It’s fairly common knowledge that, despite the growing role of entrepreneurship in pioneering new products and industries, it is not a pursuit for everyone. An individual could study all of the entrepreneurial theory that they would want, but a certain doggedness and growth mindset is necessary to excel when starting a business, not to mention the sleepless nights.
Really, the “nature vs nurture” debate is particularly strong among entrepreneurs, many of whom argue either that real-world experience is instrumental in versing individuals in the finer points of starting a business or that some of the innate traits necessary can’t be taught. Personally, while I believe that certain personalities predispose themselves to entrepreneurship more than others, some business skills, including good negotiation and social interaction, benefit from being honed by education.
However, are our educational systems well suited to create the next generation of entrepreneurs?
Education, as it stands, is a system that teaches obedience, whether intentionally or not. This is a byproduct of grading systems, in which students are effectively threatened with worse opportunities if they do not conform to the curriculum and learn in a certain way. This is a fairly deep-seated issue that has ramifications outside of entrepreneurship—the emphasis on standardized testing as a metric for school performance has further narrowed the scope of education.
However, education is not a completely broken system. There are many detractors who claim that education stifles children, but the absence of an educational system is far worse. It’s much easier to denounce the system when one lives in a country where children can easily receive public schooling. Still, schools should consider not just the curriculum that they teach, but the mindset as well.
The core of entrepreneurship is the ability to process information and find creative solutions to unexpected problems. In order for education to encourage, or at least not implicitly condemn, this kind of thinking, the approach to schooling needs to be changed. There’s no one way to teach this kind of thinking, though the most notable divergence is the approach to problem-solving. The linear thinking in education encourages students to find a goal and then work toward it using the resources at one’s disposal. This can be an effective mode of thinking, but it provides little leeway in terms of what success looks like. Entrepreneurship, in contrast, is often about using what resources a person has and striving for success, even if there isn’t a set objective that needs to be completed.
The good news is that the face of education is changing. Non-traditional routes have become more viable than ever, and online certificates can give credence to an individual’s skills without necessitating the time and money spent on higher education. Again, not everybody will go on to become an entrepreneur, but diverse thinking lends itself well to personal and professional development.
The inability of our schooling system to foster the type of mindset necessary for entrepreneurship is the result of increased standardization. However, if done correctly, education can instill in students a lifelong love of learning and a willingness to approach problems in unconventional ways. It’s not necessary for every student to come out of school and start a business, but it is beneficial that they become lifelong learners and critical thinkers.