Entrepreneurs may be the backbone of the economy, but is enough being done to nurture their ideas? The rise of education technology is now helping – and everyone stands to benefit
Entrepreneurs, as we’re fond of being told, are the backbone of our economy. Entrepreneurs of all stripes build something from nothing, turn ideas into products and services, create jobs, create wealth, and drive advances in industry.
Given the importance of entrepreneurship, it’s a pity that the national curriculum does not directly teach young people the essential skills and knowledge that might ease the paths of the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The route to becoming a successful founder is painful, risky, expensive, at times terrifying, and there are few signposts on that path to show us the way.
And while the “accidental entrepreneur origin story” has a well-established narrative – where founders fall into starting their own business as a reaction to some dissatisfaction with the status quo – there is no shortage of young people at formative ages with great ideas ready to test in the real world.
We could save a great deal of pain and failure by building the entrepreneurs of the future from an earlier age and letting them embark on that path with knowledge, understanding and purpose.
DRIVING ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT AN EARLIER AGE
Take the analogy of football, for example. Just as young people might admire, or aspire to be Sir Richard Branson, there will be many more who wish they could be like Dele Alli. The chances of making it to the top of either ladder are dispiritingly slim, of course. Still, nevertheless, children all over the country play and practise football skills and learn very quickly whether it might be in their stars to achieve this dream.
Just as footballers need to develop speed, strength, and balance, ventures will only prosper if their founders are resilient, can spot opportunities, make good decisions and test their assumptions. Above all, they need to build a team around them that can wring all the value out of their ideas, and make the most of the opportunities identified.
And while in football there are after-school clubs, talent academies and scouts ready to bring the most promising players into the professional game’s “funnel”, the entrepreneurial career path has no such support network or funnel to reveal and hone talent.
An interesting change is happening, however, in the schools around the United Kingdom.
Led by a need to prepare students for an uncertain world of work in the near future, teachers have started to look at developing skills in their charges that are transferable, keep them adaptable and help them to learn and establish new skills.
To manage the delivery of a core curriculum while focusing class time more on softer skills and an interdisciplinary approach, schools have begun, wholesale, to adopt education technology as a means of outsourcing knowledge “retrieval practice”.
While the pedagogical value of good education technology is clear, the collateral benefit of its use in schools is that it may well be accelerating the pace at which future entrepreneurs develop.
ACCELERATING DEVELOPMENT OF IDEAS
The product I invented and developed, Tassomai, came about because I was dissatisfied with the status quo – sound familiar? I worked with students who had no real idea of how to revise for exams and frequently fell far short of their potential.
By designing software that would analyse the requirements of the curriculum and turn all those requirements into retrieval quizzes, I hugely increased the efficiency of the revision process. Crucially I designed the system to give students instant feedback and to adapt the daily program to tailor to their abilities and habits continually.
In so doing, we developed software that not only helped students achieve excellent results, but also helped them to learn the habits of constructive, regular practice. It taught them that mistakes were a positive part of the learning process, it built resilience, and it showed students how, through their endeavours, they had improved and moved towards their goals.
Having been adopted into the curriculum of several hundred schools in the UK, we now see hundreds of thousands of children learning this way through the platform.
In concert with other education technology tools that provide resources, organise projects and even create models and prototypes, the education system has never been better primed to create new talent in the world of business.
The most crucial aspect of education technology (or edtech) – and the area of learning that research has told us has the most significant impact on learning – is metacognition. That is, to develop in a learner the ability to “witness” their learning, to understand what they know, what they don’t and how, through their application, they improve their knowledge.
In absorbing edtech into school culture, student metacognition will have been boosted considerably, empowering them with the superpower of self-knowledge.
There is still no Year 8 course in entrepreneurship, but our students are now learning differently thanks to edtech. If we continue on this path to rethink teaching and learning, we may well instil in the entrepreneurs of tomorrow essential skills – skills that allow them to realise their ideas for the benefit of us all.