Teaching children Entrepreneurship

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The country has been buzzing with the excitement over the Make in India initiative, the opportunities, the investment, and the growth it will foster to the Indian economy in particular and the nation in general. While most of this excitement is true, something equally true and important is going unnoticed.

The initiative is  about easy loans, tax exemptions, good infrastructure, easy access to resources, hassle free and speedy procedures, and tax exemptions. However, it is not taking into consideration one major factor- Entrepreneurs!

That the plinth of the movement is the assumption that we have them in abundance within our country. I fear that ultimately this policy too shall be harnessed by the foreign multinationals more fruitfully than our own novel enterprises.

Its not like there is a complete dearth of entrepreneurs. We have many setting their foot forward in this sector but the general trend shows that these pioneers mostly come from some of the most prestigious higher education institutes such as the IITs and the IIMs.

However, only a small percentage of our youth gets enrolled in these highly selective institutions for a variety of reasons. Most others who do not get access to a similar environment that brings in fresh perspective and possibilities, prefer joining high paying jobs and avert the risks involved in entrepreneurship. For them there exists a set pattern- go to school – go to college – find a well paying job. 

So now arises the crucial question-We have a policy in place to support entrepreneurs. But do we have one to nurture entrepreneurs?

The current education system in our country does not sharpen the innovative skills of our children, undue importance is given to rote learning, it is almost always marks over everything to get admissions or to get promoted. Little or no focus exists on the critical thinking and evaluative abilities of the students. Risk taking goes completely amiss from the system that Indian students learn in. Students are taught how to make ‘safe’ choices, to take roads that others have traveled and to never make mistakes, to always pass, to not ask questions but to accept.

If we look at the question papers that our children solve during their term examinations in school, we will find more descriptive and factual type questions rather than analyse, comment or contrast type questions. We find our students mugging up chemical reactions, mathematical formulas or historical chronology, and what not. What we don’t see them doing is build and express opinions, create more working models than paper projects, learn life skills, undertake interesting ventures as part of holiday homework, etc.

Entrepreneurial Education, although new, is not an alien concept altogether.Countries across the globe are already incorporating it in not only their secondary but also primary education. The Entrepreneurial School (TES) is one of the largest entrepreneurship education initiatives in Europe. Co-funded by the European Commission through the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP), it aims at supporting teachers‘ professional development in applying the entrepreneurial learning in several subjects and learning environments (primary, secondary, upper secondary and vocational schools).

In Ontario high school students can choose to learn about entrepreneurship as part of “specialist high skills major” business studies courses.In Alberta, senior high school students can learn about entrepreneurship through an online gaming software, called Entrepreneurship-Lemonade, that lets students run a virtual lemonade stand business.

Many schools in Canada partner with youth organizations and extracurricular clubs to make their students business savvy. Such organizations expose kids to entrepreneurship through curriculum-linked programs. For instance the Junior Achievement’s A Business of Our Own, where elementary students act as presidents and CEOs of their own retail business; or The Learning Partnership’s Entrepreneurial Adventure, which connects students with a business mentor who helps them start and run their own enterprise, with profits from sales going to a charity chosen by the students.

With 30% of our population below the age of 14 and about 12 million of our young adults joining the workforce every year, the importance of entrepreneurial education can’t be stressed enough. Entrepreneurship is a mindset that all our children must develop, regardless of what professions they choose later on. It teaches students values like perseverance and determination. They become risk-takers, problem solvers, good team players, effective communicators, and self-reliant.

Most of us think of the above qualities as natural gifts. The truth however, is that these skills can be learnt and honed if done systematically. This wouldn’t happen by simply incorporating the subject ‘entrepreneurship’ to the time table. It requires vision, suitable training and recruitment of staff, as well as curriculum overhauling.

We can get role models to schools to give students a realistic view of entrepreneurship. We can organize ‘business fairs’ just like we organize science fairs, allocate marks to entrepreneurial projects in school. For instance, at the Middle River Consolidated School on Cape Breton Island, N.S., students aged 5-12 plan to sell the vegetables they had grown in their gardens by setting up a market on school grounds.The school had given them lessons on such topics as how to start and run a business, manage money, and work as a team. However, the final idea of putting into practice what they had learnt, came from the students themselves.

Given the recent trends in economies worldwide and the uncertainty of the job market, it is of utmost importance that we focus on nurturing entrepreneurs right from their school days.  All of this makes a huge impact on the personality development and aptitude of our students, and hence on the career choices they make later on.

The climate is ripe. The intention is cloaked under recent initiatives. The need therefore is to create awareness about the need to create entrepreneurs before we ‘Make In India’. Once we pursue the former, the latter shall follow. 

-Aastha Singh

Aastha Singh is a Teach for India fellow in Mumbai.  She is a social media enthusiast, holds interest in cinema, music, politics, philosophical and sociological debates and discussions. She did her B.Tech In Information Technology and Diploma in Network Security from from Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Pune. You can follow her personal blog here. Her work as a Teach for India fellow can be followed here. You can follow her on Twitter – @aasthasingh1202 . 

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