Most modern education systems are descended from and are structured after the one that came into being in Britain during the industrial revolution. Increased production capacities during that period created a demand for trained labour that could only be met by a dedicated system of education. Since then a nation’s literacy has become tied to its industrial capacity.
Zimbabwe, possibly has the highest literacy rate in Africa but also happens to have one of the most dismal GDPs. Our education system outperforms several of our well off neighbours’. The country is characterized by a well performing education system that no longer has industries to supply.
Since the early days of education for the masses, it has been realised that not only must institutions churn out a reasonably skilled workforce, but they must also encourage and facilitate the creation of new industries. Our education system continues to supply more than enough of the minds needed to run our phantom of an economy, but for the most part appears to fail to provide enough to revive it. So is enough being done in our educational sector to provide the country with its share of the much needed enterprising minds?
It has been said before that our schools are geared to produce employees. However this situation may be a bit worse, they actually compete to produce the highest numbers of students who can pass tests and exams. This means that a large majority of our schools freely trim and streamline the full educational experience to meet this short sighted goal. An almost rote form of learning is therefore encouraged over the useful assimilation of knowledge and its applications. I remember in high school we were always being warned by teachers that our extra-curricula endeavours, even school sanctioned ones, could negatively affect our academic performance.
Two of an entrepreneurs most useful qualities are good management and team building skills. The few activities targeted at the average student that exist to promote these qualities are mostly relegated to the extra curriculum. My first business pitch made me wish that I had participated in the various public speaking and debate clubs at my former high school, but alas it was always implied that those were for Arts students. You will discover that in fact, any club (from primary to varsity level) that brings you together with others to accomplish a common goal offers priceless entrepreneurship lessons that cannot be found inside the pages of a textbook. Our formative education system, for the most part, fails to encourage these activities among the general student populace.
Motivational speaking and writing is a lucrative industry the world over. Its success comes from the eventual realisation by most people that the ‘why’ is more important than the ‘how’ in any endeavour. Teachers in our classrooms can preach about entrepreneurship as much as they want, but without giving the student a good reason for becoming one, their efforts are reduced to a mere mark on the students report book at the end of the term. Our education system fails to justify most of its teachings to the learner beyond the need to pass an exam.
Our schools already have a lot of subjects that can greatly help future business owners, from simple formal letter writing in an English class to the broad Human and Economic geography. However, like I stated before, most schools do their best to maximize their pass rates so they distribute these subjects among their classes based on how challenging they appear to be. Therefore those subjects that teach entrepreneurship may be deemed easy and be only offered to a few “select” classes.
Even our diploma and degree programs are still structured to produce employees. Currently the majority of our degree programs have very small local job markets. Instead of adapting and offering self employment and job creation as means of expanding their charges’ prospects, our universities use these shortages as reason for encouraging hyper-competitiveness. In addition, basic business courses are still mostly confined to their traditional study programmes.
Contrary to the opinions of people who are constantly ogling over images of Japanese kindergarteners playing with robots, our education system may not be completely broken. To its credit one of the most important qualities of a successful entrepreneur is self discipline, which our schools do their best to instil. After all for one to study and pass an exam requires significant amounts of self discipline. It has also been noted that the level of success of entrepreneurs is related to their level of education.