Bringing entrepreneurship into the classroom

29 Apr 2009 | News
Some entrepreneurs are born not made. But for the rest, entrepreneurship needs to become a part of formal education, says the World Economic Forum.

Some entrepreneurs are born not made. But with such people in short supply, entrepreneurship needs to become a part of formal education, says the World Economic Forum.

Some entrepreneurs are born not made. But with such people in short supply, entrepreneurship needs to become a part of formal education, says a new report from the World Economic Forum, which argues that entrepreneurial education can be an agent of both economic and social change.

“Not everyone needs to become an entrepreneur to benefit from entrepreneurial education, but all members of society need to be more entrepreneurial,” says the report, “Educating the Next Wave of Entrepreneurs.

There is tremendous movement that highlights and seeks to promote entrepreneurialism around the world, as is shown by numerous recent reports that attempt to uncover and replicate its alchemy. But most are small-scale efforts directed at local, regional or national levels. Now, says the report, the need is to consider entrepreneurialism from a global point of view, “To create the types of environment that are conducive to encouraging entrepreneurial ways of thinking and behaving”.

A rightful place in education

The aim is to generate the acceptance that entrepreneurialism has a rightful place in formal education. At present the most forward-thinking higher education institutes may offer it as an option for post- or possibly under-graduate study. In the view of the World Economic Forum it should be a mainstream subject. “It is time to more adequately develop entrepreneurial skills, attitudes and behaviours in our school systems,” says the report.

Despite the number of reports on the subject, the World Economic Forum contends this is the first time entrepreneurial education has been considered in such a systematic manner – as part of a lifelong learning process, from early schooling to higher education and beyond.

The report provides specific recommendations for the academic, public, private and non-profit sectors on how they should collaborate to support the development of entrepreneurship ecosystems, in which education is the critical ingredient. It highlights the importance of entrepreneurship education for developing the skills, attitudes and behaviours necessary to create jobs, generate economic growth, advance human welfare and stimulate innovation.

“In today’s critical economic times, we hope that the release of this report will catalyse further action to create the entrepreneurial ecosystems necessary to drive the next wave of innovation and growth,” said Alex Wong, Senior Director and Head of the Global Education Initiative at the World Economic Forum.

The report sketches the landscape of entrepreneurship education practices across the globe, covering youth - with a focus on disadvantaged youth and higher education - with a focus on high growth entrepreneurs, social inclusion, and what entrepreneurialism can achieve in marginalised communities.

The report concludes with a call to action that includes the following recommendations:

Transform the Educational System

Educational institutions at all levels, from primary, secondary, and higher through to vocational need to adopt 21st century methods and tools, including cross-disciplinary approaches and interactive teaching methods, to encourage creativity, innovation, critical thinking, the ability to recognise an opportunity and social awareness.

This requires a fundamental rethinking of the education process. Academia should embed entrepreneurship into the curriculum and into the institutional paradigm.

Goals, policies, outcomes, structures and rewards should encourage the necessary educational approaches. Policy-makers and governments should develop ambitious plans for entrepreneurship education at the national and regional levels.

The private sector should engage with government and academia to help transform the educational system.

Build the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Entrepreneurship thrives in ecosystems in which certain crucial ingredients are in place. Academic institutions are central to providing entrepreneurship education. At the same time, those outside education are playing an increasingly critical role in formal and informal educational programmes. They are also working with groups of people that have been underserved and/or socially excluded.

Policy-makers need to provide the appropriate regulatory framework for start-ups, growth firms, employment contracts and intellectual property. Academic institutions should strengthen links with the private sector to increase the exposure of students to practical and real-life examples of entrepreneurship and encourage an entrepreneurial environment.

The private and non-profit sectors should encourage and support programmes targeting under-served groups such as women, minorities, and disadvantaged or disabled people.

Measure Outcomes and Impact

Greater clarity is needed on the goals and impact of entrepreneurship education, based on a broadly defined set of outcomes, not just narrow measures such as the number of start-ups created. To measure effectively, better data is needed.

To date, there is still not enough empirical and long-term research on entrepreneurship education and its impact. Academic institutions need to set high standards for entrepreneurship curricula and research and develop a clear framework of the desired outcomes, and measures to track them.

Policy-makers should encourage and support studies and data collection on entrepreneurship education. The private sector, foundations and others can raise awareness of the importance of entrepreneurship by sharing examples and data about effective entrepreneurship education practices.

Leverage Technology as an Enabler

The parallel development of ICT and media has changed the landscape, providing an opportunity to create greater access and scalability for entrepreneurship education.

The potential of ICT to assist both the development of new enterprises and entrepreneurship education needs to be further leveraged, particularly in developing countries in where scaling is critical.

Policy-makers and academia need to support the development of technology as both a tool, and delivery method, for education by making the infrastructure, hardware and software available at. The private sector can provide expertise and partner with educators and institutions to develop online tools and relevant educational material.

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