Schools Should Nurture Kids’ Natural Knack for Entrepreneurship

Opinion

I think the most important change we could make in education would be to put more emphasis on exposing kids to entrepreneurship, starting very early on. I’ve found that kids have a natural inclination towards entrepreneurship—we just need to give them the opportunity to learn and practice the skills they need to act on their ideas.

Imagine if every student had the chance to think like an entrepreneur from a young age. This is how we could truly prepare today’s kids for the future. They’re growing up in a world where technology and ideas rule. Many of them will be doing work that doesn’t even exist right now. They will have the chance to solve problems and start companies and create new technologies. They’ll be much better equipped to succeed if their education has provided them with an entrepreneurial mindset and knowledge.

Early exposure to anything, whether it’s technology or international travel or green vegetables, makes a world of difference later in life. It’s how we become comfortable, confident, and interested in opportunities that cross our paths throughout life. Some kids are lucky enough to be exposed to entrepreneurs, and some are encouraged by their parents to pursue their own entrepreneurial pursuits. However, many young people won’t have that chance unless it’s built into their education.

Entrepreneurship should be an educational priority, beginning in elementary school and continuing on from there. Including it in the regular classroom curriculum could provide access to every student, while after-school clubs and activities could introduce a platform for those who want to take their interest to the next level. High school and college students can participate in internships, where they can experience startups from the inside.

Making this vision a reality will require participation and input from outside of the school system. While teachers obviously play a critical role, the responsibility can’t fall entirely on their shoulders. Others in the community can act as mentors, offer internships to students, speak at schools, and volunteer to work with after-school clubs.

A few years ago I spoke about entrepreneurship at a middle school, and I was blown away by the level of engagement. The students were attentive and absolutely hungry for information. When I asked for a show of hands, two-thirds of them identified themselves as entrepreneurs. They asked tons of insightful, direct questions and wanted to learn as much as they could about entrepreneurship. Later I went back and worked with some of the students on their specific projects and was amazed by their enthusiasm and the quality of the questions they asked.

I’m sure this was not an isolated case. I bet you could go into just about any school and you’d discover a similar level of interest. We need to take advantage of this natural inclination and enthusiasm and provide kids with encouragement and knowledge. Allowing kids to come up with their own ideas and experiment with different strategies in a safe environment can really build their confidence and give them the chance to learn through experience.

The most important reason to expose kids to the joys of entrepreneurship is that they’ll have lots of fun as they learn. Every student in every school should get the chance to discover how they can use their imagination, dream big and do meaningful work.

[Editor’s note: Xconomy recently asked thought leaders in educating and developing entrepreneurs what changes they’d like to see the education system in this country make. You can see answers to that and other questions here.]

David Cohen is the founder and CEO of Techstars. Follow @davidcohen

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4 responses to “Schools Should Nurture Kids’ Natural Knack for Entrepreneurship”

  1. Michael Hawes says:

    There’s an excellent organization which does this in actually organizing kids to start real businesses: BUILD, http://www.build.org.

  2. When I get my company on the road… I WILL develop a curriculum for kids which will consist of everyone from plumbers, to construction workers and auto mechanics to pilots to scientists, business people, sales people, (you get the idea) talking about their jobs, their challenges and clever things they have done to do their work better. Certainly, schools could find a half hour per week to focus on careers, problem solving and finding opportunity.

  3. Keith says:

    Most schools in Europe are about half day and they can get the education done quite well. It is pretty obvious that as a nation the United States does not know what we are doing. Why not follow a system that works like Germany’s