Entrepreneurship is a serious subject
Many leaders around the world have begun to recognize the importance of STEM education and entrepreneurship as the key factors to improve their economy. They know that STEM education plays an essential role in promoting entrepreneurial skills and startup business. For the past few years, the subject of startup had often been confused with the creation of a small business. The fact is entrepreneurship should be associated with technology and most startups should be about fast-growing technology companies that create higher paying jobs and contribute to the local economy, not the tradition small business.
Even today, entrepreneurship is often taught as an extra activity, outside of main education system rather than a required subject worthy of serious study. I think that is a mistake. To grow the economy, entrepreneurship should be taught as the main subject like physics, chemistry, and math. Education leaders should understand that the world we live today is different from yesterday. And the world of tomorrow will significantly differ from today as technology will continue to evolve faster than most of us can think. The issue is the current education systems have not kept pace with these changes. We have been standing still when the whole world is moving at the speed of the Internet. If we do not change now, we will be left behind not by ten or twenty, but fifty years or more, and we will never be able to catch up.
To develop technical people who can solve technology challenges, we must infuse entrepreneurial thinking throughout our education system, from high school to college. We must apply new methods of teaching that encourage the development of entrepreneurial attitudes and skills by focusing on solving problems. The notion of being an entrepreneur to get rich must be replaced by the ability to solve problems, especially difficult problems that others could not. This is the “real essence” of the entrepreneurial mindset and by teaching students to do that, we could create a new generation of innovators who can make a difference in our society.
Students must be taught to understand problems as potential opportunities, not something to afraid or complain about. They should be able to ask themselves: “How can I solve this problem? How many other people have this problem? Why can’t they solve this problem? What is the issue? By asking the right questions, they will learn to analyze it and identify possibilities and options. All successful entrepreneurs start with the same question: “What is the problem that I need to solve?”
When students told me that they want to be “Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates.” I asked them: “What was Steve Jobs look like before Apple Computer? Did he have three heads or six arms? No, he was an ordinary people like you. The difference was he looked at a problem and asked himself: “How can I solve this problem?” His inquisitive mind of problem-solving led him to build a small computer that he could sell for a few thousand dollars as a solution for many people who could not afford to buy expensive mainframe computers.
In this technology-driven world, the best way to improve the economy is having more innovators and entrepreneurs who invent new products, start new businesses, create new jobs, improve the economy, and raise the standard of living to their people. It all starts with a new approach to educating people by focusing on developing a strong foundation in science and technology and focus on problem-solving. I believe that entrepreneurs are the scaffolding of the new economy that is essential to the prosperity of our societies and creates a new knowledge society for the future.
- Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University