International Award

Since the Duke of Edinburgh International Award began in 1956, its aim has been to help young people plan and undertake their own programme of activities to develop themselves mentally, physically and emotionally. The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is widely recognised by employers and education providers as an important qualification for demonstrating self-reliance, commitment and dedication. All this, and a lot of fun along the way. Some of the benefits of participating in the Award programme to young people include:


  • Boosting self-confidence and self-reliance
  • Gaining a sense of achievement and responsibility
  • Developing new interests
  • Strengthening leadership ability


This is achieved through young people undertaking a range of activities for the four different Award sections.


What is The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award?

As competition in the job market intensifies and more people earn advanced degrees, employers are looking for other means of determining the quality of candidates. Each year, the Award is regularly stated by graduate employers as being a definitive qualification for demonstrating that an individual has the attributes that their organisations seek in candidates. The percentage of young people that complete and gain their Award is low, ensuring that it remains a noteworthy achievement that helps those who earn it stand out from the crowd.

The main reason why the Award maintains such an excellent reputation is because it requires motivation, commitment and maturity from the participants. They have to take total responsibility for all aspects of their experience. Their school/organisation will offer advice but participants must do the work and undertake the following tasks:


  1. Find activities to undertake for the different sections.
  2. Ensure attendance at all activities.
  3. Submit the required evidence to demonstrate they have undertaken the necessary activities.


Please spend some time reading and digesting this important information so that you understand the expectations placed on your child.


See our video gallery for more:

International Award



What makes up the Award?

The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award consists of four sections (help with finding activities for these sections is on the following page):

Accordion Skill section

Young people must spend at least one hour per week learning a new life skill (outside of school lessons). There are hundreds of different activities that young people can choose from. Popular choices include music, art, drama, cooking, DJing, committee skills, graffiti art, learning to drive and sign language. Unfortunately, sports cannot count for this section as they are covered under the physical recreation section.

Accordion Service section

This section requires young people to spend at least one hour per week doing voluntary work. This gives young people the opportunity to get out into their communities and give something back (Note: This requirement cannot be fulfilled by working for free for a commercial organisation like a hairdresser, retail store or coffee shop).

Accordion Physical Recreation section

This section requires young people to spend at least one hour per week of their own time engaging in physical recreation. It can be any form of activity and does not need to be in a team or competitive environment.

Accordion Adventurous Journey section

Here is some advice as to how young people can find activities for these sections if they are not doing something already. However, please keep in mind that the responsibility lies entirely with the young people for finding and undertaking activities for sections 1 – 3 listed above. The school/organisation your child attends will provide the necessary training for the Adventurous Journey section.


Adventurous Journey 

The Adventurous Journey is a unique opportunity for your child to experience self-reliance and teamwork in an outdoor environment. The length of the Adventurous Journey varies depending on the level of the Award:


Bronze Level – Adventurous Journey takes two days (one night)

Silver Level – Adventurous Journey takes three days (two nights)

Gold Level – Adventurous Journey takes four days (three nights)



Participants will have to undertake training to ensure they have the necessary skills and knowledge for their journey. For the qualifying Adventurous Journey of all Awards, the participants must complete a self- sufficient journey. This means that the participants will walk with remote adult supervision, on an agreed route, and must carry all the equipment and food they will need for the duration of their journey. Adult leaders will monitor the progress of the groups by meeting them at checkpoints.

The participants will be in groups of between four and seven young people. They must work together as a team, take responsibility for their actions, and deal with any situations that arise along the way.

At Bronze and Silver levels the leaders will be camping in the same area as the young people. But to maintain the spirit of the journey they will leave the young people to take responsibility for all aspects of their camp, including cooking. Further, there will not be overnight supervision. Leaders will be available only in the case of an emergency. At Gold level there will not be any adult supervisors in the area, and participants may ‘wild camp’ on the hill, not in a campsite.



IMPORTANT NOTE! Most of the adults providing support and ensuring that your child can take part in the Award are volunteers. It is a huge amount of work for them and they can only support your child on the basis that your child: 

  • attends all of the training sessions for the Adventurous Journey section. The leaders will not take your child on a journey if they do not feel they have the necessary training. It is 100% the responsibility of your child and yourselves to know the correct training dates and to attend these.
  • brings the correct equipment to all of the training sessions. Please refer to the advice from your organisation or school, for equipment lists and advice on food, bag packing, and other related requirements. There are kit lists for a day walk and a journey. You may be able to borrow certain equipment from your school but you must check this well before the journey date.






How long does it take to complete the Bronze, Silver and Gold Award?

The Award cannot be achieved in a shorter time span by working more intensely; the objective is to develop a sense of commitment to a given task over time. Participants must persist for at least these minimum periods:


Level Minimum period of participation by
  Direct entrants Award holders
Bronze 6 months Not applicable
Silver 12 months 6 months (if Bronze holder)
Gold 18 months 12 months (if Silver holder)



Guides for participants:

Guide for Bronze Award Participants

Guide for Silver Award Participants

Guide for Gold Award Participants



Minimum timescale for each level by section is as follows:

Bronze 3 months 3 months 3 months All participants must do an extra 3 months in either Physical Recreation or Skills or Service 2 days + 1 night
Silver 6 months 6 months 6 months Non Bronze holders must do an extra 6 months in either Physical Recreation or Skills or Service 3 days + 2 nights
Gold 12 months 12 months 12 months Non Silver holders must do an extra 6 months in either Physical Recreation or Skills or Service 4 days + 3 nights
  *Plus additional requirement of 5 day/4 night Residential Project  


How is the scheme monitored and assessed?

