Entrepreneurship education: a creativity terminator or a blessing?
Over the past decades, besides being a key instrument for development, Entrepreneurship took a chair at the education table. And it is pretty understandable because if it was the right way out of poverty, then why not expose it to everyone? But the fact that most successful entrepreneurs worldwide didn’t take the course, and the people who did are working as their workers instead of creating their jobs makes people wonder whether studying entrepreneurship kills one’s creativity or helps it blossom.
The background of Entrepreneurship Education in the Rwandan context
The entrepreneurship curriculum was introduced in the Rwandan education system for the first time a decade ago, and students have demonstrated a higher ambition to be entrepreneurs ever since (Lazarus, 2015). Since 2010, entrepreneurship education has been given in Rwanda as a mandatory course in High school, an optional course in Universities, and Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has offered informal training to mainly the youth and women. All these efforts have had a tremendous impact on the youth, particularly the informal training, wherein in 2015, 65.2 percent of trainees started their own businesses, employing over 25,100 individuals (RDB, 2015). However, there’s insufficient available data on what they are doing after graduation for the students who formally studied entrepreneurship. So, it is hard to tell whether they become entrepreneurs or fell into the line of job seekers like everyone else (Moussa and Todd, 2020).
So, isn’t Entrepreneurship Education really a blessing?
Entrepreneurship is quickly becoming a critical tool in the global economy’s development (Zoltan, 2015). According to Steven (2010), it can take numerous forms, including running a small firm, being innovative, leading a team, or launching a new venture. Donald (2017) concurs, debunking the idea that “entrepreneurs are doers, not thinkers.” Innovation is a critical pillar of an entrepreneur, as he describes in his book, “Entrepreneurship: Theory, Process, Practice 10th Edition.” He emphasizes the importance of education in the development of entrepreneurs, claiming that they are not born but formed (Donald, 2017). Entrepreneurship Education and Training (EET) programs have surged in popularity over the last 20 years, owing to their promise and capacity to build entrepreneurial skills and mindsets. Those programs have helped people develop an entrepreneurial mentality, entrepreneurial competencies, entrepreneurial status, and entrepreneurial performance, among other things (Alexandria et al., 2014), which is why African countries have, similarly, long incorporated EET programs into their educational systems.
Personally, I encountered Entrepreneurship for the first time in my first year of high school, and it was with no doubt one of my favorite subjects. I still remember its teacher back then, who was a very loving and fun woman to be around. She took us on field trips intending to show us how local business owners started from so little and are now turning their rural villages into small towns by developing themselves and employing others. And I immensely fell in love with Entrepreneurship, not because of the books we had back at school but because of the stories, I heard and, to be honest, the possibility of buying biscuits once I was out of my very catholic boarding school. But we went back to school, and the tests and exams were the old definitions and principles that I had to cram from my books when all I wanted to do was talk about how Mr. Kalisa, the bakery owner, inspired me to use my talent and love for food to make money or how Mrs. Juliet’s tailoring shop showed me that it doesn’t matter how low you got in life, you can always get back up and do better. I was learning through inspiration, but the curriculum didn’t care, which makes me wonder.
Maybe Entrepreneurship Education is killing the students’ creativity instead?
Innovative performance, taking chances, and proactiveness is required to promote any society’s entrepreneurship culture (Morris and Kurakto, 2011). On the other hand, Marina doubts the value of introducing risk-taking because the more danger students are exposed to, the less likely they are to pursue entrepreneurship (2013). As a result, students graduate with a new perspective on entrepreneurship and a diverse range of talents, but many prefer to work rather than create their own businesses due to fearing the risk that comes with that (Alexandria et al., 2014).
On top of that, most students just learn to pass exams (aeon, 2021), which, at its core, contradicts the whole entrepreneurship concept. Every course needs to be put into practice, but Entrepreneurship is one of those subjects that only make sense in practice. Because what would be the use of learning the definitions of creativity, innovation, and invention and how they differ if not to practice them? Yet, I remember well learning those concepts in Senior 4, and nobody asked us to innovate or invent anything during the process. All my classmates and I had to do to pass the subject were to memorize the definitions and characteristics of each concept.
Now that we have a picture of what’s going on, how can we build Entrepreneurship as a foundation for creativity instead of the opposite?
Entrepreneurship is arguably being taught in the most suboptimal ways in Rwanda. But as people who know how beneficial it is, we don’t brush it off. Instead, we ask ourselves what we can do to deliver the course more practically to impact students. The optimal entrepreneurship program would pull students out of the classroom, connect them with real-world business problems, and provide strong teams the opportunity to start and run with real-world angel investors rather than lingering in theory (Gerry, 2018). Real-life entrepreneurs would teach students, if not every day, at least occasionally in seminars, to show them that what they are learning is doable.
Going on field trips would also help Rwandan students to relate to entrepreneurs as I did with Mrs. Juliet when I was still in Senior 1. But this time, to teach students through action and asking them questions that push them to act in response. According to Jun and his co-authors (2021), outside entrepreneurship training has a more significant impact than in-class studies because it is more effective to have entrepreneurship as an extracurricular activity than a curriculum. Belotti (2014) agrees, advocating the use of games to support the development of an entrepreneurial attitude among university students. According to Fauzia and her co-authors (2016), the absence of formality in learning may benefit learners. They need an environment that encourages them to become entrepreneurs and uses education as a stimulant.
Some people might argue that Africans, in this case, Rwandans, don’t have enough entrepreneurial figures to take examples from, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Being an entrepreneur doesn’t mean owning a multi-million dollar company. It simply means creating solutions that make a difference for your community. If every student who studies entrepreneurship aimed to do this, our country would be a better place both financially and socially. So at the end of the day, it’s in the hands of the curriculum creators to either make Entrepreneurship help flourish creativity or diminish it.
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