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Why Teaching Entrepreneurial Skills In Schools Is Essential?

The wrong system

We are not teaching our kids the things they need to know in the world as we know it now.

The education system we have is not fit for purpose. I know this and you reading this probably knows this, and deep down the people who run the system know this.

The system we have was formed, in the 18th century to produce standard people to take on standard tasks for a standard wage. Those times are gone now.

The year 2016 requires a whole set of different skills to be taught, to enable the next generation to take advantage of the technology, resources and opportunities that simple did not exist even 20 years ago.

These skills I believe are entrepreneurial skills. Why? Well to really understand where I am coming from, first of all you need to understand the original definition of the word, entrepreneur.

The word entrepreneur, comes from the French word entreprendre, which means ‘to undertake’. I believe there is no greater undertaking than your life’s purpose.

To be entrepreneurial is not about business, it’s a way of thinking. If you think in an entrepreneurial way, you can start a business, have your dream career or follow a vocation. Thinking in an entrepreneurial way give you access to live your life on your own terms.

Brett Nelson the Forbes Executive Editor, wrote a article The Real Definition Of Entrepreneur---And Why It Matters, in which he discusses that Entrepreneurs are those who identify a need—any need—and fill it. This can be applied to any industry - education, science, politics, sport and business.

What better way to educate our children than to teach them skills that allows them believe anything is possible, they can do the work they were born to do, and allowed to fail without the repercussions that society and schools currently puts on them.


Same, secure and safe

Failure in life is guaranteed, we will all fail at something at some time in our life. The system we have now, makes failure something to fear. Children are taught that if they don’t pass a certain exam, get a grade, or achieve government set standards, we will not do well in life.

We are told when we are young, to sit down and shut up, not to make a scene, obey the rules, not to be disruptive, it to be the same as others.

By passing exams, attending everyday, getting a degree and a job, we will be secure in life and able to pay the bills

If you ask a child under 11 what they want to do, the world is their oyster, pop singer, footballer, actor, astronaut, it’s like they have no limits and these dreams change from day to day. If you ask a child over 12, 13, 14 year old what they want to do, they choices start get more conservative, banker, accountant, teacher, builder, now there is NOTHING wrong with these professions we need people in them.

But what happens is the choices become safer and where there is a lower risk of failure and more assurance of a job. The risk taking gene is numbed down and the message schools and society give is that its better to have safe options than risky ones.

When you have a system that encourages people to be the same, be secure and be safe, it is not a society that will produce, happy vibrant, innovative people that will change the world, it produces people void of dreams, lacking enthusiasm and low creativity.

Teaching entrepreneurship in schools encourages curiosity, creativity and ambition.


Standing still

Our society has innovated through technology and advancement of the internet. Schools have more or less stayed the same since the 1800s.  When you think about all the different industries in the world, engineering, science, business, medicine, automotive, space, aviation, they have all changed the way they do things over time. Schooling is the one area that has not changed.

The system of standardised learning that was seen as appropriate throughout the 1800 and 1900, remains the same today in 2016.

To pass exams was to be able to recall facts and figures. Is there really a core need for this now? At a touch of a button we can acquire ANY fact now. Sir Ken Robinson said in his Ted talk ‘How to escape education’s death valley’  said that education is about learning something, just because someone is teaching doesn’t necessarily mean someone is learning. He says the role of the teacher is to facilitate learning. The current culture of education is dominated to focus on testing.

Sir Ken sites that the current system is one of a culture of compliance, not curiosity, one of the core skills of entrepreneurship. To follow routine algorithms rather than the power of imagination, the third aspect he cites is the suppression of creativity, with standardised learning, a core attribute of an entrepreneurial skill set.


The Entrepreneurial Skill Set

Going back to the definition, for me entrepreneurship is not about starting a business; it’s a way of thinking.

The skills that entrepreneurs possess in the conventional sense can be beneficial to all professions. What most people call entrepreneurship I would call enterprise.

