Our fusty education system must embrace entrepreneurialism
As we embark upon a decade of major change, with a new government racing towards Brexit, we must take a moment to consider how we are helping our next generation triumph in spite of all this upheaval.
Our education sector has been stagnant for some time now and has failed to catch up with the employment skills taught in the rest of the world. For millions of school children, what they experience day-to-day in the classroom has little relevance to the modern working world.
Since the turn of the century, the digital revolution has transformed our workplaces, and new technologies like artificial intelligence are continuing to reshape the job market. So why is our educational system still stuck in the twentieth century?
The answer is that our concept of education is still based on passive learning and exams as the only validation. Passive learning is underpinned by the idea that if you absorb as much information as you can, you will pass your exams and be ready for independent adulthood.
Employers are in despair, and so are the young who our schools churn out. The truth is that the exam-heavy school system prepares the young neither for work nor life well enough.
While there will be young people who thrive in this academic environment — and there certainly are passionate teachers who are finding new ways to engage students — as long as learning remains passive, many of the next generation will spend their school years bored and unmotivated.
This is where enterprise education can make a real difference.
Research conducted by the University of Buckingham revealed that only one in four young people received any type of education in enterprise or entrepreneurialism at school — including basic information about the different roles and functions required to start or run a business.
So how do we expect our business community to thrive if we aren’t arming our young people with the basic skills they will need to rejuvenate Britain after exiting the EU?
We should be aiming for an education system that teaches entrepreneurialism by doing, not watching. After all, we improve our skills by putting them into action — by failing, working out what we did wrong, and then trying again.
It is this risk-taking attitude and real-life problem solving that will get young people engaged with education once again.
For a decade now, leading business networks including the CBI, Institute of Directors and the British Chamber of Commerce have been telling us just this: we cannot continue with the old, stale ways of education.
And educational bodies are also joining this call to action, with Nesta and Ofsted urging schools to use their curriculum to prepare students for the world of work.
Business leaders and entrepreneurs are stepping forward to become part of the solution. At the University of Buckingham, we are lucky to receive support from business-leading donors, which allows us to offer match-funding for students who want to learn about entrepreneurship. This will help to level the playing field and allow young people from all backgrounds to have access to quality enterprise education.
However, this is only one small part of the puzzle – business, industry and government need to work more closely together to champion enterprise education.
Let this be the year when we start to turn words into actions and become part of the solution.
Main image credit: Getty