04.02.2006 Feature Article

Entrepreneurship as Secondary School Subject

Entrepreneurship as Secondary School Subject
04.02.2006 LISTEN

Private sector development has been one of the slogans of the NPP administration. As a proponent of market economy, the NPP government believes that a private sector development can be used to fire the engines of the Ghanaian economy. There is nothing wrong with that ideology, considering that African countries' flirtation with socialist, centrally commanded economy since the simulacrum of political independence from Euro-colonialists has been a disaster. Even those that fully married socialism for more than a decade through a flamboyant wedding arranged by the then Soviet Union did not chalk any enviable records of success. Presently, almost every African government is preaching the gospel of market economy to its citizenry, embroidered with glossy promises of economic miracles in the form of more employment opportunities, increased standard of living, better business outcomes, and more resources for education and health care.

However, having an idea is one thing but putting that idea into action is another. So it is with the concept of market economy, which is more involved than we sometimes envisage in Ghana. It demands much more action-oriented than mere articulation of shibboleths. In other words, the NPP government has very little to show for its private sector development. A significant reason for this failure lies in the government's inability to undertake institutional reforms to pave the way for a market economy to blossom in Ghana. It is analogous to a student who does not want personal discipline yet she/he wants to attain an advanced academic degree.

Private sector development must have a firm foundation in Ghana. It can not be built in the air! Neither can it be built with words. Indeed, having minister in charge of private sector development as the NPP government has is just one step toward market economy. There are many other steps to be taken. One effective strategy is to sow the concept of entrepreneurship among the youth by making it a legitimate subject of study in the junior and senior secondary school curricula.

Professionally speaking, in-school education must be one of the agents of social reconstruction or change; for education has an ideological purpose besides its economic and aesthetic purposes. The youth must be the first target of any economic reconstruction or change we envisage in Ghana. The reason is that in most cases it is much easier to teach puppies new tricks than it is to teach the old dogs new tricks, so to speak. Unfortunately, our political history is a testament of the fact that apart from Nkrumah regime, and to a lesser extent Rawlings regime, other regimes neglected the youth as one of the avenues through which to bring about social change. The other regimes perhaps were scared of being accused of youth indoctrination just as Nkrumah was accused. However, exponents of such regimes glossed over the reality that public institutions, including our traditional ones, are instruments of indoctrination. Even our Western socio-economic tutors are not exempted from this, since indoctrination is one of the tools used to exercise political power in any society.

The fact is research has demonstrated that entrepreneurship can be taught and leaned like any other subjects in the school curricula. By this, I am not suggesting that all junior and secondary students could be converted or transformed into entrepreneurs by teaching them entrepreneurial studies, far from that. That would be so simplistic a vision and it would have shown my lack of understanding of human psychology. Like any school subjects, students may either love or hate entrepreneurial studies depending on instructional style, learning activities, personal motivation, perceived usefulness of the subject, and peer or familial pressure.

Using my lived professional experiences as a former teacher of entrepreneurial education at the senior secondary school level, students enrolled in entrepreneurial education can be divided into two distinct groups. There are those who sign up for entrepreneurial studies out of sheer intellectual curiosity without any initial inkling to become future entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, it is possible that some of these students could develop a desire to become entrepreneurs as a result of their positive experiences with the studies of entrepreneurship. The other category is made up of students who want to learn to become entrepreneurs. Such students have several questions to which they want to explore appropriate answers. For example, they may have the following questions: Am I an entrepreneur? What are the characteristics of an entrepreneur? How do I become an entrepreneur? Which sector of the economy could I fit as an entrepreneur? For these students entrepreneurial studies would be a process of self-discovery. Just as some students in the first category may eventually embrace entrepreneurship as a career choice, some students in the second category may give up their dreams to become future entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurial studies as part of the JSS and SSS curricula would have the purpose of developing in students the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for starting and running a business. It would combine theory with experience or practice, emphasizing a hands-on approach to learning activities such as marketing a product in a school community; learning from local and national entrepreneurs through interviews; conducting research into business problems; case studies of businesses in Ghana; presentation skills; apprenticeship with local entrepreneurs; group discussion and problem-solving. The content of the entrepreneurial studies that I am proposing for JSS and SSS would consist of, but not limited to, the following elements:

• Exploring the differences between entrepreneurs and employees; characteristics of entrepreneurs; the differences and similarities between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs;

• Preparing business venture plans: budgeting and financing business opportunities; business registration process and government regulations on business;

• Identif ying business opportunities; marketing and pricing products and services for domestic and international markets;

• Understanding, interpreting, and preparing simple income statement, position statement (balance sheet), and cash flow statement;

• Managing human resources: recruiting, selecting, and training human workers; determining methods of remuneration; the concepts of productivity, motivation, efficiency, and leadership;

• Traditional business practices in Ghana: strengths and weaknesses; business failures in Ghana: causes and solutions.

Entrepreneurial studies as a secondary school subject has the possibility of encouraging some students to become entrepreneurs after graduation from school rather than hunting for non-existent government jobs. Consequently, an entrepreneurial study is more likely to encourage self-employment among our youth as they develop positive attitude toward self-employment, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. It is also likely to encourage business innovative ideas among the youth who make up a balk of the country's population. Ghana has a long, deep-rooted culture of our school graduates always expecting the government to provide them jobs instead of creating jobs for themselves. This post-colonial mentality must be uprooted and entrepreneurial studies is a software approach to accomplish that. A true private sector development is an idea that must be sown among the youth in school in order to develop private businesses (small, medium or large), hence a market economy. Indeed private business development is one of the prerequisites for market economy. And an entrepreneurial study as a school subject has a better prospect of contributing to make that vision a reality.

Nonetheless, the realization of the benefits of entrepreneurial studies at the JSS and SSS level depends to a significant extent on the pedagogical practices of its teachers, including the usefulness of the learning activities. Entrepreneurial studies can not be taught in the same way that social studies, mathematics, and science are taught at the JSS and SSS levels. Entrepreneurship requires action, whether it is conceptualized as the creation of new products or processes, entry into new markets, or the creation of new ventures, it typically involves personal initiative and commitment. Therefore, students can not be expected to learn the craft of entrepreneurship by sitting down passively and absorbing endless facts, information and figures from the teacher. The pedagogy of entrepreneurial education is student-focus, in which students are allowed a voice in the classroom, to ask questions, answer questions, to pose problems, to share experiences or ideas and to engage in individual, team or group activities in a community of learners.

To conclude this piece, one question that might be asked is this: How would entrepreneurial studies fit the present structure of JSS and SSS curricula? There are two options. Either entrepreneurial studies becomes part of the business stream or part of the vocational stream. If it is made part of the business stream, it should be considered an alternative to business management, economics and accounting. The reason is that entrepreneurship is an applied business studies. Most students at that level would be more interested in entrepreneurial studies with a definitive purpose than the other austere business subjects. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto Department of Theory and Policy Studies