What I Didn’t Learn in School

My dad once told me that engineering schools are designed to graduate good employees, not employers.  I didn’t quite understand what he meant at the time, but I get it now.  I value the education I received (all 20 years of it!), as it has allowed me to pursue a career in technology; however, I also now recognize its shortcomings in terms of teaching many ot the basic business skills.  School taught me to be a good employee – not how to start and successfully run my own company.  The education system is failing would-be entrepreneurs and this has to change.

Educational systems, in general, are geared toward preparing students for the workforce.  Even entrepreneurship programs are struggling with preparing students to launch their own businesses.  Nathan Furr, of Forbes, wrote an interesting article specifically about this issue, highlighting the fact that business schools were founded on developing strong managers not entrepreneurs.  I believe the problem extends far beyond business schools and in fact, is a shortcoming of the our educational systems overall.

Our children are taught at a very young age that they will one day grow up and get a job – not make a job.  I now have four children in the public school system and see this first hand.  Entrepreneurship is rarely presented to students as an option in life, so why would we expect them to pursue their own startup one day?

Part of the issue, clearly, is that many of the educators from preschool to post-secondary are not entrepreneurial, nor do many of them understand this lifestyle.  I’ve even spoken with teachers who were instructed to run entrepreneurship classes who had no idea what to teach!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the teachers – I believe the failure comes from those setting the curriculum.

To try to help this situation, I recently purchased 20 copies of Kidpreneurs directly from the author, Adam Toren (great guy – we had a long chat about how this book fills a much needed gap in the education program) and sent a copy to 20 local elementary schools with an open offer to come and speak to their students about starting their own business.

Not a single reply.

What does this tell me?  I can’t help but believe that the school systems don’t see this as a “need”, or maybe they feel that introducing entrepreneurship to elementary students is too early.  Unfortunately, that IS the time to start teaching kids about this exciting career choice and inspiring young minds to achieve entrepreneurial goals.  Granted, not everyone is meant to start their own business, but for those who are so inclined, we should be nurturing this desire any way we can, at a very young age.

For my own four children, I’m dedicated to teaching them everything I can about this career path and have helped them start small businesses of their own as early as 9 and 10 years old.  I believe that if they are able to learn at their age what I’m only learning now (and didn’t learn in school!), they will one day graduate as great young entrepreneurs with the business sense to pursue any venture they desire.  Shouldn’t every student be given this same opportunity?

What changes would you like to see to the education system to better prepare students to be entrepreneurs?

Follow me on Twitter (@tburke_quark) for more on innovation, tech startups and entrepreneurship – thanks!

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