The late Duke of Edinburgh. Picture: REUTERS
The late Duke of Edinburgh. Picture: REUTERS

The Duke of Edinburgh came from a broken home. Still a baby, he narrowly escaped a Greek lynch mob in an orange box. Born a prince, he was penniless as a youngster and could easily have become a Nazi. That he went on to live a long and active life as a mainstay of the British monarchy can be attributed in part to Kurt Hahn.  

Dr Hahn was an educationalist who established Gordonstoun school after escaping from Germany in the 1930s. He understood that classroom learning was not in itself sufficient to realise a young person’s potential. Removing comfort zones through adventures and exposure to different skills encouraged curiosity and an anxiety, which, if correctly managed, allowed the youth to transform data into meaningful information.

Prince Philip excelled at Gordonstoun and, along with Dr Hahn, set up the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in 1956 to give the same sort of opportunity to millions of young adults in 144 countries around the world.

In SA his scheme is now called The President’s Award and was originally established here by Dr Ian Player. While it will have made a crucial difference in the lives of some, it is a small organisation that relies mainly on donations.

As SA’s floundering education system continues to spend billions of rand annually on schoolroom learning with ever-diminishing returns, isn’t it time that Hahn’s ideas once again receive serious consideration? 

James Cunningham, Camps Bay

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