours and attitudes that we’re looking for in our new starters.

We are the people we’ve been waiting for.

I have no doubt that you have similar conversations every week. There’s a growing awareness in governments around the world that learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom. That a concentration over the last 30 years of educational reform on academic qualifications, to the exclusion of the wider non-formal educational curriculum, has led to young people leaving school poorly equipped for life and work. 

To be equipped properly for life, young people need to develop the qualities of perseverance, grit, curiosity, optimism and self-control. Economists might describe these qualities as non-cognitive. Psychologists might call them ‘personality traits’. To the rest of us, they’re just known as ‘character’ and the development of character is the business of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. 
Some of you were in Malta – so you know that I’m quite challenged when it comes to dealing with modern audio visual technology. The other day I was doing some clearing up at home and found one of these.. young people have never seen these. But for a moment, let’s just imagine the technology of the cassette recorder is still cutting edge. Let’s rewind, pause and fast forward.

If we rewind a moment, we’ve spent the last three years an Award family trying to get to grips with what in Malta I described as ‘Transforming the Award’. We’ve discussed much of that this morning and this afternoon there will be an opportunities to review some of the tools and services we’ve put in place. Thank you to all of you from NAOs who filled in the survey about your relationship with the Foundation. It’s told us a great many things – and we’ve posted the raw results on the Online Learning Hub for you to peruse. 

What’s come across to me, from the survey and from conversations with many of you, is that you generally like the direction in which we’ve been moving. 83% of respondents to the survey said yes to the question, “do you think that the Award is heading in the right direction?”

But as one of you commented:
“There are aspects of the change which are positive. E.g. the need for global standards, governance and licensing across all NAOs but, some of that change process has not been managed or supported as well as it might have been. There is still a need for the Foundation to “listen” more, involve all NAOs in the change and, not rush into specific timescales for some of the strategic changes.”

I liken the last three years to coffee making.

Cafetière and percolators.

We know we’ve been pressing down hard on the plunger of change. It’s now time to pause. And talk. And percolate. 

I hope this Forum will give us exactly that opportunity. When I wrote to you earlier this year, I said
“I’d like this Forum to be one that’s remembered for its straight talking; its creation of a space where a whole range of views can be heard and, more importantly, listened to; where leadership is shown by all stakeholders; where the instruments of decision making are clarified; and where our discussions lead to further action after Forum that will galvanise us all, enhancing the ability of the Award internationally and increasing the international capacity of the Award to grow.”

So now to Fast Forward. We’re all going to get an opportunity tomorrow to do some dreaming, but to do so within a framework that really helps us to plan for the future. And we’re delighted that Group Partners, a consultancy team that are no strangers to the Award, are going to help us all with our thinking. 

But perhaps I could put some of this in context. Let me talk of the young people with whom we work.
We’ve had the ‘silent generation’, ‘baby boomers’, ‘Generation X’ and the Millennials. Each generation has its own characteristics, behaviours and attitudes, developed through the experiences of its formative years.   And now there’s a new generation, – the Twenty-First Century’s first generation, born after 1996. These are the children and young people we’re working now to educate. And, like each succeeding generation, they’re not the same as “us”.

Their childhood has taken place during a period of economic depression not felt since before the 2nd World War. Their Generation X parents have been absorbing the impact beyond the obvious financial strain; promotion opportunities have been obstructed by Baby Boomers postponing retirement and the rising tide of Millennials are already clamouring for a place at the decision making table. At the moment, this new generation are relatively compliant, but they are growing towards and through adolescence in an atmosphere of mistrust of “the system” – Will they, like the Silent Generation who lived through the Depression, react in a way that spawns the equivalent of the anxt of James Dean? The passion of Martin Luther King? The attitude transforming writing of Germaine Greer?

They are being parented in a very different way from the Millennials. Millennials were generally parented by Baby Boomers. They were taught that there would be prizes for everyone; that it was the welfare of a whole class of children that was important, not necessarily the individual; they were told that they could be anything, do anything – aspiration was all; 

Today’s young people are being parented by Generation Xers. They are being taught that only the best win; that their personal welfare is more important than their classmates; that they should do their best but be realistic in their aspirations. This is having an effect on the developing mind-set of this new Generation. 

