Entrepreneurship is often associated with people who assume the risk of starting a business venture for financial gain. However, entrepreneurs exist in many forms: they may be writers, carpenters, computer programmers, school principals or fundraisers, to name just a few examples. It’s more about the mindset and the behavior than earning money.
The entrepreneurial mindset enables people to see opportunities for improvement, take initiative and collaborate with others to turn their ideas into action. Everyone is born with some propensity for entrepreneurship. At its core entrepreneurship is about solving problems creatively.
Unfortunately, the current education system doesn’t support the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. This is mainly caused by its reliance on standards, tests and a prescribed curriculum, which are all fundamentally incompatible with entrepreneurial thinking. In The Netherlands most students (and educators) are treated like employees of a big company, who don’t bear the risk if the company fails. They are paid with grades and are not treated as being responsible for their learning. What can we do?
A paradigm shift is needed to change a curriculum for our students. A combination of democratic and project-based learning could enhance the characteristics that are at the heart of the entrepreneurial mindset.
In a democratic learning environment the responsibility is shifted to the learner. It is a great view to learn from because or world needs all kinds of talents and skills, and this method effectively harnesses each students intrinsic motivation to learn what makes sense for him. This allows students to build on their strengths, which is what successful entrepreneurs do.
Most project-based learning environments use projects to teach prescribed content and skills. The educator retains most (if not all) of the control. If you change the emphasis towards the product instead of the project, you can contribute to an ‘entrepreneurial model’ of project-based learning.
Students create products or services that meet authentic needs, and build knowledge and skills in the process. The educators facilitate the process, but the students decide what products to make.
These changes will require giving up entrenched beliefs and the sense of comfort offered by a system that emphasizes order, control and immediate tangible results in the form of test scores.
But the high unemployment rate among recent university graduates is causing people to rethink their assumptions and question whether the current model of education is serving students best interests. Let’s start with going back to our Dutch roots: thrived on democracy, celebrate diversity, and allowing individuals to flourish. It can look very messy, but the payoff is worth it.