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Business of education

It is now five years since Brian Wilson, then Education Minister, delivered a little-noticed speech at South Queensferry in which he signalled political determination that enterprise education should be at "the heart of the curriculum".

This week's report from the Ministerial review group on enterprise education brings the issue full circle, giving it a highly directional thrust : the report is littered with the word "must," on 22 occasions no less in the 20 summarised recommendations. In the era of targets, it is probably of little surprise that the review group has come up with a whole series of them.

The initial notion of enterprise education was of a broadly-based vehicle for giving pupils a range of experiences that would encourage them to be self-confident, self-motivating and financially conscious - the "can do" approach, in other words, that would help them make their way in life generally. Many schools have been doing this successfully and productively: enterprise education was to be the means, not the end. The report gives the impression that very little activity was taking place.

Unfortunately, it also risks putting many of these developments into reverse. The emphasis is very much on the attractions of entrepreneurship and enterprise for a living as opposed to a life, from the subtle change of name to the not-so-subtle emphasis on much more business involvement in schools.

Of course pupils must be made keenly aware of the potential of the world of work as well as their own potential to contribute to it. But this will not necessarily come about by ramming enterprise education down their throats, or symbolically promoting budding entrepreneurs at the expense of those less gifted in that direction. In its response next month, the Executive should reaffirm the importance of enterprise as a more rounded concept - not least in the form of the enterprising school.

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