They are growing up in a society that is more diverse than ever. They are more likely than anyone born before them to have friends that come from different social backgrounds, races and faiths. Gender roles are blurring. Diversity is mainstream. But there are massive challenges to face. This is the post 9-11 generation. Islamaphobia is continuing to grow. Extremism finds fertile ground to develop and grow in communities that struggle financially and where there is a high level of unemployment.

Research suggests that girls aged 8 to 15 have greater expectations today than ever before in obtaining a university degree, helping others live a better life and changing the world. They care more about their results at school and getting feedback from parents and teachers to help them do things better. Girls place a higher value than boys on being respectful, ethical and trustworthy, whereas boys favour being loyal and fun to be with. The women’s liberation movement of the 1970s and 1980s has created a generation where girl power dominates. As this generation grows up, could it be the first truly to see equality in opportunity and success? Or will boys’ achievement levels in many countries continue to fall behind those of girls, leading to a new dynamic and a generation of dissatisfied and angry young men?

This is the most connected generation ever. Will the easy access, even by the youngest of this new generation, to devices that enable fast and continuous communication change the way they learn to communicate? As the Communication Lifestyle spreads and is adopted, will schools and businesses have to change? I think they might. Will this new generation, as adults, see themselves not as global citizens, but simply as connected ones – taking the global bit for granted? I think they might. And if that’s the case, then perhaps we need to look closely at how the Award, through its digital tools, can help connect young people – and leaders. We’ve taken the first steps in this area with the ORB and particularly the online learning hub, but what might follow?

When HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, Kurt Hahn and John Hunt launched the Award nearly sixty years ago, it was to a different generation of young people. Hahn said that “There can be no doubt that the young of today have to be protected against certain poisonous effects inherent in present-day civilization. Five social diseases surround them, even in early childhood. There is the decline in fitness due to modern methods of locomotion; the decline in initiative due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis; the decline in care and skill due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship; the decline in self-discipline due to the ever-present availability of tranquilizers and stimulants, and the decline in compassion, which William Temple called “spiritual death.”

Perhaps the world has not changed so very much after all. What goes around, comes around.

What we can be certain of is that the Award has an important part to play in dealing with those “poisonous effects”. We know that it does so in a way that allows young people to take control of their own destinies, guided and supported by great adults. 

But we only reach a million young people. And that’s not enough. I know that some people see a tension between growth of the Award and its quality. I don;t buy that. Growth and quality do not exist at two ends of a continuum. HRH spoke of this earlier. We can, and MUST, plan for universal access to good non-formal education and to the Award. I’m not sure how we achieve this – and tomorrow’s conversations can help to debate this matter – but I hold hard to a (perhaps naive) but very simple view. If the Award really is the wonderful thing that so many of us believe it to be, then it is nothing short of our duty (an old fashioned term perhaps, but one that I believe in); our duty to bring the Award within the reach of as many young people as we possibly can. And to do that with rigour, with skill and with urgency. I don’t know how far in the tape we have fast forward to find universal access. But it’s there on the tape. Somewhere.

So just before I finish – and remove the cassette tape from the deck – let me just share with you something that might help others get a feel for the power of the Award – and might help them think about volunteering to help young people. We know that when offered the Award there are few young people who reject it. One of our problem lies in persuading adults – whether policy makers, influencers, community leaders, teacher, youth workers, parents – that the Award is worth resourcing with their time, their talent and a financial commitment.

Results of our recent survey suggest many of you not getting as much help as you would like to grow the Award.

Many also asking for support with communications materials to grow awareness of the Award.

Impossible to grow the Award without growing the number of trained Award volunteers, especially Award Leaders.

Delighted therefore to premiere today a new film which may help you to recruit more teachers as Award Leaders.

I hope you’ll agree that this film breaks new ground for the Award.

We’ll be making this film available to all NAOs in early December.

You’ll be able to edit the voiceover to translate it into a local language, and the URL, so that you can direct people to your own website.

We will also be producing a shorter version which will be suitable for social media and broadcasting.

Special thanks to Victoria Selano from The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – Canada who has done an amazing job in helping us to produce this film, to Edwin, our Africa regional director, whose voice you will hopefully have recognised, and to the many Award participants and volunteers who took part. This film is very much a product of the Award.

