School is supposed to prepare our children for everything that happens afterwards. But there is something broken in a system that places so much focus on achieving a university entrance and then proceeding on a professional career path, but does little to prepare them for an equally possible future in which they will have to become entrepreneurs, create their own jobs, incomes and success, and take their future into their own hands.
I keep hearing kids say they are taught entrepreneurial skills at school but I just don’t see it. These skills are critical if youngsters are to survive in the real world. I don’t mean that they should be learning bookkeeping and business plans and retail strategy (although those are very useful things to learn). Instead I mean that they should be learning the qualities that will make them into successful entrepreneurs – initiative, determination, self-control skills for managing strong emotions, communication skills for dealing with difficult social interactions, grit and problem solving.
Unfortunately, academic schooling systems so often erase these characteristics in our children. They teach them to conform, to obey orders, to follow the system and not to question. Schools want an academic end result, measured in the number of university entrances or average marks at the end of matric. They don’t want children breaking the mould, doing things differently, challenging the system and asking difficult questions.
Guess what? Those are exactly the actions that prepare children for the real world – whether they go on to start their own businesses or become professionals in any field. The true successes of the next generation will be the ones who aren’t afraid to try, fail, and have the courage to try again because they’ve been prepared for it by a school system that encouraged experimentation.
There is an increasing problem globally that children are coming out of the schooling system unprepared for the work place. Some of them are lazy and selfish. They want things handed to them on a platter. They have no idea how to do anything for themselves.
There are endless articles about how to deal with these millennials in the workplace. Psychologists and analysts are called in to try to instill some kind of self-determination and initiative in them, so that they can progress through their careers with confidence and effectiveness. Imagine, then, what it must be like for those high school graduates who are not in a supportive, professional environment, who are struggling to eke out a living without any of those skills.
For this reason – for the benefit of future entrepreneurs but also for the benefit of future professionals – we need to start fostering entrepreneurial spirit at school level. At primary school level, even. Instead of crushing their spirits when they try something, we, as parents and educators, need to find ways of rewarding our children’s initiative encouraging them to be team players without undermining their individuality.
By all means, let’s teach our children marketing and bookkeeping and sales forecasting, but let’s also help them develop practical skills that they will be able to use in all walks of life. Just as important – if not more – make sure that you are supporting their entrepreneurial spirit. Encourage curiosity, originality and determination. The kids that have these things can be the next Bill Gates, Richard Branson or Patrice Motsepe - not the ones who did what they were told and never questioned anything.
Winnie Kunene is a personal finance strategist. She educates people and helps them to get out of debt – and stay out! You can visit her website at winniekunene.co.za or email her on firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of 1Life or its employees.