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How Entrepreneurial Education Can Shape A Generation Creating a generation of entrepreneurial experts must start at early education and remain an option throughout one's educational journey.

By Kawthar Bin Sulayem

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


The way we do business continues to rapidly change over the course of time. Technology is revolutionizing how we work, how we communicate, and how we obtain knowledge. International barriers are being torn down and economies are becoming increasingly globalized. The gig economy is rising at a newly increased pace, while traditional means of work are shifting.

One thing seems to remain the same, the education system.
COVID-19 has certainly helped to expedite the exponential change in our professional and personal lives and remote learning has impacted the delivery of educational classes. However, while the world evolves and adapts to new practices, the education's system of teaching appears to remain the same.

In many cases, schools, colleges and universities around the world have adopted a stagnant approach in the way we teach our future generations. We appear to be stuck in an antiquated system where teaching by the case method is not utilized. On the contrary, students are often placed in a learning environment where memorization and "knowing how' is rewarded more than "showing how'. The introduction of more hands-on, practical tasks within education at a grassroots level will be a catalyst for the change we need to see.

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From a personal standpoint, I can confidently state that very little of what I learnt at school, or even university, translated over to my entrepreneurial career. For there to be a seismic change in our attitudes towards entrepreneurship, we need the educational system and everyone within it to inform students that saying, "I want to be an entrepreneur" is as valid as saying, "I want to be a doctor" or "lawyer" and so on.

Quite recently I was able to experience the current state of affairs in education and remote learning via one of my niece's high-school classes. Although teachers are embracing technology and are adapting to a sudden change, it was apparent that the lesson structure was linear and extremely rigid. This highlighted the need for educational reform when it comes to excelling entrepreneurship education that will bring up a generation to be prepared to handle future challenges.

In educational institutes, there are limited lessons on practical matters, such as personal finance, mortgages, loans or investments, but rather more focus is put towards the details of Keynesian economics principles. Further, there is usually limited opportunity for students to gain practical or theoretical insight into the business-world, and the word "entrepreneur" is often associated with the likes of Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, which in turn may disenfranchise young people due to the "unattainable heights" of entrepreneurship.

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In reality, a career as an entrepreneur is very much achievable and that is what we must teach and support from the grassroots level on up. Schools are efficient at equipping students with skills to use in exams, but they are frequently left without real-world skills that will advantageous once they leave the classroom.

How can we expect these students to migrate from the classroom to the marketplace when the education they are receiving is fit for class and not for the market?

The discouragement of contemporary thought when applied to business and enterprise is in direct conflict with innovation, and thus, entrepreneurship. Innovative thinking is what drives entrepreneurship which is then a direct catalyst towards expanding economies, high-value job creation and a way to a better community through socio-economic development. There is an increasing need for innovation in business education to address and develop the characteristics and skills of those considering an entrepreneurial career.

But what is the solution?

Entrepreneurial education at a grassroot level will be the key driver in empowering our youth. We should consider familiarizing students with the concept of understanding ideation, showcasing startup culture, introducing finances for SMEs, at very least at a basic level. We should ingrain the idea of understanding business models and strategies through critical thinking. We should be teaching the art of negotiation and promoting social skills so students can communicate effectively from an early age. We should be teaching the youth how to evaluate profit and loss, how to calculate a return on investment, understanding gross and net profit, and differentiating between assets, equity and liabilities.

Once you formulate this base knowledge, you set a trajectory of positive growth in a student's understanding. The same concept is applied to children who learn and begin to read at a young age.

If a child is read to by their parents and begins to read themselves, they understand up to a million more words than a child who has not read at the same rate by the time they start school. From that point on, it's almost impossible for the child who has not read to make up that ground. By not offering children the support they need in business education, they fall behind before even reaching the start-line. This applies to parents too- it should be commonplace for parents to help their children understand what they do and how they do it. I think back to my childhood, starting with my grandfather taking me to the fish market and how he confidently secured deals, understood which fish were under-priced and which were being offered at an inflated rate. I may not have understood at the time, but my subconscious was absorbing his teachings. This was then later amplified by my father's business. He would often tell me the details of his working day and even make sure I was present at some of his meetings. These were invaluable experiences that the education system simply cannot offer in its current state. There's also a bonus in teaching all of these entrepreneurship skills to youth from an early age, the exact same skills are also life skills for them, and there's no denial that children will be faced with challenges later in life that will require these skills both in their personal and professional life.

With this being said, it must be recognized that entrepreneurship in the UAE is supported by a strong infrastructure, as well as a rich culture that admires, respects and supports those that enter entrepreneurial endeavors. The UAE government has increasingly invested into promoting entrepreneurship, the SME sector, and the entire non-oil economy. The UAE has a Minister under the Ministry of Economy dedicated to entrepreneurship, which shows you the foresight of our leadership to prioritize this sector.