Not all learning goes on in the classroom. Our Award participants and their leaders demonstrate this every day of the year in more than 140 countries and territories. They are the people the world has been waiting for. Our challenge is to swell their ranks. 

And, quite frankly, quite simply, quite outrageously, with them, to change the world.


International Gold Event 2014

Thursday 29 October 2015

Adventurous Journey for Gold and Silver Level

Gold and Silver participants of The Cathedral & John Connon School, Mumbai completed their Adventurous Journey  at Bhimashankar and Khopoli.  A report from the Award Leader follows.

The IAYP Gold and Silver Level Adventurous Journey camp was held from 8th to 11th October, 2015 at Khopoli and Bhimashankar. Forty-nine Gold and Silver level participants, accompanied by the Award Leader, left for Khopoli. On reaching Khopoli, the participants were given sessions on rope knots, how to handle various equipment and pitch tents. These sessions were lively, informative and helped refresh everyone's memory of these vitally important skills for safety and survival.

Early morning on the 9th of October, all the participants embarked on a trek to Bhimashankar. They were all transported to Khandas village by bus and then began the ascent from there. The trek was challenging and exciting; there were several spots that seemed impossible to climb but with the correct attitude and skill, all the participants were able to manoeuvre their way through the forest. Everyone was determined to complete the trek and reach the peak of the hill. After seven hours with a lot of encouragement from the team leaders, the group finally made it to the top. The trek was exhausting but it helped improve the participants' fitness and build their communication and coordination skills.

In the evening, the participants were divided into groups and took part in different team building games. In the first game, the participants had to form a circle and pass a hoola-hoop around the circle without breaking it. The games became more difficult as they progressed; in the last game, all the team members were blindfolded and the group leaders had to help them form a square. These games enabled the participants to think on their feet and prepared them for life-threatening situations.

On the morning of the 10th of October, the participants did some light exercise and then took a bus to the Bhimashankar temple. It was a beautiful historic monument that offered an insight into Hindu religion and culture. In the evening the participants undertook a few adventure activities. Both net climbing and jhummaring were good exercise; these activities also allowed the knowledge on equipment and rope knots to be put to good use.

The morning of the 11th was spent in some light exercise followed by lectures and a feedback session, after which everyone departed for Mumbai. All in all, the camp was challenging and tiring but it was a memorable and enjoyable experience. Click here for pictures

Thursday 22 October 2015

Gold qualifying trek to Tumbling

Swagata Sen, Gold Award holder from Sri Sarada Math, Rasik Bhita is sharing her Adventurous Journey experience with us.

My friend Kankana Hambir and I from Sri Sarada Math, Rasik Bhita were selected for this Gold trek from 22nd - 27th June 2015. We were really excited about this camp, mainly because of the venue. We also knew that it was going to be tough so we prepared for the hurdles we were going to face. We started our journey with rest of the team including four instructors and eight girls from the All Bengal Women's Association. Our train (Darjeeling Mail) departed at 10.05 p.m. from Sealdah Station.

The next day around 8:30 a.m. we reached New Jalpaiguri Station. After reaching Manebhanjang we had lunch and were told to take rest to acclimatize to the high altitude. From the next day, 24th of June, we started our trek to Tumbling, about 11 km from Manebhanjang. We were amazed with the scenic beauty that we observed on the way. So mesmerized were we by the beauty of nature that we almost forgot our the difficult physical conditions we were facing.

At first we thought that we would not be able to make it. The steep roads become our greatest challenge to overcome. It was exhausting but we made a slow progress -- quite a tremendous effort. We could hardly imagine that we could make it. Mother Nature also made us happy with her bright skies, drizzling mists, green vegetation and vivid coloured flowers. We also met some lovely people on the way to Tumbling and observed their hard lifestyle and deep love for nature. On the 26th of June we started to come down from Tumbling to Manebhanjang and on the 27th we reached our home safely.

