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Should Public Schools Teach Entrepreneurship?

learn entrepreneurship
Public schools have an interesting dilemma ahead of them: How do they follow existing testing paradigms while they transform their curriculums to suit the needs of the 21st century?

21st Century Skills is a movement in education to re-evaluate and recalibrate the goals of learning and achievement measurement to better prepare students to rise to the challenges they will face in their lifetimes. Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a nonprofit organization that leads this movement, has the following framework:

student learning framework

Draw your attention to the yellow section of the framework and compare the skills needed for a 21st century education to the following framework created by Column Five Media using information from Kauffman Foundation and Business Insider to illustrate the 5 learning tools needed by successful entrepreneurs:
entrepreneurship learning tools

Bring the Paradigms of 21st Century Skills and Successful Entrepreneurship Together

The four skills for a 21st century education – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity – are components of the skills needed by successful entrepreneurs.

Critical thinking is required to generate ideas.

Creativity is required to take calculated risks and fund the ideas generated by entrepreneurs.

Collaboration with others is the best way to organize effective systems.

Communication with customers is the core goal of all marketing.

We Learn Through Application of Knowledge

By teaching entrepreneurship to students, we arm them with the 21st century skills they need to become productive members of their communities. Entrepreneurship is the practical application of the 21st century skills:

Critical thinking – Entrepreneurs get to the root of a problem by stripping away any attachment to outcome and symptoms. From there, they identify the needs of their target market (and ignore limitations for the moment) through field research.

Collaboration – With this information in hand, they let ideas flow, grow, and mix,

Creativity – Then, they look at these ideas through the lens of constraints.

Communication – The culmination of this process is the development of solutions that are feasible and can be crafted into prototypes to share with customers for feedback.

To synthesize 21st century skills into something useful for society, we must build something – a product, a service, a program, or an experience. Entrepreneurs are the builders. Our world faces a steady stream of problems that will only grow more urgent with time – climate change, population growth, and growing tension for resources are just a few that need solution builders. Because of these challenges, it’s not a question of should public schools teach entrepreneurship, but rather a matter of how quickly can we get this much-needed curriculum in place.

About the Author: Christa Avampato is a product developer, freelance writer, and yoga and meditation teacher based in New York City. She blogs daily about the art of creative living at Christa In New York: Curating a Creative Life and is an advisor for LaunchHouse.

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  • Shawn,

    To chime in – during my years of formal education, I’ve never being taught about entrepreneurship – the only entrepreneurship class I attend is when I was pursuing an MBA degree! Indeed, regardless of where we live, we need schools to teach entrepreneurship – consider it as a life skill (like swimming, for example!) everyone should at least know about.

    I personally learn entrepreneurship by doing, reading entrepreneurship books and attending seminars (thanks, Robert Kiyosaki, for changing my mindset!) I wish I can learn about it early during my school years.

  • Thanks for sharing this thoughtful post. If there’s one thing I wish I had been taught more about in school, it is the spirit of entrepreneurship. Training people for employment isn’t all bad, but it assumes a market in which traditional employment is plentiful. By contrast, entrepreneurship teaches self-reliance regardless of the job market.