How can we best prepare young people to feel like they are ready for the world? At a time when the world is at its most interconnected in history, and thus more daunting for those on the precipice of engaging with it, answering this question is more important than ever.

Academia has been striving to find the perfect formula for centuries, becoming increasingly sophisticated and nuanced in its approach to education. No one will argue that education is inherently necessary, but even the most achieved students can feel lost or disillusioned when coming face-to-face with the world today. What one needs, therefore, is an education in life itself.

This is what prompted His Royal Highness (HRH) Prince Philip to found The Duke of Edinburgh Award in 1956, a national programme for young people in the UK centred on igniting the potential within each and every one of them. What emerged was a framework for self-development, a personal journey that has within it the perfect dose of challenge to awaken the confidence so necessary to take on the world as it is today.

Very quickly the DofE was adopted outside of the UK and in 1988 the International Award was officially established, an evolved programme that could be implemented anywhere, now operating in 130 countries including here in Indonesia.

“There are 3,000 active participants and almost 80 schools offering the programme in the country,” shares Aurina Setyawitta, the National Director of the DofE International Award Indonesia. Having been involved since 2013, Ibu Witta has seen how effective the programme has been for both young Indonesians and expatriate students.

The International Award has four pillars: Skills, Physical Recreation, Volunteering and Adventurous Journey. Participants must commit to chosen goals within each pillar over a set time, depending on their level of award: Bronze (6 months), Silver (12 months, or additional 6 months if Bronze Awardee) and Gold (18 months, or additional 6 months if Silver Awardee). 

It’s up to participants to set their exact goals: Physical Recreation requires them to choose a sport or physical activity; Skills encourages them to develop a new or existing personal interest, be it art, music, writing, web development, photography editing, etc.; they must find ways of providing Voluntary Service; and the Adventurous Journey requires them to go on an expedition or exploration for a set period of time.

“Young people may already be active in sports or arts and even community service, but this is rarely intrinsically motivated,” explains Ibu Witta. “The award reframes each activity as a goal, a target, a discipline. The award is about building upon intention.”

Open for young people between the ages of 14 and 25, the programme is as inclusive as it can be. It is globally standardised, but individually preferred and locally adapted.

DofE works together with organisations equipped to facilitate and supervise participants. In Indonesia, they work with with international and national plus schools, pesantren (Muslim boarding schools), foundations and local communities. The Jakarta-based Open Awards Centre welcomes participants not associated with a partnering organisation, and grants are provided to marginalised communities through the ‘World Ready for All’ programme.

Thus, the DofE is not a substitute for formal education, it is instead an additional avenue made to complement academia, filling in the gaps and spaces. “It’s education beyond borders and outside of walls; learning in everyday life. It’s about finding your own challenges and keeping to promises,” Ibu Witta passionately shares.

For students from privileged backgrounds, or who have relatively sheltered lives, it’s an opportunity to step out of their comfort zone; whilst for marginalised young people, it can be truly life changing.

In 2021 the Indonesia award operator introduced awards for marginalised young people and the differently-abled society. These include Santi Rama Deaf School, Jakarta; Street Children World cup players (20 young people); and a group of vision-impaired youth in Surabaya who work hand-in-hand with buddies to achieve their goals.

In 2023, HRH Prince Edward, taking on the title and responsibilities of Duke of Edinburgh (after the passing of his father, HRH Prince Philip, in 2021) went on an Asia-Pacific tour to highlight The DofE International Award. This included a visit to Jakarta in November, where he personally awarded Indonesia’s Gold Awardees during a ceremony at British School Jakarta.

Amongst the recipients were Fatima Rahmah, the first hearing-impaired Indonesian to receive a Gold Award, and HRH met with an enthusiastic amputee football group also enrolled in the programme.

Fatima, who was incredibly shy before beginning the programme, spoke confidently on stage at the ceremony. She said, “It feels good to be counted and considered.” A sentiment likely shared by the now ‘considered’ marginalised communities. She now continues her journey into higher education and has established herself as a digital and watercolour artist. This is but one of hundreds of success stories.

The International Award’s motto, ‘There is More in You Than You Think’, encapsulates so well what going through a challenging process results in at an individual level. “Doing the work is the lesson,” adds Ibu Witta. “So many awardees say that before they were often apathetic, or even ‘males’ (lazy). Now they’re inspired to make their hours purposeful.” 

Award leaders and assessors are there mainly to ensure the authenticity of the student’s journey, and to be encouraging and supportive rather than instructional. Students must find it within themselves to pursue their goals. “The programme doesn’t promise anything, actually. It’s a bell, and if no one rings it, it makes no sound,” says Ibu Witta. “The programme is simple, but the outcome and impact are rich.”

So, how can we best prepare young people to feel like they are ready for the world? Well, the answer is actually in the question: it is to make them prepared. After all, who knows what the world will look like in years to come, what jobs and careers will be desired or created? To equip a young person with the self-confidence they need to tackle new challenges, embrace new environments and ultimately, persevere… well, then they’ll be ready for whatever world awaits.

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