The Adventurous Journey was wonderful; we learnt a lot of things, spent good time with friends, made new friends and came to learn about their struggles in life. There we also observed nature so closely and faced our challenges with a courage that we never imagined we possessed! I think it took us one (big) step closer towards becoming a complete person. The Journey was truly the one that we will cherish in our mind forever.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Adventurous Journey Orientation Camp for Award Leaders / Assessors

The National Award Authority is organising a three-day Adventurous Journey Orientation Camp for Award Leaders and Assessors at Maldeota Village, Dehra Dun from 26th - 28th November 2015.  This three-day programme is designed to deliver the theme and essence of the Adventurous Journey section to Award Leaders and Assessors.  The focus will be on explaining the Award's requirements with respect to this section and updating the Award Leaders about the new developments in the Award. The programme includes an interactive presentation on the Expedition and Exploration Manual, in which the Technical and Integrated Skills will be discussed.  The three-day programme will include lots of field activities related to the Adventurous Journey along with sessions on team building and safety measures.  There are limited seats and availability is on a first come first served basis.  Please check the detailed itinerary here

Wednesday 14 October 2015

My visit to an orphanage

Alice Saha, Bronze  participant from Miles Bronson Residential School, Guwahati shares her wonderful learning experience

Human behavior is determined by two faces - physical and social - that humans are trying to understand and maintain since time immemorial. Being benevolent is one of the distinguished characteristics of our existence. This world is vast and we are the members of a big family. Thus inclusive education teaches us to include one and all in the system where there is no discrimination. As privileged children we need to embrace the marginalized members of society, spread awareness and bring a smile to their faces. With this mission in mind, a group of students from class 11 visited the St. Claret's Convent orphanage in the month of September 2015.

It's a great learning experience. During our visit we could feel that the orphanage authority takes good care of the children there. They looked very happy and satisfied. The most remarkable point is that these children receive quality education besides their daily requirements. They are very presentable and friendly and we enjoyed our chat with them. We took lots of chocolates, pencils, erasers and note books for them. We also tried to liven the mood by singing and dancing with them.

Truly, it was mentally satisfying to see the smiles that our small act of kindness could bring to their faces. I met a girl, Afrina, 8 years old, who taught me the lesson that strong determination can direct one to face all the odds in life. At such a small age she has already fixed her goal. She wants to become a teacher. Her life situation has made her strong and resilient and she is making the best use of the resources provided by the orphanage.

We are very lucky that MBRS has provided us with such opportunities of community service. Our visit to the orphanage was a new experience for us. I thank God for blessing us with wonderful parents and pray these orphans too find a better world tomorrow.Click for pictures

Thursday 8 October 2015

Skill Development through IAYP

A report by Adrija Chatterjee
The Award programme foundation is supporting skill development programme for the development of rural areas under Gender Diversity Empowerment Project. Areas like Singur, Baladbandh, Kumroguri are under this project. Through this project young girls learning Skills like making handmade jewelleries (earrings, bangles, clips and necklaces) by paper quilling method. These products are also going to different fairs, offices, stalls for selling. The girls are earning some money as after selling these items the profit is distributed equally to the girls. Through this financial help the girls are helping their family for a better living. Some girls are going in the remote areas of the village for teaching local children. Recently Rasik Bhita Chatrimangal organised a stall in their office premises at "M-junction". There these handmade products made a good profit. People appreciated the beautiful work of the girls. Through this initiative many families are getting benefited. The project is helping these girls to develop the skills and earning while learning. Click to see the pictures

Showcasing the IAYP Programme

St. Mary's School, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi showcased the IAYP programme for the parents/guardians and the students of the school.  Jyoti Fotedar, Award Leader reports on the event.

IAYP showcasing happens twice a year. It is a time of great enthusiasm. Our IAYP is divided into many clubs and all the clubs gear up to showcase in front of an audience which comprises of parents and fellow batch mates.

Showcasing also brings out the best in us. For many aspirants it is a platform to tap the hidden skills and make themselves proud and gain self confidence. For many it is to enhance their leadership quality and their organizing skills.

Each level of Bronze, Silver and Gold have different levels of skill building program that takes place in these clubs. Parents are awestruck as they have never seen their children ever perform in these areas. Some of the views from the Award Aspirants are

"Being a part of organizing team, the experience I got was one like no other. It taught me time management, co-ordination, humility and gratitude in welcoming the guests.

"Showcasing has always brought out the best in me. First time I did showcasing I was part of the Physical Recreation and I learnt rock climbing. Next I was in western music and I learnt to play base guitar. It was a wonderful experience.

"The IAYP has always been a platform to learn, enhance and show the hidden skills that we generally have no courage to tap.