So what are some of the skills that come from having an entrepreneurial mindset?

To start with, its what Sir Ken Robinson says, entrepreneurs are continually curious, have great imaginations and are creative.

Other core skills fall into two categories, the ‘people’ skills that make the ultimate difference and the ‘technical’ skills that bring ideas into real life.

The people skills that are core of an entrepreneurial mindset.

  • Networking
  • Partnerships
  • Communication
  • Listening
  • Rapport building
  • Setting up win win wins
  • Decision Making
  • Negotiation
  • Taking Calculated Risks

Now these skills aren’t exclusive to the entrepreneur, any profession would benefit with having these skills.

So what about the technical skills you attain from have an entrepreneur mindset, these would include

  • Raining finance
  • Product development
  • Marketing
  • See a gap and create an opportunity
  • Scaling
  • Sourcing

These are just a few skills that can be taught. When someone decides to be an entrepreneur, in the conventional sense, these skills are learned ‘on the job’.

In fact this really doesn’t give the full picture, the resilience, tenacity, passion that comes out when in this environment is what really brings out these entrepreneur behaviours.

Consider the impact on our young generation, if these core skills were taught at the core of the school curriculum and throughout education at colleges and universities.

As I have already mentioned these skills would benefit whatever profession you enter.

Switch between top-down to bottom-up approach

The current curriculum is a top down process where all subjects are identified and then filtered down to the individuals to get a standardised learning model.

Entrepreneurial-based teaching is a bottom up process where you start from the student first and grow the individual, through the skills identified.

Learning is through curiosity, imagination & creativity, getting them to learn through ask questions and creating a environment where risk is encouraged,…


The Evidence

We know that school is not fit for purpose, but is there evidence that teaching entrepreneurial skills is will address the issues in education? The short answer is yes…

A fantastic initiative that recognises this is The Entrepreneurial School (TES). This is a European initiative that recognises that teachers would like more support in teaching creativity. It is a collaborative approach that brings together 10 schools to participate in a project to access tools and methodology for best practice.

The European Entrepreneurship Education NETwork (EE-HUB) is a focal point for entrepreneurship education in Europe bringing together organizations and individuals from both the public and private sectors with strong records of accomplishment in entrepreneurship education at regional, national and European level. The EE-HUB is designed as the space where these stakeholders can work collectively to increase levels of entrepreneurial activities in schools across Europe.

Entrepreneurship360 is promotes the entrepreneurial mindset through education. Funded by the European commission its builds entrepreneurial competences through training teachers and managers in schools.

A paper commission by Entrepreneurship360 titled Entrepreneurship in Education: What, Why, When How written by Martin Lackeus, 2015 concluded that teaching entrepreneurship can trigger deep learning and instil engagement, joy, motivation, confidence and feelings of relevancy among students, it also has the capacity impact society at large by creating jobs, economic success, innovation in individuals and society at large.

Challenges were also cited, such as lack of support, time and guidance in educational institutions, resources and assessment issues with teachers and some confusion around learning by doing what?


What next?

An entrepreneurial movement in education is what is needed. As briefly cited here there are agencies looking to change the way education is structured, by introducing an entrepreneurial mindset, but it is still not enough.

The initiatives are at the mercy of funding pots given to ‘projects’ This is just good enough, this has to be part of a national initiatives, where ALL educational institutions are part of the movement.

Markus Lackeus, in his paper says “…There is  tremendous  work  remaining  if  we  are  to  succeed  in  making  effective and efficient entrepreneurial education available to a majority of people in the educational systems of the world. And the road to achieving such an ambitious goal is still long…” and this was written in 2015.

We are entering and are in the Entrepreneurial Revolution, if we do not start to make this part of the core of our education system we will be our next generation a massive dis-service.

To reform the education system needs not just educationalist to get involved but, politicians, entrepreneurs, parents and most of all the children themselves.

Baiju Solanki

Baiju Solanki

Founder & CEO EnSpirit Global

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