Duke’s Award face identity crisis, now an award for those seeking vocational careers…

I remember my school days when I too, like several of my mates aspired for the prized Duke of Edinburgh’s awards… I had reached the Silver level of the awards though just didn’t have it in me to to pursue the ardous treks that took up vacations of the boarding life to get to the Gold or as we referred to at my school as the Duke’s Blazer. Those who got it were able to wear a different coloured blazer to identify them from rest of us. There was also an aspect of “scoping” linked to them and by this I mean that those who wanted to be nominated as prefects often made an extra effort to seek out the blazer… I often felt that it was the aspiration to be the “nominated” leader of the herd that got the aspirants charged up and not really the value of the award by itself. Many found out that Indian Universities also didn’t really give much weight to the award and so that may have also led to a drop in interest. In recent years I have not heard of the Duke awards much in my alma mater.

Now even the Duke Awards have an identity crisis. This is natural considering the fact that the earlier route of Elite Schooling leading to Elite University Education leading to Elite Careers is giving way to the realisation that today’s workforce needs different skills and more and more are getting disillusioned with the mere degree that they receive and which still leaves them unemployed. The focus is also moving to towards “vocational education” as they are seen better as “job ready” qualifications.

Hence this week, Duke of York, Prince Andrew, announced a new award for technical education modelled on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award started by his father in 1956.

The Duke of York Award will issue bronze, silver and gold certificates for a combination of vocational qualifications, work experience and skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and communications.

In an article titled ‘No regrets’ not going going to uni, from The Australian quoting The Times…

THE DUKE of York has called for greater respect for young people who train to be machinists, builders or technicians, saying that vocational skills deserve a higher status.

Prince Andrew said that the “conventional route” of A levels leading straight to university did not suit everyone and alternatives should be better recognised.

This week he announced a new award for technical education modelled on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award started by his father in 1956.

The Duke of York Award will issue bronze, silver and gold certificates for a combination of vocational qualifications, work experience and skills such as problem-solving, teamwork and communications.

Prince Andrew said: “The conventional route is as good as any, but there are other ways of doing it, and not everybody fits into it. There is another side to this. The conventional education may not fit the needs of the workplace.

“In fact, I think there is already a mismatch between what qualifications we are producing and what the workplace needs. So let’s open the opportunities up.

“I don’t want young people to feel that they are being told they are not good enough to do something. At no stage should anything in their education be de-motivational.”

The Duke said that he had never regretted not going to university and that he was fortunate that when he was at Gordonstoun School, Morayshire, the focus was much broader than exam grades.

It was “an education of the whole person, not just from the neck up”, he said. “So it wasn’t totally focused and driven, and this was the days before we had league tables and exam results being the be-all and end-all and teaching for the exam.”

The launch of the Duke of York Award for Technical Education marks a stepping up of Prince Andrew’s work supporting skills, science and enterprise, on which he has focused since quitting as envoy for UK Trade and Industry in 2011 after a series of controversies.

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