A Case of Teaching Entrepreneurship To Our Children

A Case of Teaching Entrepreneurship to Our Children

As a teacher and a parent, I am constantly reminded of the single most important responsibility of a school.

That is preparing children to lead a fruitful life. I am deliberately not using the adjective ‘successful,' for success is mostly subjective and often elusive. Since a career occupies a significant share of one’s life, thinking of a livelihood is an integral part of life, more so in present parlance when people lead multiple careers, much into their later years. This essay builds a case on why entrepreneurial education is significant for India, and how inducing kids early on in their lives may not be a bad idea altogether.  

Entrepreneurship, or self-employment, is not just the need for India, but also the best utilization of one’s true capabilities. With the triple onslaught of automation, pervasive technology adoption, and fragmentation of tasks, a reasonable number of activities which were hitherto carried out by humans have gotten replaced by machines. Unlike humans, machines don’t develop fatigue, and related mistakes, and are ever increasingly cheap. We should go no further than the humble teller counters at the erstwhile banks, which have been conveniently replaced by the nearest ATM machines, and no one seems to be overly bothered while dealing which machines on matters of real cash. The plight of the railway ticket collectors, booking agents, et al. are no different, and we are just at the beginning of the tsunami of automation. Where does it leave our jobs?  Jobs, as we know them today, will be scarce to find, and we must prepare our kids to be the job creators and not just job seekers.

Even before we delve into the nuances of ‘teaching’ entrepreneurship, we must get a hang on the important question of ‘can entrepreneurship be taught?’. The research on entrepreneurship suggests that there are several skills and behavioral patterns that are common across successful entrepreneurship, notwithstanding the role of circumstances. Which means that, similar to theater, medicine, architect, or any other professional education, even entrepreneurship (read, entrepreneurial skills), can be taught. However, one must remember that the way there are great artists, doctors, and architects, there would always remain the most outstanding entrepreneurs, who inspire us.

Over the last few years, I have been witnessing a growing awareness of entrepreneurship in India’s educational systems. Across engineering and management colleges, at least the more advanced ones, we see entrepreneurship cells. These outfits are mostly oriented to generate awareness on entrepreneurship by inviting expert speakers, conducting workshops, and sharing cases. One of the more successful ones in Bangalore is the one at IIM Bangalore, the NSRCEL. Started in 2002 the center for entrepreneurship learning has emerged as a hub for entrepreneurial education, dialogues and a meeting place for celebrated entrepreneurs and prospecting ones. Some of the successful startups incubated at the center include Justbooks, Amagi, Mango Technologies, and Milaap, amongst others.  

Yet another emerging entrepreneurship cell in the city of Bangalore is that at the RV College of Engineering. Having spoken at one of the E-Cell sessions a few years back, I could see the gusto and commitment shown by the students in their early 20s towards building something on their own. This was a breather from the times when students would rather queue up for placements than to even think of venturing on their own. There are similar such outfits in almost all IITs and NITs across India, albeit to varying degrees of commitment and success.

Here, I present a case of the need to induce students from an early age to the ideas of entrepreneurship. For that, one needs to appreciate that entrepreneurship is not a profession but is a way of thinking. In my view, some of the most essential elements of an entrepreneurial mindset are the aspects of curiosity, perseverance, expression, and experimentation. Each of these behaviors and skills can be inculcated very early on in a child’s education and upbringing. It doesn’t matter if the student belongs to a business family or hails from a service class, such skills are always handy.

Right along with the courses in social sciences and other behavioral skills, specific programs could be designed to inculcate some of these traits. As for the appropriate age to get started, anytime around eight to ten years of age is a good starting point. Not only that such inculcation would help students shape their ideas or science projects in a holistic manner, but also make better career decisions. Also, there are role models increasingly available around us that can motivate and nudge our students and teachers alike to build such competencies and attitudes.

Hope to see a more enterprising society. 

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About the Author
Author: Dr. Pavan SoniWebsite: http://www.pavansoni.com
Dr. Pavan Soni is an innovation evangelist by profession and teacher by passion. More on his work is available at www.pavansoni.com

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