Our schools today have a laundry list of skills they must teach, and standardized tests students must pass, but underneath these testable items lay the more important real-world skills and attitudes that must be developed in order for our students to be successful citizens in the global economy. As educators, it is pertinent that we prepare students for an unknown and uncertain future, provide opportunities for creativity and innovation, foster perseverance and grit, and develop empathy for others, all while teaching students to communicate, to collaborate, and to think critically.
Fortunately, there is a slow-growing trend in education that provides opportunities to nurture these very skills. It is entrepreneurship education. Steve Mariotti, founder of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, states in an article entitled, Why Every School in America Should Teach Entrepreneurship, “… entrepreneurship education empowers young people to make well-informed decisions about their future, whether they choose to become entrepreneurs or not,” and they learn to use their assets to create businesses or jobs and to be productive citizens in their community. In other words, it provides them with the skills to not only start their own businesses, but more importantly to think both creatively and ambitiously, so they can be active agents in their career path. Florina Rodov and Sabrina Truong state in their article, Why Schools Should Teach Entrepreneurship, that another key benefit to teaching entrepreneurship is that it aids students from all socioeconomic backgrounds because it creates opportunities, guarantees social justice, ingrains confidence, and stimulates the economy. Additionally, they discuss how historically building your own business has allowed minorities, women, and immigrants to create better lives for themselves and their families. With research and first hand experience illustrating the benefits of teaching entrepreneurship, making it a more widespread part of the school seems a necessity.
As more schools jump on the bandwagon of entrepreneurship, it is becoming easier for districts, schools, and teachers to access resources, learn from one another, and begin to integrate it into their curriculum. For students at the elementary and middle school level, Bizworld is an excellent resource whose mission is “to empower children to become 21st century thinkers by awakening their entrepreneurial spirit, inspiring them to become the architects of their futures, and giving them the confidence to transform their communities.” This 20-year-old organization is used across America and in 100 countries around the world. They provide the framework for helping students create and run a business.
For older students, the opportunities available through entrepreneurship expand to meet their growing maturity and independence. For example at Nueva School in California, students are guided to create their own ventures and encouraged to “go big.” Kim Saxe, the director of Nueva’s Innovation lab, shares in her article, Empowering Students Through Entrepreneurship and Design Thinking, how teams learn to identify needs, invent solutions, collaborate, build a business model, create financials, write a business plan, and pitch their idea to a panel of venture capitalists. Since starting the program in 2011, Saxe has seen how the skills learned have aided students to think outside the box, to develop their innate skills or talents, and to become more empathetic to the needs of others. Two example businesses that have been started by Nueva students are shipping water containers to an African country so they can carry the water from the source to their village and providing emergency appendectomy kits to underdeveloped countries The program has grown so much they are unable to accept all of the students who show interest in the class, and Saxe states, “we have clearly hit a chord with today’s youth.”
But there is no need to create your own program as Nueva has done, there are resources available to help teachers of middle and high school students get started. These Kids Mean Business is a website that discusses how to integrate entrepreneurship into existing high school curriculums. It offers suggestions for implementation as well as lesson plans. Another great resource to bring entrepreneurship into the classroom is Junior Achievement which connects K-12 teachers with community entrepreneurs who will come into the classroom to implement the JA curriculum. A third resource is Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, which brings entrepreneurial training to high school students, especially from low-economic or at-risk environments. So, with the growing number of resources available and the abundant need for our students to develop the skills gained through entrepreneurial education, it is apparent that teaching entrepreneurship is not only well worth the effort, but necessary for the students of today to be prepared for the future of tomorrow. It is time for our schools to get to business.