Little can be said with certainty about the time we live in. Ironically however, we can safely say that the 21st century is an era of great uncertainty. Volatile job markets, technological advances, and rampant globalisation are just a few examples of the unpredictable world we face.
Unfortunately, today’s education system fails to equip future generations with the skills and mindset needed to succeed in this kind of world. While our curriculum addresses the basic skills required for work – be that English, science, maths, data literacy or art – current approaches to education leave students much less prepared to navigate times of ambiguity.
Entrepreneurship education is a powerful tool that can be used to address this gap and empower students to shape their future. To create a viable business, an entrepreneur must identify an unmet need that exists and then deliver a solution by developing a product or service for which people are willing to pay.
While it might sound straightforward, this process requires extensive experimentation until both the right problem and solution are found. Learning entrepreneurship therefore, not only develops students’ knowledge of enterprise mechanisms, but also pushes them to identify and explore opportunities through engagement with the real world. In doing so, they must learn to navigate ambiguous and uncertain situations.
While difficult, entrepreneurship is far from being an innate skill reserved for maverick prodigies. Strategy and proven methods can guide the entrepreneurial process, and furthermore, can be taught through action. For example, to understand the market for a new product, students must fully understand their customer’s unmet needs. In doing so, they learn to ask their potential customers the right kind of questions, gaining important critical thinking and communication skills.
Students also practice empathy by placing themselves in the customer’s shoes. Listening to and understanding customer insights might take a founder, and their business, in a wildly different direction to what they had initially imagined. This requires vulnerability, responsivity and adaptability.
What seems at first like a basic process in fact encapsulates the most sought-after skills of our time: creativity and innovation, problem-solving, communication skills and teamwork, among others. Perhaps most importantly is that these capacities cannot be taught purely by theory: in a deeply practical sense, they must be subject to the whims of the market and all the people in it.
Whether a student today will start their own business or not, all students can greatly benefit from an education in entrepreneurship. UpSchool exists for this reason: to teach Australian teachers the entrepreneurial mindset and to equip our students with the skills they need for the 21st century.
Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship is a leading centre for entrepreneurial education. We deliver programs to accelerate learning, creation and connection.