Entrepreneurship as a resource to improve education

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Education today is not flexible, and it struggles to adapt to the students and work market needs, the solution may come from this business philosophy.

Photo: Bigstock.

The idea of integrating entrepreneurship concepts in education has taken a lot of traction in the last decades. This viewpoint is linked to economic development, personal growth, and leadership; all of them are abilities highly sought by employers nowadays.

In terms of education and personal growth, entrepreneurship is a valuable competency that helps develop creativity and self-trust. Its purpose is to empower innovation and to create the conditions for leadership and success.

It involves the foundation and operation of companies that create solutions for customers and jobs for professionals. It nurtures a positive attitude towards growth and enrichment, either personal or economic, as well as the skills necessary to take risks, adapt, and turn ideas into actions.

Still, these basic entrepreneurship concepts have struggled to find their way into the educational system. There are various reasons for this: the lack of time and resources to develop a program that includes entrepreneurship aspects balanced with an educational basis; limitations on the educational system structure, the difficulty to evaluate entrepreneurship as an educational resource, lack of clarity while defining the concept, and teachers’ fear to over-commercialized education.

Learning should be for life and not for any exam or test — that’s the whole point of education: to enlighten the young minds to work towards becoming better human beings and to bring about positive changes in the world.

What we lose when we leave entrepreneurship out

The aspect that educational systems value the most is academic knowledge, and it is hung on traditional methods to evaluate it. This approach generates a lot of pressure on students, who go to schools mainly to get grades, not always to learn. Leaving students with very little time, and resources, to train in another type of skills necessary to be competitive in the workforce, as well as the personal development they need to build the emotional knowledge required to deal with the pressure high demanding academic and work environments.

To give the students more diverse learning, we have to open up the educational system to principles from other disciplines. “Learning should be for life and not for any exam or test — that’s the whole point of education: to enlighten the young minds to work towards becoming better human beings and to bring about positive changes in the world,” says Peter Vesterbacka, global entrepreneur and marketing expert who co-found Brand Braker (and one of the minds behind Angry Birds).

Vesterbacka explains the importance of a change in the educational system to focus on personal and professional aspects as much as academic knowledge.

What can educators learn from entrepreneurship?

The educational system does not have the mechanisms to do quick, substantial changes, like integrate entrepreneurship principles. It’s going to be years before we see the effects of this transition in educational institutions.

Nonetheless, teachers, curriculum planners, and all academic staff can start by using some of these practices to improve the students learning experience.

1. Encourage creativity. Teachers can use strategies like challenged-based learning to present students with problems that exercise their problem-solving skills and creative thinking.

2. Foster personal growth. Psychologists, teachers, and advisors can join forces to create programs to develop emotional intelligence as well as other self-knowledge and mental well-being instances. This will not only boost their mental health, but it will also have a positive influence on their academic performance.

3. Promote leadership. Some strategies can be used to introduce and practice the idea of leadership in the classroom. Gamification, game-based learning, challenge-based or problem-based learning can serve to this purpose. Enabling teamwork and helping students understand the value of cooperation, dialogue, negotiation, and leadership.

4. Train mental flexibility and adaptation to change. One of the most critical weak points in the way we teach today is that as educators, we are standing still. Schools provide students with information, data, and academic skills, but they don’t get the tools and strategies to make the best use of the resources they are given. They are not taught to perceive when their knowledge or worldview needs to adapt to find the solution to a problem or to keep growing as a person or professional.

To enrich courses with activities that promote empathy, flexibility, and adaptation to change, would be a great way to give students some of the power skills they need to get the most out of their education.

For this gradual transition to be effective, teachers, advisors, psychologist, and other staff members of educational institutions need to understand that entrepreneurship is not a pedagogical technique. It’s business philosophy; nonetheless, in a work market entirely dominated by business and commercial dynamics, it is imperative that learn from the basic principles of entrepreneurship and integrate those learnings into the way we teach so we can provide students with the skills to be successful professionals and well-balanced people.