The question of whether schools teach children enough fundamental life skills pops up every few years. The example of children not being taught how to pay taxes often makes an appearance and occasionally the ill-founded example of children not being taught how to cook a roast - cookery classes have been around longer than most!
When it comes to the first example however, there are a few reasons why there should be a larger focus on teaching children effective financial management. One of the key arguments for this is its ability to foster an entrepreneurial mindset. Back in 2009, entrepreneur and investor (and dragon) Peter Jones, stated that 'entrepreneurs are not born, they are taught' and stressed the important role schools can, and should, play. There are a variety of ways in which schools can encourage entrepreneurship, employing a range of teaching methods to develop different skills. Here are a few of the best:
- Invite business owners to talk to students: Business owners are often more than happy to come in to give a talk on an aspect of business. It’s usually a case of simply dropping them an email and asking if and when they’re free. They can impart enthusiasm and share their first-hand experience, giving a more personal touch to the subject of entrepreneurialism.
- Building business brains: It will come as no surprise that encouraging children to take Business Studies at GCSE, or Business Finance as it’s sometimes known, will help them develop in entrepreneurial thought. Learning the fundamentals (and the jargon!) will be invaluable to a wannabe business owner. Having a good head for numbers and computers will also help: an interest in Maths and IT should be encouraged.
- Don’t forget spelling and grammar: It can be difficult to be taken seriously in the adult world if you don’t have a proper command of language. Try to get children to take pride in their use of language and to be hot on correcting any grammatical mistakes or spelling errors. It will make a huge difference to whatever career they choose to pursue.
- Confidence and good communication: Arguably the most important thing a teacher can instil in a child is confidence, self-respect and self-acceptance. These traits will go a long way to helping a student think their aspirations are possible and they have what it takes. Good communication skills are important too: having to deliver presentations in class can help with this, as can Drama.
- Competition time: Hosting project management competitions and challenges can be a great way to introduce children to the concept of leadership, and working as a team with a shared goal. Such events will also require dedication and ambition, not only to win but to see the task through until the end.
- Internships and work experience: When it comes to understanding the world of work, it’s hard to beat the experience of a real working environment. Part-time jobs will help with this as will internships. If a student can bag a job at a local startup they will get a great insight into what running a business looks like in the early days.
Ciaron Dunne, entrepreneur and founder of Office Genie (along with other ventures), has the following to add on the matter:
“Schools can potentially play a huge part in encouraging entrepreneurial kids, by creating an awareness of the great stories of entrepreneurship and by supporting a culture where one day starting a business is viewed as a natural option for both girls and boys. I would be really excited to see kids of all ages taught about, say, Dyson or Google or Raspberry Pi.
“Entrepreneurship is ultimately a creative, engaging process, and it would be fabulous if school kids could develop aspirations and feel excited in the same way as they might do about the arts, sciences or sport. Inviting guest speakers, ideally with local roots, who have started businesses would be a fantastic way to make the option seem more real. But it's also helpful to recognise that there are many forms of entrepreneurship outside business - including amazing products or high-impact charity or community projects - which may help to engage with kids' natural interests.
“As a CEO I would love it if more young people applied for jobs and stated a long-term ambition to start a business or develop their own idea. We can harness that passion, and develop people to give them the skills they'll need.”
Lilli Hender writes for the desk and office space marketplace Office Genie: a site tailored to finding the perfect office for entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs. She can be found tweeting at @OfficeGenieUK.