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Entrepreneurs Straight Outta School

Entrepreneurs Straight Outta School
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While technology and management colleges have become the hotbeds of start-ups in India, the school education is in need to adapt to the changing business environment to impart necessary entrepreneurial skills.

Schools motivating students to develop business ideas is nothing new, take for example, school fetes - where students put up their own stalls to sell food, handicrafts and fancy articles – a sort of unofficial business transaction. But, formally incorporating a subject into curriculum that prepares them towards entrepreneurship is definitely a new trend. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has included in its curriculum a subject called ‘Entrepreneurship’ that can be opted by students in Class XI and XII along with any three other electives and a language subject.

The Office of the Public Relations Officer at CBSE informs, “As many as 55 schools in Delhi and 648 schools overall offered ‘Entrepreneurship’ in 2016-17. In the current academic year, 13,660 students of class XII have opted for the subject.” The course comprehensively prepares students towards all processes they will have to go through while starting up their own ventures. Some of the components of the subject are - business planning, barriers to entrepreneurship, mobilizing resources, market assessment, funds, taxation, etc.

Any entrepreneur can vouch how integral are these concepts while establishing their own business. Throwing light on the impact of CBSE course on entrepreneurship, Sarbari Ghosh, PGT, Entrepreneurship and Economics at St. Joseph’s school, Jabalpur, tells, “Students are enthusiastically taking it up. For their projects, students pick up relevant issues from around their neighbourhood and try to find solution to those problems. Also, many students have gone on to set up their own small to medium enterprises.” Ghosh helped introduce ‘Entrepreneurship’ in her school after she heard about the course and subsequently got a book ordered from Delhi. 

While CBSE school students may take up the subject in higher secondary level, there are other schools that wish to immerse students into this experience a little early. Sumit M Dargan, Principal, Middle School, Pathways World School, Aravali, tells, “Our curriculum is designed in such a way that all students compulsorily have to submit a personal project in class X and an extended essay in class XII. These projects are research based and focused on developing ideas that they are passionate about. The school provides infrastructure and support to build these ideas and mentors them, but does not lead them because that could be called collaboration and failing at this stage is also learning to do better.”

The school has been the platform for many students who started their own companies like Tyrelessly.com by Anubhav Wadhwa which recycles old and rejected vehicle tyres. He adds, “Another student Sankalp Varshney has designed an app for finding a car parking space in basements where the GPS network may not work well.” It can be thus seen that a nominal transformation in the ideology can lead to a lot of innovation. While privately funded schools may facilitate a conducive environment without government support, public schools in India need some regulatory infrastructure to put ideas into practice. To show that even state governments are warming up to the idea of entrepreneurship related course in school, Ram Bilas Sharma, HRD Minister, Haryana, affirms, “School education is the base. Entrepreneurship should germinate from school education. We have even started looking at primary school curriculum.”

Entrepreneurship as a subject in school curriculum has been gaining momentum globally. For example, in US, according to a report entitled ‘The States of Entrepreneurship Education in America’, 42 states now have K-12 standards, guidelines or proficiencies in entrepreneurial education, up from 19 in 2009. Additionally, the number of states requiring entrepreneurship education courses offered in high school has risen from five to 18 over the same period. Similarly, in Europe, at least 11 countries/regions have a specific national strategy on entrepreneurship education in school, while there are other 18 countries with a broader strategy related to entrepreneurship education.

This shows that the need of such experimental courses is gradually being felt all over the globe which can give a push to creativity and innovation. An experimental model of school education- Steve JobsSchool started by Maurice de Honde in Netherlands and South Africa gives an insight into creative methods of coaching to hone the entrepreneurial skills. Liezel Botes, CEO, SteveJobsSchools Africa, comments on this new approach, “The Steve Jobs concept will be bringing world education model to South African classrooms and develop learners who are self-sufficient and able to think outside the box.

Our aim is to produce creative thinkers and problem solvers who are equipped with real-life 21st Century skills.’ While it is understood that entrepreneurship related courses need to find its place in school curriculum, the management still needs to understand that what an entrepreneur does is look at the existing issues with an aim to solve the problems innovatively and if needed, use technology as an enabler. Thus at the school level, basic technical knowledge becomes the most important skill apart from the orientation of the mind to look at the problems differently.

On asked how might school education lead to a transformative entrepreneurial development in India, Mohandas Pai, Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services, says, “By imparting problem solving skills to students, because that’s what an entrepreneur does, solve problems, innovatively. We need to allow the child to wander and discover.”

(This article was first published in the April issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)