Entrepreneurship is an integral part of our economy and business culture. SMEs account for 98% of businesses in the UAE and 44% of the country's non-oil GDP, making it amongst the most important sectors in the Emirates. The UAE is already home to some of the most admirable success stories in the entrepreneurial-realm, with the likes of Careem, InstaShop, noon.com, Souq.com and many more. With guidance from our leadership and engagements with entrepreneurial experts, I believe we can reflect these amazing efforts into education and propel the UAE's next generation to be amongst the world's most prominent entrepreneurs.

Now is our time to advance our education on entrepreneurship and give our future talents a head start before they reach the start-line.

Successful entrepreneurship produces job creators, opposed to job takers. In today's global market, it's never been more important to create new jobs that are suited to the rapidly evolving market. As per the UN's latest report on global unemployment, we're expected to see a 2.5 million rise of unemployment in 2020 and with almost half a billion people working fewer paid hours. Yet in our current education systems, we encourage children to seek out career paths where there's a surplus in demand.

To tackle future unforeseen crisis and the increase of technology leaving people redundant, we need to start empowering the youth of today to become the job creators of tomorrow to secure a more sustainable future for all.

Entrepreneurship also has the capacity to elevate people from all walks of life. There's no prejudice in entrepreneurship- it doesn't matter what your social status, gender, or ethnicity is. Being an entrepreneur can be the ultimate path to financial independence, freedom and empowerment. However, to instill a culture of entrepreneurship that actively promotes and supports the coming generations to innovate and create, we must start at the earliest and most primitive levels.

The pathway towards creating a generation of entrepreneurial experts must start at early education and remain an option throughout one's educational journey to cement a legacy of efficient entrepreneurs. Investment into entrepreneurial education is an investment into a country's future. Teaching a student the foundations onto which they can build an enterprise that creates jobs, wealth and financial freedom that contributes to the expansion of an economy is the ultimate investment, with an invaluable ROI.

From my personal experience with fellow entrepreneurs, I know that I'm one of many business owners that would happily lend their experience and expertise to the education system. I believe an integral factor in revolutionizing how we educate our students will come from collaboration between entrepreneurs and educators.

When we amalgamate the marketplace knowledge of entrepreneurs with the teaching insights from educators, we will enter the possibility of creating an unparalleled curriculum where real-life skills will rise to the forefront of education.

Related: BizWorld UAE: Preparing MENA's Future Generations For Their Entrepreneurship Journey

Kawthar Bin Sulayem

Founder and CEO, KBS Communications

Kawthar Bin Sulayem is an expert strategic advisor and serial entrepreneur. In addition to her role as founder and CEO of KBS Communications, she is also an Ambassador and Co-Founder of Mestaria, Strategist at Nine17 Sport and Founder of Fashion Fever UAE.

With more than 15 years of experience in the PR and media industry, Kawthar has worked extensively between government and the private sector in the UAE and abroad. Her strategic mindset and business instincts have lead her to become one of the UAE’s most sought after advisors for organisations across diverse industries. 

Kawthar gained extensive experience during her time in the media industry, taking on significant roles from a young age. She began her endeavours in The Executive Office of the UAE Vice President, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, where she assumed responsibilities for media, marketing, crisis communications and reputation management. Kawthar continued her exponential career growth by undertaking the monumental task of rebranding the Government of Dubai; this comprised of launching numerous government entities and projects, including Dubai SME, Emirates Nationals Development Program and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority.

Kawthar was later seconded by the Government of Abu Dhabi to facilitate media operations and communications at Yas Marina Circuit. Acting as Regional Media Manager, Kawthar was appointed as National Press Officer for the inaugural Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, working in cohesion with Formula One Management and the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile while managing more than 600 media representatives present at the largest sporting event in the history of the UAE. Kawthar was instrumental in overseeing media operations during the Grand Prix, where she contributed to the official communications narrative of Abu Dhabi and the UAE; aiding in the development and circulation of the UAE’s key messages both regionally and internationally.

After gaining a wealth of experience, Kawthar established her own successful business ventures, starting with: KBS Communications, a strategic communications advisory agency with an exceedingly diverse client portfolio ranging from government entities, Fortune 500 companies, community organisations, and international luxury and lifestyle brands; Mestaria, a company dedicated to enhancing the art industry in the Middle East through art education programs, events and comprehensive artist representation; Nine17 Sport, a sports marketing and communications consultancy focused on motorsport and the Formula 1 World Championship; and Fashion Fever, a first-of-its-kind fashion show concept in the UAE.

Proving herself as an astute serial entrepreneur, a strategic advisor to members of the royal family in the GCC, and with a deep understanding of international and regional markets, Kawthar has been in frequent demand to consult as an advisor. This has lead to her sharing her strategic expertise to both senior executives of private industry organisations for high level business strategy, and to developing SMEs alike.

After moving on from her role in The Executive Office of the UAE Vice President, Kawthar received a personal mandate from H.H. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to continue to serve her country through her profile and professional undertakings. Kawthar remains dedicated to this mandate, striving to help develop innovative, hard-working, ethical companies, regardless of their size; which leaves her constantly searching for new opportunities to bring the best to the UAE.


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