Alexander McLeod is the CEO of Cape Town-based Calan Consulting, a company that has extensive experience with designing and implementing school entrepreneurship initiatives. Under its brand Kreeate, (pronounced “create”), its extra-curricular School Entrepreneurship Programme for high school learners is endorsed by the National Department of Basic Education and is now in its 6th year.
School learners of today are the leaders and change makers of tomorrow. Entrepreneurship advocacy at school level is key to contributing to and in turn achieving a country’s socio-economic development goals. So why is so little being done to harness the untold potential that exists within this segment of our population?
In an interview at the 2016 World Economic Forum, Grameen Bank Founder and Nobel Prize Winner, Muhammad Yunus alluded to the fact that education systems, globally, foster the mindset of “I need to find a job” by posing the question “Why does the education system brainwash people into believing they have to ask for jobs rather than create them?”.
Sir Ken Robinson, in his 2006 TED Talk, said that the education system “kills creativity”. I could not agree more.
We have been developing and implementing high school entrepreneurship initiatives for the last five years and can confirm both of these views. Learners are “encouraged” to think and behave like their peers. If they step out of line, there are consequences. South Africa’s education system, for the most part, churns out followers who all think the same and have no inclination to create their own future.
Entrepreneurship is one of the three pillars of the Economic and Management Science (EMS) Subject for Grades 7 to 9. This may sound encouraging, but unfortunately it is not. Why? Because educators must ensure that they get through the EMS curriculum for the year. Entrepreneurship section of EMS done, tick the box and move onto the next section please learners.
It is all about content with mininal practical application and understanding. Yet practical application is what entrepreneurship advocacy and development should be focusing on at school level.
Entrepreneurship is about sacrifices and any entrepreneurship initiative aimed at school learners should be extra-curricular as it encourages learners to make a sacrifice of their time. It should also not be once off, but should run over school terms or the entire year. Once-off initiatives are not enough because if, for example, learners’ cake sales goes well they that think being an entrepreneur is easy and if it doesn’t go well they never want to try that again because of a fear of failure.
However, learners need to understand that they will not always get it right the first time and that it takes time to succeed. Overnight successes are very rare and learners must be made aware of this. If a learner does succeed, then they must reap the rewards. We encountered a school that proudly informed us that it had launched its own internal entrepreneurship activity. The school lent the learner a small sum of money which the learner had to repay, interest free. Unfortunately, in addition to the capital repayment, the school took all of the learner’s profits too!
Entrepreneurs want to make a profit. Schools must allow learners to keep their profits and use that money to initiate additional business activities. This is the Kreeate model – learners keep their profits and receive both cash and non-cash awards for being top performers. Incentives breed excitement and excitement is what keeps learners interested and competitive.
The Kreeate philosophy is that entrepreneurship initiatives targeting school learners must meet the following criteria:
- Be extra-curricular
- Run over an extended period of time (not be once-off)
- Be practical orientated (interactive, action-learning)
- Allow learners to keep their profits