Gabriella Geffen is a member of the Human Resources Development Council (HRDC) Enabling Entrepreneurship Task Team and is also responsible for Business Development at the Maharishi Institute. In this article, she introduces the thinking around the Department of Basic Education’s Entrepreneurship-in-Schools initiative. Catch Part 2 of her article this Thursday.
Unless we get the foundations right, all future efforts to stabilise the building will fail. What is the foundation of entrepreneurship? It is a mindset – an enterprising way of looking at the world such that every problem becomes an opportunity that can be solved with effort and dedication.
Pair this mindset with the skills required for running a business, such as managing finances, and you have, not only an entrepreneur, but an individual who adds value to any working environment – an individual who is empowered and self-sufficient for the rest of his/her working life in this rapidly accelerating 21st century.
In order for South Africa to evolve from its current position of having one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurship in the world and the lowest level of all African countries, the entrepreneurial mindset needs to be taught from a young age in order for it to become a natural way of perceiving the world. Creating a strong entrepreneurial culture in this country depends upon the development of entrepreneurial habits of thinking from the beginning of the education process.
What is the first shift that needs to take place to create an entrepreneurial culture? The easiest and most important step to fostering an entrepreneurial culture is learning to question. If the essence of entrepreneurship were summarised, it would be, in my opinion, the habit of asking why and coming up with better solutions diligently.
It is for this reason that the Department of Basic Education is embarking on a 15 year plan to embed practical Entrepreneurship, Social Entrepreneurship and Employability Training into the National School Curriculum from Grades R-12. The aim is to incorporate Entrepreneurship into each subject as a core competence, rather than to create another purely theoretical discipline.
The initiative has nothing to do with changing the curriculum, but everything to do with strengthening the manner in which the curriculum is taught and bringing the content to practical life. Hence, the focus is on pedagogy and methodology – transforming traditional methods of teaching to methods that bring out the inherent creativity and potential in each learner, thereby transforming the quality of education in South Africa by evolving the way that teaching and learning occurs.
The goal is to make learners think as opposed to merely memorise; to engage the teacher as a facilitator along the student’s own inspired developmental journey. Gone are the days where the teacher was the sole access to knowledge. Rote learning in the age of information is redundant. What matters is what learners are able to do with information.
Admittedly not every learner will become an entrepreneur, however the characteristics of entrepreneurship – problem solving, action orientation, creativity, being socially-conscious and responsible – are critical for anyone in the 21st century. The nature of work in this era is about the intelligent assimilation of the plethora of information and using it practically and creatively to manifest results. Hence the target for the Entrepreneurship in Schools initiative is to see 100% of all school-leavers employable, studying further, or equipped to start their own businesses in the future.
If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning – our current education system (which continues to prepare people for the Industrial Revolution) – is still based on the bottom three levels of learning: Remembering, Understanding and perhaps a mild degree of Applying. However, in order to survive in the coming creative century, whether as entrepreneur or employee, the skills of Analysing, Evaluating and Creating need to be honed from a very young age.
This needs to be done on a systematic level to ensure that each child is empowered with new tools of thinking in order to propel him/her into a new reality. To find out how we are planning to do this, see my upcoming post on implementing Entrepreneurship into South Africa’s National School Curriculum and the broader National Entrepreneurship Strategy that includes Universities and the Small Business Sector.