Young people learn differently

The Earl of Wessex

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award believes passionately that what young people learn outside of the classroom is as important and, in some circumstances, more valuable than what they learn in the classroom. We also know, through a series of surveys of 12,000 young people and adults from around the world, 2 in 3 young people and 4 in 5 adults do not believe that classroom learning alone is enough to prepare them for the world. There are important lessons to learn, life skills to acquire and experiences which can only be attained by doing. The problem for concerned adults, youth workers and educators is how to give young people the opportunity to challenge themselves, to try new things within certain parameters and be able to measure or qualify their achievements.

Young people learn in different ways; their characters and their development varies widely.

Confidence only comes through achievement, yet this doesn’t always occur in the classroom for all sorts of reasons, most of which are beyond the control of educators. This means that having a range of other opportunities to engage young people is vital to help their development, enabling them to achieve which in turn can give them confidence in the classroom.

This philosophy, which is at the heart of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, is very much the philosophy of Dr Kurt Hahn the founding headmaster of Gordonstoun. The Award is an evolution of his Moray Badge scheme. Hahn was also instrumental in the creation of Outward Bound, United World Colleges and the International Baccalaureate. There’s a story about Hahn spotting one of his pupils heading towards the lake in the school grounds, he was intrigued because the boy was struggling at the school and not really engaged, so he followed him down to the lake and was surprised to discover the boy was feeding the ducks. “Boy, you like ducks?” to which the rather amazed pupil responded, “Yes, sir!” “Very well, you are now Captain of Ducks. You are responsible for feeding them, checking their nests, constructing nesting boxes if required and generally looking after their welfare.”

This may sound a little arcane these days, but to the other boys it was clear that this boy was responsible for the ducks on the lake and if anyone wanted to know anything about them he was the person to ask. More importantly, Hahn had found what interested the boy, had given him responsibility and allowed him to develop that passion, in doing so gave the boy a sense of purpose as well as respect. The confidence he gained allowed him to settle better and achieve more both in and out of the classroom.

Today’s young people are growing up in a dynamic, fast-paced world and the development of skills such as resilience, confidence and adaptability are important.

Non-formal education – such as that offered by organisations and individuals that run The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award – is a tried and tested way of enabling young people to challenge themselves, step outside their comfort zone and become positive agents of change for themselves and their wider communities. It allows them to develop skills they need to step confidently into the world of today and tomorrow.

As long as there are young people who yearn for something more than what can be offered in a classroom and there are adults who believe non-formal education is important, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award will always be there to assure the value of that learning.

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