Whilst the “3 Rs” are no-doubt an extremely important focus for our education providers, I think there’s also a case to be made for a significant increase in the amount of specific business education provided in schools. Today Lord Young, the prime minister’s enterprise adviser, published the third of his reports into fostering a more entrepreneurial culture through schools and universities. Much of the report’s focus is on extracurricular activities such as his “Fiver” programme, which gives schoolchildren £5 to invest in creating their own business. Schemes like this and the Peter Jones Foundation’s Tycoon in Schools programme are important in encouraging children to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path and helping them realise how to do this. He also suggests that all university students should have access to an elective module in enterprise as part of their programme of study. There’s no substitute for learning on the job, but I think that the education system should go further. At present there is, as far as I’m aware, no mandatory business studies lessons for schoolchildren and only the option to take them from age 14. That means that vast swathes of school-leavers and graduates go into the world of work without any exposure to the theoretical issues which ultimately make businesses work. How to sell, marketing, accounts, employment law, the business cycle, management strategies, investments, budgeting, hiring and firing, writing a proposal. Even just the basics of starting a sole-trader business. These are important concepts to get to grips with and it seems wrong that only a minority of schoolchildren do so. Of course we need English, maths, science and IT skills. STEM education is something that we need to see a particular increase in if we are to compete in the a high-tech global economy. And education is more than just about hard skills – appreciation of the arts, history and systems of faith is important for creating well-rounded people. None of these things should be sidelined, but teaching an understanding of how businesses work, both from a practical and theoretical perspective, should be a key plank in the UK’s national curriculum.
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