Why school enterprise has taken off

5th December 1997 at 00:00
The whole drive to extend enterprise and entrepreneurship education was led by Scottish Enterprise with an avowedly economic purpose - to turn round Scotland's dismal record of business creation, partly through the curriculum. Hence its cunningly-entitled programme "From primary 1 to plc".

Mr McVie stresses that "it's not about encouraging eight-year-olds to go along to the bank asking for a loan or to drop out of school thinking they will be the next Bill Gates".

Bob Adams, who leads Scottish Enterprise's "business birthrate strategy, " comments: "Our objective is the same as that of education - enabling kids to survive, to cope, to be better off. Our intention is to help the education system achieve these aims for youngsters who are the labour force of tomorrow. " It was part of what education was about anyway and not "yet another initiative".

This was endorsed by Neil Galbraith, chairman of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum, who told the seminar that the core skills in the curriculum were at the heart of preparing young people for work.

Brian Miller, the head of Dalziel High, says that "while I push hard on exam results because that's our bread and butter, I'm also very interested in the experience which young people receive at school. There's no question in my mind that the enterprise programme and Achievers International add value to that experience."

But it was not about preaching the competitive cutting edge, he says. The programme also encourages teamwork, community involvement and caring for others. The winding up of school enterprise companies assumes philanthropic as well as commercial instincts, with any surpluses commonly given to local charities.

But if the programme is to remain credible, Mr Miller believes it is essential that the certification for enterprise activities available through modules at present is transferred to Higher Still at the new Intermediate level. "We are not in the business of running uncertificated courses," he adds. "Certification at Higher would be the icing on the cake but you need to have the cake first."

Work-related education, which is now at the top of the HMI as well as ministerial priority list, has not always enjoyed such support, particularly as it was seen to be a dumping ground for the disaffected. But Marc Khengui, a native of France who teaches business studies at Port Glasgow High, is concerned that the reverse may be happening. "Many of our ablest youngsters are attracted to the enterprise programme and there is a danger others may feel excluded."

Circumstances alter cases, however, and Elaine Marrone, principal guidance teacher (world of work) at Belmont Academy in Ayr, says schools such as hers with an academic tradition have not succeeded in convincing all staff of the merits of enterprise education. But she believes that, with the ablest youngsters attracted to it and the use of teachers as mentors for the pupils involved, there could be "a snowball effect". The European dimension in Achievers International adds an extra touch of excitement, she adds.

All three Scottish schools point to the commitment from both the school and the pupils that is required for what is often an extra-curricular activity. "There is no point in having just one or two enthusiastic individuals," Mr Miller says. "There must be support from the whole school."

Lorna Jarvie and Alan Murray, the two Belmont students who went to Berlin, spend an average of 12-15 hours a week on their enterprise activities.

Mr McVie believes, however, that the obvious gains will gradually overcome doubters. "Entrepreneurship is the new Esperanto," he says. "It's the same wherever you are in the world."

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