Modern systems of education have been passionate topics of debate and we still continue to discuss these endlessly. Fundamentally, the basic structure and objectives remain largely the same – we want to teach our children the basics of arts, science and mathematics; provide them basic understanding of history and geography, and impart them lessons in morals and virtues which will help them define what they are when they grow up. All these are imparted in the hope that each child will develop mental lattices of their own and define a life of purpose for themselves, thereby becoming worthy citizens. What had changed, however, is the growing plethora of multimedia options, which are ‘teachers’ by themselves, and the surfeit of information.
The systems of apprenticeship and internship are being increasingly deployed by schools to promote experiential learning, says Rajesh Nair
There is also an increasing focus on ‘practice’ rather than ‘theory’ which emphasise students having experiential learning than undergoing traditional pedagogy. The systems of apprenticeship and internship are being increasingly deployed by schools. An ‘on the ground’ experience definitely helps build understanding and helps her implement some of the principles and aspects she learned during her school education. A structured methodical way to build this experience has immense value to the education process.
A great stream of experiential knowledge can be built up through ‘entrepreneurship education’. In fact, entrepreneurship education runs across various subjects and can cement important principles in children early in their lives. Some interesting principles are
- Owning an idea: While we all have ideas, most ideas are shallow thoughts and are lost in the deluge of more ideas. In younger days, it also symbolises the wandering mind of children which imbibe ideas but fail to go deeper into any one of them. By starting small makeshift ventures, children learn to take ownership and accountability of what they are doing.
- Appreciating numbers: Adam Smith and more recently eminent business writer Michael Lewis have emphasised the importance of using numbers and mathematics to teach basic concepts of finance as part of the mathematics syllabus. Dealing with money and its movement needs to be intuitive like our ability to mentally play with numbers, have impressions of spatial sizes, areas and more importantly, to understand the concept of ‘good investments’. The more intuitive it becomes, the more connected it gets to other disciplines. After all, finance basically does not have more concepts than high school mathematics, and all financial modelling are `a logical extension’ of that.
- The importance of failures: Our examinations are designed not to accept failures and they fail to accommodate the core aspect that ‘failure is an important integral part of learning!‘ The mindset to view failures as experience and muster strength to learn from these experiences requires maturity even older people do not have and most never acquire. By encouraging small entrepreneurship projects, we can provide that learning curve to children. So are we setting them up for failure? Of course, not! We are enabling a proficiency which will help them adjust to outcomes and think of what they can control and what is beyond their remit.
- Attendance and education: Attending classes regularly, going through reading material mechanically, and memorising concepts, facts, names etc. do not constitute learning and education. Education is about developing mental faculty to think and observe, and assimilate skills that are necessary for ‘mindful learning’. Mark Twain once famously said, ‘’I did not let my schooling interfere with my education!’’ Most learning happens outside the cemented walls of schools and we are only preparing mental frameworks for our children in schools.
- Sense of achievement: Teachers of many schools kept reminding us that ‘‘Nothing breeds and cements confidence like success!’’ A successful venture builds character, confidence and a sense of independence which defies attitudes in children early. It can come even with small tasks and outputs like saving pocket money, budgeting family expenses and understanding the divide between what is a desire and what is a need.
- The need for collaborations and partnerships: There is no walk of life in which everything can be accomplished by one individual. She needs partners, collaborators and people to share the ‘burden’ or the ordeals of the task. The success of these associations comes from a deep acknowledgement of ‘sharing’ and appreciation of someone’s weaknesses and strengths. Children who are able to genuinely take pride and pleasure in the success of others grow up to become very mature minds.
- A calling not a career: Simon Sinek, in his much-watched TED talk, reminds us that there are three frames of our action – the What, the How and the Why. Typically, we are guided in that sequence as well. We spend time on ‘what’ we are to do and the mechanics of ‘how’. But what we neglect is the Why factor! What is the reason for our existence? And it is precisely the sole reason why we are in business - our larger purpose and our objective to spend most of our lives! It is like a calling rather than employment.
It sounds exhilarating and at times romantic to hear that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and another handful of successful businessmen were school dropouts! At times the young entrepreneur wears it like a medal and uses it like a shield for falling grades. The reality is that we need structured environments to learn, reflect and mature. It is very difficult to learn life and business on your own.
Entrepreneurship is a life lesson! It is not a tag or designation; it is not just about making money or profiteering; it is not just setting up companies and creating wealth! It is a way of life, a mindset which is composed of several outstanding competencies and skills. It is also like taking swimming lessons – there is a limit to which what one can gather through classrooms and reading. One has to take a dip, feel the water, gradually find coordination in the movement of body and limbs, and develop swimming kills through practice, practice and more practice. It is also perhaps learnt best in your younger days. Perhaps, today is the right time to experiment and impart important lessons for our children through entrepreneurship!
(The author is Partner, Emerge Ventures Pte, Singapore)