The State of Entrepreneurship Education

In recent years, there has been a dramatic rise in the incorporation of new, entrepreneurial business ventures. Some of this can be chalked up to the cultural hype surrounding entrepreneurial tycoons such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. A quick look at the recent recession and soaring unemployment rates should help to explain the rest.

The world simply isn’t what it was a generation ago. More and more people are seeking success outside traditional career paths. Fueled by media publications, movie releases, and frenzied clamor on social media sites, entrepreneurship continues to grow and establish emerging markets worldwide.

Despite its global influence, however, entrepreneurship has yet to be integrated into American school curriculum.

The American primary and secondary education systems operate on an assembly line model which stresses the importance of conformity and replication. In this environment, memorization is more important than understanding.

Students are taught that efficiency is achieved by repeating a prescribed pattern of steps, rather than by discovering more innovative and less resource-intensive methods. Somewhere along the way, there became only one ‘right’ way to do things, and innovation became insubordination.

The American education system is long overdue for an adjustment- a reality check. The inclusion of entrepreneurship education into the general curriculum may very well be the answer. For now, however, students who desire to be educated in entrepreneurship and innovative success strategies are forced to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Shifting gears to America’s higher education system, the findings are slightly less troubling, but still far from ideal. It is largely agreed upon that the first entrepreneurship class was taught to Harvard MBA students in 1947 (Source).

In the United States today, more than two thousand colleges offer courses in entrepreneurship, while over two hundred colleges and universities offer entrepreneurship majors (or related majors such as small business). Despite its substantial growth, entrepreneurship education still exists only on the fringes of academia.

One area of notable improvement is the growing number of conferences and competitions in which students develop and pitch business plans. These events open students’ eyes to some of the more basic aspects of entrepreneurship (determining addressable market size, identifying revenue streams, building marketing/distribution strategies), but lack the necessary resources and depth to provide a comprehensive base of entrepreneurial knowledge and experience. These competitions are a step in the right direction, but a single step nonetheless.

In order for entrepreneurship to establish itself in mainstream academia, a number of steps must be taken. A well-defined curriculum must be established- it may be beneficial to organize a national panel of entrepreneurs to preside over its development. Faculty members who research entrepreneurship and have practical experience in entrepreneurial ventures must be identified and recruited.

Experience is a must- true entrepreneurship education is experientially oriented and action based. Business schools must allow for a focus shift from left brain analytics to right brain imagination, textbook-based learning strategies and unilateral lectures simply will not do.

The reality of the situation is that these steps have yet to be taken, and may not be for some time to come. In the meantime, the world hasn’t stopped turning, and business hasn’t stopped evolving. McKinsey has released research data indicating that 45% of global GDP in the coming decade will come from seven emerging economies (Source) (China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Turkey, and Indonesia).

This statistic, surprising as it may be, is evidence that the true future of entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial business ventures lies in the ability to locate, communicate, and collaborate with other like-minded individuals and entrepreneurs from all corners of the globe.

Entrepreneurship grows and breeds success through human capital differentiation. What is truly needed to foster entrepreneurship, and to facilitate entrepreneurship education, is a platform through which entrepreneurs and interested individuals can share ideas, ask questions, and collaborate with one another. Such a platform could usher in a new era of entrepreneurship, in which human capital is plentiful and success through altruism is the status quo.

Dave Bright