Entrepreneurship Education: Who Should We Educate
In addition to educating future entrepreneurs, we need to educate parents, grandparents and extended families, so that they let their children experiment, allowing them learn from their own mistakes and opening up opportunities for their individualities to emerge over time
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Entrepreneurship today has become an aspirational occupation in most countries and it is imperative that we build on this momentum to ensure that it becomes deep-rooted in societies.
Policymakers have come up with plans to incentivise it, educational institutions with programmes to teach it and organisations with infrastructure and resources in the form of incubators and accelerators to promote it. Slogans such as ‘Start-up India’ or ‘Start-up Nation’ (referring to Israel) flash before our eyes today. Entrepreneurship education is firmly anchored in high schools and higher education institutions (HEIs) across academic streams.
Those of us who have been engaged in entrepreneurship research and teaching for several decades are somewhat bemused by these trends. One important question that we ask ourselves is – when we refer to entrepreneurship education, who exactly should we be educating?
Entrepreneurship needs entrepreneurs of course, but even more importantly, it draws nourishment from the context in which it is embedded. One reason for so much excitement around entrepreneurship in countries such as India is that the socio-political and economic contexts have become much more hospitable of entrepreneurship. However, we still have a long way to go.
Who should we educate?
In addition to educating future entrepreneurs, we need to educate parents (and grandparents and extended families) so that they let their children experiment, allowing them learn from their own mistakes and opening up opportunities for their individualities to emerge over time. We need to educate teachers in kindergarten, primary, secondary and high schools to not impose conformity on their students and to cut some slack to deviating behaviors. We need to educate professors in HEIs to emphasise creativity and innovation and to gradually phase out rote learning. We need to educate bosses in organisations to create a safe and nurturing environment where low-cost experimentation is encouraged and honest mistakes are not penalised. We need to educate organisations to not view job candidates with entrepreneurial backgrounds with suspicion and to give entrepreneurs with venture failures a chance to rebuild their finances through paid employment.
We need to educate enterprises, public and private, to give innovative small and medium enterprises opportunities to become their vendors and to pay them on time. We need to educate banks and other financial institutions that the ventures that are in most need of funding are the ones least likely to have collateral and that they need to come with alternative mechanisms to support these ventures while ensuring the quality of their loan portfolios. We need to educate policymakers across ministries to support entrepreneurship though practical policies that are easy to comply with. For example, we need to simplify and reduce the frequency of reporting, such as for the Goods and Services Tax GST) and change our bankruptcy codes to allow entrepreneurs with venture failures to get back on their feet quickly, to set up new ventures. A failed venture should not mean a failed entrepreneur!
A broad-based education program, targeting many societal roles, is needed for entrepreneurship to truly take hold and thrive in society. Just as it takes a village to nourish a child, it takes an entire ecosystem to nurture entrepreneurs. Focussing on only the future entrepreneurs is tantamount to expecting flowers to blossom while ignoring the soil on which the plant needs to grow.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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