Designing education for entrepreneurs

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Designing education for entrepreneurs

In recent years, perhaps one of the hottest debates in business has been whether entrepreneurs can be created and, in that respect, if someone can be taught to be an entrepreneur. Most see entrepreneurial qualities as something that are intrinsic or something that one gains through years of real world experience.

To both of these schools of thought, an educational programme simulating experience to create entrepreneurs is a useless endeavour.

Their biggest complaint is that the educational system is too rigid and that it would never be able to teach something as dynamic as entrepreneurship. 

However, educators, for years, have pondered on this point and made some substantial progress on adapting to the dynamic needs of the field.

Even in Nepal, educational institutions like King’s College and Presidential Business School have started providing masters-level programmes in entrepreneurship.

Nevertheless, to design a programme that truly creates entrepreneurs means that some steps need to be taken in order to redefine the way we teach.


Gamification of student evaluation

One of the first things that we need to internalise while designing an education fit for entrepreneurs is that the traditional grading system doesn’t do justice in reflecting the progress and learning made through the programme. 


The existing grading fails us when it comes to assessing things that can’t be standardised. How would it assess an entrepreneur’s progress? How can it assess who has the better business in the first few impressions? What works best here is objective-based evaluation, where a student has to complete a certain set of objectives within the duration of the programme to show progress.


An increasingly popular and innovative concept in the educational world that tracks and standardises such progress is called ‘gamification’. Gamification applies game-design elements to a diverse range of fields. In our case, gamification would allow us to create game-like levels within the educational programme to track the student’s progress.

For instance, completing a certain set of objectives would mean that a student progresses to the rank ‘Knight’. Like the levels in a computer game, each increase in level would mean that the new set of objectives is harder to fulfil. This not only helps decrease stress while preparing for exams, but also encourages students to focus on their projects and learn from it. For educators, they can set grades for certain levels, such as, someone who is a ‘Master’ gets an A, and someone who is a ‘Soldier’ gets a C.


Simulating entrepreneurial qualities

Possibly one of the hardest things for an educational institution to do is to figure out how to instil entrepreneurial qualities in their students. The existing lecture-based classrooms do very little to build entrepreneurial values, like risk-taking, open mindedness, creativity and so on, into students. No matter how hard it might be to teach, these qualities are very important as they directly impact the students, and could give them confidence to become entrepreneurs. An effective way to go about this is to create a simulated environment to practice these qualities in. 


For instance, to teach risk taking, students can be made to play computer games that require them to make hard decisions, like stock market simulation games or from the many types of racing games. They could also be taken through various thought exercises. Similarly, to teach open mindedness, the students can be made to have various cross-cultural interactions in order to develop a habit of seeking out multiple perspectives.

Creating these simulated environments to teach certain traits would lead to behavioural development that could make many students become better entrepreneurs.


Encouraging mock businesses

What can be seen in many entrepreneurial courses in Nepal, and abroad, is a sense of confusion about what they want the programme to achieve. Most of these courses tend to hog the middle ground, where they give the theoretical entrepreneurial knowledge, and hope that a student starts a business. However, the programmes that create entrepreneurship academics differ greatly from ones focused on creating entrepreneurs. The focus of educational programmes now should be on the latter. Therefore, for this purpose nothing simulates the experience of being an entrepreneur better than running a (mock) business.

In this type of programmes, students will be focusing on running and growing their company throughout the duration of the study. The role of the teacher will be that of a mentor, who only assist the students when needed, and give periodic theory classes. This type of education is close to a vocational study and the assessments can be done through the gamification of the grading system. This is one of the most straightforward ways to gain success in creating entrepreneurs, as there is a high chance that the students could turn the mock businesses into a real one after completing the study, or even be inspired to start a new company. The benefit of running a business within an educational institution is that the entrepreneurs are able to make plenty of mistakes, and learn from them, as the institution acts as a safety net for them.


Collaboration with entrepreneurship facilitators

A practice that has been observed around the world as educational institutes realise the importance of entrepreneurship education is the collaboration with entrepreneurship facilitators. These collaborations have taken various forms such as, institutions setting up entrepreneurship centres, college incubators or accelerators and so on. Since, the resources and the strengths of the university are limited, this collaboration allows for an easy implementation of these practical programmes. Furthermore, most of these collaborative programmes provide students with specialised training programmes, office space, resources and seed money.

A great example of this can be found in Nepal, where King’s College has setup its own ‘Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurial Development’ that provides students with seed capital, technical advice and mentoring to setup their businesses. Furthermore, they have also started collaborating with external bodies to set up 

incubators in the institution, latest of which has been a collaboration with Yunus Center in Bangladesh, which helps social entrepreneurs get started with their bright 

ideas. With collaborations like these, the institutions play the role of providing the theory base, whereas the platforms provide a real world exposure and practical implementation.

As the world becomes more accepting of entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship grows in popularity as the preferred career path, educational institutions need to be able to create more entrepreneurs. The existing entrepreneurship programs create researchers rather than entrepreneurs. To be able to design a programme that creates entrepreneurs, institutions need to recognise the dynamic nature of the field and adjust their programmes accordingly.

*First Published by the author in The Kathmandu Post. 


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