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HomeEducationNurturing entrepreneurial spirit in kids for the jobs of the future

Nurturing entrepreneurial spirit in kids for the jobs of the future

Nurturing entrepreneurial spirit in kids for the jobs of the future

As someone who was homeschooled and then determinedly chose not to pursue higher studies after IIT, I’ve always been curious about the role of education in a child’s life.

Not every child will grow up to start their own company. Many will become employees or be self-employed or venture into creative fields. (HT Archive)

This feeling has intensified for me in the last few years – both as the founder of a learn-tech start-up and a parent of a pre-teen!

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Most of us have written so many exams, we can probably be woken up in our sleep and recite formulae we’d be hard-pressed to apply, or even explain adequately.

‘Differentiation is a process of determining the rate of change in a quantity with respect to another quantity’. We mugged it up and regurgitated it in exams dutifully, but how about putting it to practice? Nope. We aced our third and fourth language exams in school, but can we watch a movie in those languages without subtitles? Nope.

We also know that school success does not always translate to life success. In his New York Times bestseller, Barking Up The Wrong Tree, author Eric Barker (based on an analysis of research on the subject) writes, “Valedictorians aren’t likely to be the future’s visionaries,” says Arnold.

“They typically settle into the system instead of shaking it up… Self-discipline, conscientiousness and the ability to comply with rules are great in school, but don’t lead to disruption and breakthroughs… School has very clear rules but life doesn’t. Life is messy.”

The question then becomes, in an era of global uncertainty – with political unrest, climate change, and rampant fear of AI, where change is the only constant – what role does education really play?

Research is repeatedly telling us that 85% of the jobs of 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. Can traditional education – with systems that have privileged note-taking and rote learning at the cost of creativity – rise to the challenge of raising a new workforce?

I strongly believe that this uncertainty is a clarion call for innovation. And that the BIG questions that humanity will face in the future will not be answered by a cohort that excels only at standardised tests… For that, we need a generation of entrepreneurs.

Allow me to explain. I don’t mean youngsters who want to become the next Facebook, or ‘the Uber of sustainability’. I mean children armed with an entrepreneurial mindset.

According to ​world-renowned educational researcher and professor, Dr Yong Zhao, cultivating entrepreneurial talents requires ‘A paradigm shift — from employee to entrepreneur-oriented education, from prescribing children’s education to supporting their learning, and from reducing human diversity to a few employable skills to enhancing individual talents’.

There are obvious benefits to such a mindset, like goal-setting, recognising opportunities, communication skills, or early lessons in financial literacy which will stand children in good stead throughout life.

But the entrepreneurial mindset goes beyond that. It is a blend of curiosity, creativity, resilience, and innovation. And it makes children anti-fragile – as in, they are able to adapt to change and not be overwhelmed by it. Doesn’t matter where and how they choose to use their skills.

Boyan Slat turned a diving expedition into a high-school project about ocean pollution. By the time he was 19, he dropped out of his aerospace engineering degree to start his non-profit The Ocean Cleanup, which later devised The Interceptor to stop plastic from polluted rivers draining into the seas.

But it isn’t even about solving the Big Problems.

Not every child will grow up to start their own company. Many will become employees or be self-employed or venture into creative fields. But a child with an entrepreneurial mindset has a powerful tool against unpredictability: the capacity to constantly learn and improve, and think on their feet. This will mean happier, more creative, and more satisfied people in the workforce.

Who doesn’t want that?

Encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset in our children also helps them deal with the smaller vagaries of life. It allows them to see the world not just as it is, but as it could be. It teaches them to be resourceful and adaptable, and crucially, lets them know that they have the permission to fail. That last bit alone is enough to inspire confidence and inculcate problem-solving skills among children.

However, the path to instilling an entrepreneurial attitude among our children is not going to be easy. It means that the groundwork for raising tomorrow’s entrepreneurs must start today. And it needs to start in our minds first.

In a country like India, these challenges are at multiple levels – socio-economic contexts, caste, and gender. Children from resource-constrained environments often develop remarkable ingenuity, as they are compelled to innovate with limited resources. Every year we are amazed by stories of kids from rural India who innovate to solve very local, community problems they grapple with daily.

Take for example 14-year-old Remya Jose from a small village in Kerala. She won a National Innovation Foundation award for her “washing-cum-exercise machine” for substituting electric parts with mechanical ones while maintaining the functions of a washing machine.

Are you surprised that class-topping Remya was in charge of doing her family’s laundry? How do we ensure this “necessity-driven entrepreneurship” reaches its full potential? I believe as parents, we can make a big difference here.

Encourage your children to participate in activities that challenge them. Weave ideas around entrepreneurship into family conversations. Watch carefully for signs of lateral thinking when you see them solving problems – nurture them, instead of insisting on being correct. And if possible, enrol them in classes that will encourage entrepreneurial thinking. If they’ve tried their hand at entrepreneurship at an early age, they will be less daunted by it as adults.

Help them set goals and targets, but resist the temptation to intervene if they look like they’re going to miss the mark. The hardest part will be to stay out of their way, and prevent them from making mistakes. Try and remember your own learning curve, and how much failure contributed to your own growth.

If you are a parent to a girl in India, remember that they have it the toughest, with every societal system designed to keep their imaginations in check. They face the highest barriers to entry in any field.

Consider these sobering figures: Women make up just about 14% of entrepreneurs in India, and we rank 70 (out of 77) on the Global Entrepreneurship & Development Institute’s Female Entrepreneurship Index. Encouraging young girls to pursue their entrepreneurial interests is not just about setting them up for success but about challenging patriarchal norms and fostering equity.

I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is when we nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within our children, we are not just preparing them for the jobs of the future; we are empowering them to create a future where they are not mere participants, but drivers of change. Armed with these skills, I am confident that kids will be alright.

Also Read: Centre set to launch National Curriculum, Framework for early childhood care & education, here’s what experts think

(Authored by Ravi Bhushan, Founder & CEO, BrightCHAMPS. Views are personal)

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