Roger Cowdrey - International Business Consultant. Writer & Motivational Speaker
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Entrepreneurship - An uncomfortable fit for education

Recently, as part of some other work I was doing I started investigating where entrepreneurship sits in the present education system. When I was a teacher in the education system some 40 years ago entrepreneurship wasn't even a word in the regular spelling tests.

Over the course of the last forty years I had assumed that some progress had been made and hence my investigations. I was not entirely surprised by the results I discovered having had regular contact with education establishments since leaving the  mathematics teaching part of my life.

From my time as a teacher I was also aware that there were a number of attitudes that pervaded the profession back then. Firstly, teachers had little or no practical experience of the business world, or of any of the roles that they were supposed to be preparing their charges for.

Secondly, teachers were confident that they knew best what was needed from education without any reference to the needs of subsequent employers. Thirdly, teachers were quite willing to sacrifice the young people in their charge to the altar of any new and trendy idea and, most importantly, they were institutionally resistant to change unless instigated by them.

Little wonder, therefore, that when I looked at where entrepreneurship sits in present day education I found a total lack of any consistency. Indeed, it almost seemed to have taken on a characteristic of 'which department can we dump it on'!

Favourite was obviously business studies, but in different countries it resides in some weird places. My old subject of mathematics gets it, but then so does science, health, art, music and ICT. In Luxembourg the French department ended up with it! In the USA it even gets into the religious studies arena.

What was particularly interesting, given that 99% of all businesses in the EU are SMEs, that many countries not only put entrepreneurship in strange places, but that they put it in optional subjects.

Not only does this show an arrogant disregard for the careers that their charges are likely to follow upon completion of their formal education, it also demonstrates the fact that entrepreneurship is not a subject like geography or history, but is a set of attitudes that permeates across subject boundaries.

What education really needs is an overhaul of the schooling system that integrates entrepreneurial values and attitudes into all strands of teaching. In other words, education needs to move away from subject centred education to a generic skills based education system that crosses all subject boundaries.

Forty years on from my first experiences, teaching is still tinkering around the edges. What is needed is a revolution away from the mass education model formed at the time of the industrial revolution to one that suits the 21st Century. But that revolution cannot and will not happen if it is led by the teaching profession. It has to be a peaceful revolution where teachers, parents, government and business all take part on an equal footing.

Next week I will look at the sorts of things that the revolution could achieve if it worked together.

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