Teaching entrepreneurship as an academic subject has been a hot topic for years. Well known business leaders such as Richard Branson have called for schools to “come up to date” and devote more time to entrepreneurship and the Government has backed various initiatives and entrepreneurial competitions in schools.
The problem is that despite all this goodwill entrepreneurship still remains on the fringes of education. While some forward thinking schools have created entrepreneurship clubs or have signed up for entrepreneurial events – entrepreneurship is far from being considered a core academic subject. At best it is an after school club activity enjoyed by an enthusiastic minority of star pupils.
While I believe any school promoting some form of entrepreneurship activity should be commended, much more needs to be done if we want to give students the best chance of success after they leave school or university. In short I believe we need to change the curriculum so that all students across the country have the opportunity learn basic entrepreneurial skills, not just the best and the brightest pupils who are lucky enough to be in a particular school. After all it is the disengaged pupil at the back of the classroom who is the most likely to be tomorrow’s next big thing.
But why is entrepreneurship such an important subject?
The simple answer is that the world is changing at a rapid pace. Despite the doom and gloom headlines about youth unemployment and the growing skills gap, we are living in an age of opportunity – all around us billions are being pumped into accelerator and incubator programmes designed to harness the entrepreneurial talent and fast track innovation at breakneck speed. But to fully take advantage of this you need to have a basic set of entrepreneurial skills, which most graduates are lacking.
It’s also worth pointing out that entrepreneurial education isn’t just relevant to those who want to start a business. We do a lot of work with the National Careers Service and employers are crying out for individuals who can think creatively, outside of the box and help them innovate their organisations as intrapreneurs within larger organisations. Entrepreneurs are in demand at every level of the career ladder – the question is how can we meet this demand?
Over the past few years Ultra Education have been working with schools (primary and secondary) to deliver entrepreneurship teaching for pupils – not just in the form of extra curricular clubs, but as fully formed courses that take place over an academic year. Far from being a distraction from core academic subjects (like English, Maths and Science), what we’ve learned is that the best entrepreneurial teaching reinforces these subjects by providing them with a context. For example, in order to understand profit and loss you need a strong understanding of maths. In order to understand distribution you need to understand geography, while English is essential for communication etcetera.
But you don’t have to follow our course (although it’s great), you can create your own. Reach out to local entrepreneurs, develop lesson plans around starting businesses, use YouTube videos to bring concepts alive – just always remember keep it relevant to the real world and make sure it’s inspirational. Entrepreneurship teaching is about opening student’s eyes to a world of possibilities so that, when they eventually leave school or university, they are full of ambition, drive and determination and not fear of the unknown.