Teaching entrepreneurship in schools usually extends to bake sales and market days. While these are great ways to teach children about product development, budgeting, finance, and profit and loss, they don’t encourage true entrepreneurial thinking. We need to focus on developing skills that will help learners solve real-world problems and prepare them for the future of work.
By Pieter Bensch, executive vice-president: Africa & Middle East at Sage
South Africa desperately needs entrepreneurs. The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa 2016-2017 Report found that:
- South Africa ranked 55 out of 62 economies for the percentage of adults with the skills needed to start a business;
- Entrepreneurial intention in South Africa dropped to 10% from 15% in 2013, and almost halved compared to 2010; and
- South Africa has one of the lowest established business rates, ranking 61 out of 65 economies – nearly five times lower than the average across Africa.
Creating young innovators
Speaking at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) recently, President Cyril Ramaphosa said young people should be encouraged to innovate and solve problems. More importantly, he said they must leave school with the skills to turn their ideas into businesses and an appreciation that entrepreneurship is a viable career option.
Here are some ways schools around the world are equipping learners with critical entrepreneurial skills:
- In South Africa, Future Proof teaches children the skills needed to start and run a business, with the aim of empowering them to break out of the poverty and unemployment cycle. Skills are taught through bootcamps, class and online lessons, immersion experiences, and podcasts – all facilitated by experienced coaches and entrepreneurs.
- In Kenya, Hand in Hand Eastern Africa sets up entrepreneurship clubs in primary and secondary schools to teach communication, entrepreneurship, and self-esteem. The clubs also teach technical skills, like baking and soap- and yoghurt-making. Often, learners pass on these skills to their parents, who use them to supplement their family income.
- In Nigeria, the government has developed a Senior Secondary School Education Curriculum to teach functional trade and entrepreneurship skills needed for poverty eradication, job creation, and wealth generation. The curriculum aims to promote interest in entrepreneurship among the youth to create jobs and grow the economy.
- In Dubai, the Cambridge International School’s Young Enterprise Challenge provides an interactive way for students to develop key employability skills by making as much profit as possible from an original investment of Dh20 (about R77). The challenge teaches financial literacy and equips students with the knowledge, skills, and confidence for future work.
Also, in Dubai, the Gems FirstPoint School teaches enterprise skills to foundation-year learners (Grades 1 to 5), including teamwork, communication, critical thinking, risk-taking, and resilience. Older students are taught skills in design technology, computing, and business faculty.
- In Rhode Island, the Big Picture Learning model pairs students with mentors who work in fields that the students hope to one day enter.
- In California, the AltSchool equips learners with technology skills and encourages flexible thinking. Students are taught practical skills – like 3D modelling and how to build circuit boards – that will prepare them for careers in technology.
- The Sra Pou Vocational School in Cambodia was built entirely by the community, who worked alongside architects and learned valuable construction skills to apply in their own businesses.
- In New York, the Blue School encourages children to think differently about recycling and other-real world problems by building 3D models of the city. Children are also taught how to fix home appliances.
- In the UK, the Dunluce School’s Digital Youth Programme encourages digital entrepreneurs and informs students about careers and opportunities within the digital sector.
By teaching skills that learners would normally learn from a traditional curriculum, we better prepare them for the future of work and opportunities that have yet to emerge. Investing, business strategy, problem-solving, brainstorming, learning from failure (as opposed to reinforcing the belief that failure is bad), risk-taking, goal-setting, collaboration, and personal branding are crucial skills that learners will need to succeed in a workplace that will be dominated by artificial intelligence and robotics.
We’re heading into a new academic year and a fresh opportunity to replicate some of these global models and ideas locally, so we can produce more entrepreneurial-minded students, who can create jobs and grow the economy.