You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

How Startups can Help Children Cultivate Skills that Matter in Schools In the face of an ever-changing world, the question from students of "How will this help me in the 'real' world?" is a legitimate one while examining why they are being taught certain skills at school

By Sandra Nagy

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Asia Pacific, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


According to the World Economic Forum, 65 per cent of children currently entering primary school will have jobs that do not yet exist and for which their education will fail to prepare them, exacerbating skills gaps and unemployment in the future.

In the face of an ever-changing world, the question from students of "How will this help me in the "real' world?" is a legitimate one while examining why they are being taught certain skills at school. Students deserve an answer that will resonate deeply with them, and help them to make connections to their future.

There are a number of 21st century skills that students need. These include deep critical thinking; the confidence to communicate effectively across a variety of mediums and adapt to changes in communication resulting from disruptive technology; the aptitude to be creative designers, developers, and thinkers; and the ability to participate as constructive collaborators.

Critical Thinking

Students who think critically make decisions based on data, logic, and use effective criteria. They ask good questions to advance their thinking and demonstrate resolve and resilience in their decision making.

Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Marie Curie would never have made their discoveries without asking good questions, being relentless in their pursuit of answers, and using data to inform decisions. The key however is for educators to be equipped to create exceptional experiential learning that drives skill development, including critical thinking across the curriculum.


Students who communicate effectively, articulate their ideas with ease and simplicity when they are speaking, writing, and working with various media. They can convey their thinking and demonstrate empathy toward the audience. They leverage active listening to deepen their understanding and engagement in all communication.

The rate of change we are experiencing in communications technology, the ability to convey thoughts and ideas effectively across multiple mediums is critical for success, as is the ability to be adaptable to these changes.


Creative students produce new and unique ideas and are able to make connections between seemingly different ideas and concepts. These students understand the value of taking risks and are willing to do so.

It is imperative that creativity should not be confined to the "arts" as thinking creatively in all fields is needed to drive innovation. Elon Musk would never have been able to launch a rocket into space without a wild imagination and the willingness to take a creative risk to build multiple rockets and keep testing them until he finally achieved his goal. We have seen thousands of kids globally develop sustainable and commercially viable ideas that solve really important issues in our world, such as:

  • Supporting cancer patients with routine life needs like groceries and child care;
  • helping refugees find gainful employment;
  • cleaning plastic from lakes and oceans; and
  • encouraging more adults to make electric car purchases to help the environment


Students who are prepared for the future, work well with people across various skill and personality types. They have developed strong interpersonal skills both as an individuals as well as in teams.

There is no doubt that teamwork is essential across all organisations, but honing these skills is an art that takes practice, active reflection, and deep self awareness to be truly successful. Students need authentic opportunities to practice this skill through their educational career.


Curious students ask big questions and develop wonderings based on their passions and interests. They possess a strong desire to seek out information and challenge the status quo.

Linked to creativity is curiosity, where the moon shot ideas transpire. In the questioning of what is assumed and known to be true, students find opportunities to develop unique solutions to problems in the world.


Ambitious students possess determination and grit. They take initiative, work hard to achieve their goals, and persevere when they are met with challenges.

When you look at the most successful people, they are motivated to work hard and have the ability to stick through a challenge even at the toughest moments, jumping in with two feet, and finding a way to make it happen. We need to support students in this area at all times and be consciously helping them to build their ambition.


Students who are resourceful find efficient and effective ways to overcome challenges. They solve problems in creative or innovative ways, leveraging resources available to them.

In a study by Accenture, 79 per cent of executives agreed that the future of work will be based more on specific projects than roles. (Source: Accenture) Only those who are resourceful and adaptable will thrive in this new project-based world. Students who participate in project-based learning actively look to overcome challenges as they persevere through problem-solving. Their classrooms are innovation hubs where they have the ability to explore, experiment and solve problems.


Empathetic students have an innate ability to understand and adopt the feelings and experiences of others. In an analysis of 25 common skill sets today, researchers at McKinsey found that between 2016 and 2030, demand for social and emotional skills will grow across all industries by 26 per cent in the United States and 22 per cent in Europe. Empathy is at the heart of great idea development.

The best designers of solutions to problems deeply empathise with their users. In schools, teachers and students that leverage design thinking—a process in which empathy is at the core of problem-solving—approach others from an empathetic stance and transfer their learning to different situations.


Students who are prepared for the future are creatively confident, resourceful, possess grit, resilience, and an innovator's mindset.

We believe that schools can cultivate entrepreneurial traits in all students by enabling real world experiences. Schools need to see themselves as sandboxes where kids can experiment, find inspiration, try out new ideas, and fail without penalty. Engaging students through their own interests and encouraging them to pursue projects with sustained research and inquiry means rethinking existing frameworks.

Global and Future Vision

Students that are global-minded see challenges as opportunities, are exposed to big ideas and game-changing thought leadership, and engage in social impact.

There needs to be a focus on building the knowledge students have of what exists beyond the world they know. To be great designers, developers, and idea generators, students need exposure to understand the world and be able to make connections.

Education needs to be re-focussed on fostering these skills. It needs to put a greater emphasis on the journey of learning and less on the final outcome, and more on the questions and less on the answers. Students should be actively engaged in solving real problems facing their communities; acquiring new skills and knowledge from experience and their own passion-driven inquiry. School should be where each student develops an entrepreneurial mindset, which includes grit, resilience, mindfulness, empathy, creativity and resourcefulness. We need to start prizing creativity as high as numeracy and literacy — and fast.

Sandra Nagy

Director, Future Design School

Sandra Nagy is the Director of Learning at Future Design School. Her responsibility involves building partnership with school leaders, and has over 20 years of experience working to promote education transformation. She has completed her M.Ed from Harvard, and B. Comm from McGill University.

Business News

These Are Best Cities in the World for Remote Workers, According to a New Ranking

A recent report from ranked over 100 cities in the world. Here's the best of the bunch.

Business News

Renowned Psychologist Adam Grant Says This 3-Step Leadership Method Will Help Fight Employee Burnout

We spoke to the bestselling author at BetterUp's Uplift conference last week.

Growing a Business

5 Entrepreneurial Mindsets That Drive Success

Here are the mindsets shared by the most successful entrepreneurs.

Business News

NASA Reveals What the Strange Object Was that Fell From the Sky and Tore Through a Florida Home's Roof

The home's owner, Alejandro Otero, allowed NASA to collect and analyze the sample after attempting to connect with the agency through a post on X, formerly Twitter, last month.


Peer-to-Peer Is the Next Wave of Influencer Marketing

Millennials and their Gen Z brethren are interested in authenticity, not salesmanship.