As identified previously, the Award counts for so much because participants must take full responsibility for all aspects of their programme. To ensure that the high quality and value of the Award is maintained, participants must be able to submit evidence to demonstrate that they have done a section regularly for the minimum number of months.

Participants do this through an Online Record Book (ORB). The system works as follows: Once participants fulfill the time requirements for each section, their Assessor (the adult overseeing the activity) fills in the relevant documentation to confirm they have completed that section; this is known as 'signing off'. This only needs to be done after they have completed the minimum number of months, not every time they go. This needs to be done by the Assessor for each of the Skills, Service and Physical Recreation sections.

Some activities, such as attending a gym or going swimming, may not have an adult present each time, or will have different adults present, so a regular Assessor will not be available. In such instances, participants may discuss with their Award Leader how they are going to record the activity and get the section signed off at the end of the required period.


Ensuring your child has a safe and enjoyable experience

Taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award is a rewarding and enjoyable experience that will involve your child undertaking a variety of activities. The ethos of the Award is that these activities take place within participants' own time and where possible in their local communities. The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation licenses appropriate organisations and schools to deliver the Award through a robust quality assurance process.

This means that staff and volunteers will have the appropriate skills, qualifications and background to work with young people. For example, if participants are completing their Award through their school and the school has an after-school environmental project that can be used for the Service section of the Award, then the school will ensure this activity meets all required safety standards.

However, in the course of working towards his or her Award programme your child will probably take part in activities that are not directly under the control of our staff, and you should be aware that the responsibility for ensuring the safety of such activities rests with you rather than the Award Leader. While most of these organisations and schools will have their own policies in place to protect your child, we would advise that you make sure that they are suitable in the same way that you would treat any activity your child takes part in. For example, if your child chooses to coach younger children at a local sports club for the Service section of the Award, then it is your responsibility to ensure that this is a safe and appropriate organisation.

We would therefore recommend that you discuss with your child which activities he or she will be completing for the Service, Skills and Physical Recreation sections of the Award and which organisations will be used to complete these activities.


Accordion The Award Team


Gary John McDonald, Award Co-Ordinator, Gold Leader

Gary comes from Scotland in the United Kingdom. He has been working in international education for over 17 years at schools on 4 different continents. He is an undergraduate degree specializing in Environmental Science and PE and two post graduate (masters) degrees also in these fields. Currently Gary is employed as the Head of the Senior Science faculty and an IB Biology teacher. He is also involved in the International Award programme and our after school music programme.





Gareth Kucinkas, Silver Leader

Gareth graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, and received a Master of Science in Business from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has 21 years of experience teaching Physics and Math in the US, Switzerland, and Slovakia. He received his Certificate for College Counseling from the University of California and attended the Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions. Gareth has coached baseball and tennis and was the Round Square Representative for College Beau Soleil in Switzerland. Gareth believes that communication, creativity, collaboration and enthusiasm are the keys to a great education. Gareth joined the Secondary team with his wife and son in 2015.




Deborah Kucinkas, Bronze Leader

Deborah graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor’s Degree in Wildlife Ecology and received her Secondary Teaching Certificate from Gunnison State College. She has over 20 years of experience teaching Science and Mathematics at both the middle and secondary level and recently primary experience. Most recently she was Head of House for 21 junior girls. Debbie has coached Basketball, Cross- Country Running and Track and Field. She has also helped with the school weekend ski program. Debbie believes in team teaching and working together to solve problems all through hands on learning, learning by doing. Debbie joined the Secondary team teaching Health with her husband and her son in 2015.




Gary Kearns, Bronze Leader

Gary is from St. Paul, Minnesota (USA). He graduated from Bethel University with a degree in science education, focusing on physics. He spent the past nine years teaching in Thailand, China, and Vietnam and was thrilled to move to Shanghai in 2016 to join the YK Pao staff. He has enjoyed teaching both IGCSE and IB Physics, as well as assisting with the International Award, and looks forward to the academic year ahead.






Shannon Griffin, Volunteer

Shannon graduated from Bates College in 2016 with a degree in psychology and Chinese. She joined YK Pao in 2016 as a Princeton in Asia Fellow. During her first year she worked in the Student Life Office. This year she is serving as a Teaching Fellow in the IB English Department. Shannon is excited to be able to delve into the classroom and work closely with students.






Cora Chen, Volunteer

Cora graduated from Suzhou University with a bachelor degree in management science. She studied German and Drama at Goethe Institute in Beijing for 3 years, where she was inspired how Theatre play a role in education. She enjoys teaching and outdoor adventures. Cora joined Pao School in 2014.She lives in H house as a dorm parent.