Business - Teach primary kids to make money, says college boss

22nd November 2013 at 00:00
It's never too young to instil entrepreneurialism, he argues

Wealth creation should be placed at the heart of education, with even the youngest primary school students encouraged to develop entrepreneurial skills, according to a leading figure in further education.

Fintan Donohue, former principal of North Hertfordshire College who in 2011 co-founded Gazelle Global, a group of 20 entrepreneurially focused further education colleges in the UK, told TES that he was looking to expand the programme to both the primary and secondary school sectors.

Gazelle, which aims to make education more relevant to working life, also wants to move into the US education market, and is currently developing a leadership programme for community colleges with Babson College, a business school in Massachusetts. It hopes to create Gazelle USA to unite entrepreneurially focused colleges in the country.

But according to Mr Donohue, encouraging students' aptitude for business should start from a young age, so that they develop an entrepreneurial spirit and appreciate the role that business plays in society.

"We need to ensure that creating wealth has a prominent part in the education system," he said. "In many schools and colleges, there is no real evidence of celebration of the fact that local businesses create employment.

"We need to celebrate businesses, however small, so that a child thinks, 'That's something I might do.' It's about bringing that importance of wealth creation to the community."

Mr Donohue added that he wanted to tap into children's inner creativity in a similar way to Professor Sugata Mitra, whose "Hole-in-the-Wall" experiment allowed children to teach themselves by means of an internet-linked computer that he installed in a slum in Delhi, India.

"Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in the minds of children; we need to keep that spark alive into secondary school," Mr Donohue said. "Children don't know boundaries. They look at the unlikely, the impossible, but creativity begins to (leave) children as they go through the school system."

According to Mr Donohue, students could be encouraged to hone their business acumen through competitions similar to Tenner Tycoon - now known simply as Tenner - a contest run in UK schools that invites children to invest #163;10 in a venture of their choice and try and raise as much money as possible.

Mr Donohue's comments echo views expressed by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw, who last year called for the post-16 sector to be more focused on meeting the needs of employers.

But Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers' union, told TES that, although entrepreneurialism was a useful attribute to foster in students, wealth creation should not be the focus for schools. "It's not all about making money," he said. "People grow up and go on to do all sorts of different things: to work in the arts, to go into the public sector and work as teachers, social workers, doctors or nurses.

"We shouldn't be ashamed about preparing pupils to make money, but that's not the only thing that matters in society."

Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said that education should develop young people as "citizens, creative and critical thinkers and with skills to have successful careers and lives".

"Wealth creation may be part of this, and so is social entrepreneurship, care for others and helping people to flourish," she said.

Babson College, whose former students have gone on to become chief executives of Toyota, PepsiCo and Accenture, has been running training programmes to prepare staff for new entrepreneurial programmes since last year.

Len Schlesinger, who recently stepped down as president of the college, said that entrepreneurship would be increasingly important in advanced economies where large companies could no longer be relied upon to create new jobs.

This week, Gazelle also announced a partnership with education publishing and qualifications firm Pearson to create a new programme to train UK college principals in how to integrate entrepreneurialism into their leadership, teaching and learning. The programme will also target students with new qualifications to encourage entrepreneurship.

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