By Guest Author Dr. Shailendra Vyakarnam
[The second part of the series discusses what effective entrepreneurship education is and how it can help people move out of poverty.]
Why Entrepreneurship Education Is Important to Strengthen Social Inclusion
The most fundamental reason for thinking about entrepreneurship at the grass roots is to find sustainable solutions to overcoming the injustices of poverty, which is evidenced by indifferent educational attainment, inadequate healthcare, malnutrition, low life expectancy, poor access to water, and exclusion from the benefits of economic and technological progress. Witnessing progress all around while remaining poor can also create a feeling of hopelessness, dependency and low levels of self-esteem and aspiration. These are human conditions that can tear at the soul of a people. The arguments are well rehearsed and supported in many academic and policy documents, and they are highlighted by the UN Millennium Development Goals. How can entrepreneurship education address these issues and create a wider participation in economic, social and health benefits?
We can draw a boundary around entrepreneurship education as comprising the following three components:
Entrepreneurship education should build confidence, motivate progress, strengthen the entrepreneurial mindset, foster a desire to achieve and inspire action.
Students need technical skills, financial literacy, skills to engage in entrepreneurship, self-employment and/or employment. This would include the expected business and functional curricula.
Entrepreneurial skill development
Entrepreneurship education should provide training in a range of skills including social skills, networking, creative problem solving, opportunity seeking, selling, interviewing, presentations, group leadership; as well as community co-operation, dealing with bureaucracy, local cultural norms and how they affect business.
There is a growing body of literature on the need for entrepreneurial learning to focus as much on personal development and social skills as on business development. This supports the argument for a blended learning experience where business knowledge and skills are combined with the best of tools and approaches taken from training events.
However, educators need to draw on sound platforms of knowledge and understanding about personal development. Otherwise we risk a fair accusation that we are merely running ‘feel good’ events without measurable, tangible outcomes which are unrelated to any particular understanding of human aspirations, behaviors and motivation.
Beyond the development of the individual, we also need to work towards getting society and the “supply side” fit for enterprise. In seeking to create awareness and social acceptance of entrepreneurship, careful thought needs to be given to the role of media. Television and radio can present cases, news, information and engaging programs to deliver a more positive message about enterprise and entrepreneurship. This is quite important to help overcome negativity that might exist in society and where low trust in free markets persists. In addition to mass media, NGOs and other grass roots agencies might be brought together to help engage people more directly through schools, community centres, village halls, church and other religious organizations.
Entrepreneurship education for the supply side
On the supply side (i.e. educational institutions, civic organizations, business development agencies and NGOs), education needs to cover the role of entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial finance, fair play, regulations, managing civic administration, banking rules and so forth. There is a need to understand and feel the emotional content of entrepreneurship. There is also a need for entrepreneurial role models as change agents in society, demystifying entrepreneurship for policy, civic administration and education. Educators need to work towards creating higher levels of aspiration.
If we understand the “what”, we then need to think about “who” delivers. The most credible educators possess the following characteristics:
A grasp of arguments “about” entrepreneurship and “for” entrepreneurship.
Understand that there is more than one way in which people learn and that educators need to tap into individual motivations, circumstances and make sense of the wider ecosystem in which individuals continue their enterprises.
A grasp of the practice of enterprise, through the experience of more than one type of venture. Especially, when being from the same cultural/economic background they are able to relate to the nuances of context when imparting the education.
They have social capital that permits them to link their students with people who can provide practical help.
Next steps in implementing entrepreneurship education for enhanced social inclusion
Governments need to commit to long-term, sustained (5-10 years) funding. This is as important as the provision of health services and broader education. It can lead to people who are better equipped to contribute to the economy.
Governments need to review legislation that holds back entrepreneurship. In many countries the legislation (red tape) is so cumbersome that entrepreneurs prefer to operate in the informal sector. This means they remain outside the scope of effective assistance, outside formal banking support and suffer many other disadvantages.
Stakeholders, such as not-for-profit organizations, large local and multinational companies, well established entrepreneurs and others need to come together in networks to create an ecosystem in which entrepreneurship can flourish.
Multilateral organizations such as the UN ought to create web-based resources, knowledge-sharing platforms and networks of educators. The world is full of teaching materials, but finding them is a challenge.
Governments and stakeholders need to provide resources (sponsorship) for access to world-class journals and publications so that educators and trainers can be encouraged to read what is current and cutting edge. Many of these journals and publications are simply not available to educators and trainers in poor countries and so they risk being stuck with old materials, ideas and methods.
Educators, trainers and institutions should adapt their curricula to ensure that it is relevant, cutting edge, fresh and dynamic. It is time to go beyond the “teaching of business plans.” Educators and trainers also need to be embedded in the context and provide access to resources, markets and opportunities, not just “training.”
Policy-makers, educators, entrepreneurs and sponsors need to come together in conferences on a sufficiently large scale to raise standards, increase the volumes of participation and find appropriate local, regional and national solutions so that entrepreneurship education can have a positive impact at the grass roots.
Television must not be ignored as it has a major reach across society and can be influential in transmitting ideas and raising aspirations.
Finally, the vast majority of the working people in the world are self-employed or work in small organizations, but as yet their income levels are not sufficient to lift people above grinding poverty and hit the targets set under Millennium Development Goals. While economic and political reforms play an important role in setting the scene, people need the knowledge, skills and mindset to take advantage of opportunities. It is hoped that this contribution can help make a difference in this arena.