When the headteacher of a small London school came out and said aspiring entrepreneurs and business leaders would be better off? if they started their journey in the US his thoughts resonated with me, especially when I found out he was leading my old school.
Amongst all of the debate about whether British kids are made to go though too many exams, and if David Cameron’s famed academy school system is any good, there is pretty good evidence that we arent equipping today’s youngsters with enough business nous.
We love talking a good game about how entrepreneurial the UK has become, but if children are leaving school with no understanding of how a business structure works, or even a decent grasp of personal finances, what are their chances of survival in a cut-throat business world.
Jonathan Taylor, headteacher at my old school North Bridge House, used an opinion piece in The Telegraph to say US universities provide a much better environment for budding entrepreneurs. He believes these academic institutions focus on the individual behind the grades, and what each student is passionate about.
But I think you have to look back further into the earlier years of schooling to see where big changes need to be made. While in secondary school (between the ages of 11 and 16) children spend hour after hour dissecting in minute detail the writings of Shakespeare and intricacies of trigonometry, surely it would be better to apply these skills to real-life situations such as letter writing, presentations and financial planning.
Can anyone honestly say that they came out of formal schooling knowing about tax, credit scores, mortgages, pensions or general household financial management. Rather we come out knowing that famous Hamlet soliloquy, what the hypotenuse of a triangle is and a nursery rhyme to recall the periodic table of elements.
When it gets to university stage, Taylor believes that the US approach of produces students with a melting pot of expertise? rather than the iron-clad single specialisation that is the backbone of British university courses.
It could be argued that, based on the number of well-known businesses being founded by university drop outs, universities don’t really provide enough of an infrastructure to construct a company while you’re there. But, at the age of 18, most people don’t know what they want to do so why make them go through a highly-prescriptive course that allows for very little flexibility.
In my research for this piece I stumbled upon a piece written on entrepnreur.com which outlined three skills they don’t teach you at school. The first was communication, something that is vital for a business builder of any scale. Then came multitasking, and no playing a game on your smartphone while watching something on your tablet doesnt count. The final skill was attention to detail.
Learning on the job is great, but if we can provide children leaving formal education with a set of valuable life skills such as communication, multitasking and attention to detail then were only going to speed up the rate at which new businesses can be formed and additional jobs created.
When a child gets to the age of 16, subjects such as business studies and economics become available. However, as someone who was not interested by either of those when I was younger, the government needs to be doing more to make them attractive by detailing the real-life applications of these vital skills.
Entrepreneurship now has some fairly trendy faces to attach to it. Looking back, Id much rather have been given the task of creating and running a fictional business than regurgitating the process of photosynthesis.
it’s good to see that teachers like Taylor are placing a value on business skills in schools. He does have the fortunate advantage of leading an independent school which isnt as tied to the National Curriculum, but there is the opportunity to lead by example and produce more well-rounded pupils.