Learners as Entrepreneurs
A theme of current progressive education reform is that of enabling and assisting learners in developing an entrepreneurial spirit. Yong Zhao in his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, proposes that learner entrepreneurship should be integrated into school curriculum due to the following:
- Massive changes brought about by population growth, technology, and globalization not only demand but also create opportunities for “mass entrepreneurship” and thus require everyone to be globally minded, creative, and entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurship is no longer limited to starting or owning a business, but is expanded to social entrepreneurship, policy entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship.
- Traditional schooling aims to prepare employees rather than creative entrepreneurs. As a result the more successful traditional schooling is (often measured by test scores in a few subjects), the more it stifles creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit.
- To cultivate creative and entrepreneurial talents is much more than adding an entrepreneurship course or program to the curriculum. It requires a paradigm shift—from employee-oriented education to entrepreneur-oriented education, from prescribing children’s education to supporting their learning, and from reducing human diversity to a few employable skills to enhancing individual talents.
- The elements of entrepreneur-oriented education have been proposed and practiced by various education leaders and institutions for a long time but they have largely remained on the fringe. What we need to do is to move them to the mainstream for all children.
John Seely Brown’s DLM 2012 keynote focused on entrepreneurial learners and that in this networked age, there are endless possibilities for entrepreneurship:
Brown says that in past centuries, the infrastructure has largely been stable, but that the 21st century is driven by continual, exponential advances in computation, with no stability in sight. We’re moving, he says, from a world of stocks (i.e. fixed assets) to the world of flow. In a world of stocks, we look to protect and deliver authoritative knowledge assets and to transfer old knowledge to other people. But in the world of exponential change, it’s not a question of looking at fixed assets. It’s more a question of how we participate in knowledge flows and of how, from that participation, we can pick up new ideas and create new knowledge. In the past, our identity was defined by what we wore, what we owned and what we controlled. Young people today, Brown says, see their identity as what they create, what they share and, most importantly, what others build upon.
Benefits and Entrepreneurship
Through entrepreneurship education, young people learn organizational skills, including time management, leadership development and interpersonal skills, all of which are highly transferable skills sought by employers. According to a report by the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Corporation, other positive outcomes include:
- improved academic performance, school attendance; and educational attainment
- increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities
- improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills
- job readiness
- enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy), and
- perceived improved health status (http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/entrepreneurship.htm)
In a business academy in Oakland, California, a group of teenagers took the initiative to fight truancy and design a new school. In the process, they won a national student leadership competition.
Stephen Ritz’s Bronx classroom features the first indoor edible wall in NYC DOE which routinely generates enough produce to feed 450 students healthy meals and trains the youngest nationally certified workforce in America. His students, traveling from Boston to Rockefeller Center to the Hamptons, earn living wage en route to graduation.