Imagine this classroom scenario. The teacher asks the students, “What do you want to be in the future?” Bright students in the class reply, “I will become a doctor or an engineer or a pilot.” Others usually say that they want to join the army. The rest have no clue as to what the answer would be. This scenario is likely to have occurred in every classroom of Nepal regardless of time and location.
Our education system so far has been focused on making students employable once they graduate. Whether it has been able to meet the objective is debatable. However, our education system has definitely been unable to develop entrepreneurs who will create jobs that most students will aspire to get later on. As a result, out of the 450,000 young people who enter the job market every year, only a handful get employment opportunities. Most of the remaining leaves the country seeking employment opportunities.
It can be argued that in our context, level of education is in fact inversely proportional to the chances of the person being employed and doing something productive. The prestige associated with formal education vis-a-vis lack of dignity of labor makes it difficult for an educated person to engage in menial or traditional jobs. At the same time, proper jobs are hard to come by as country is reeling under political instability and mismanagement for decades. Hence, an educated person finds himself/herself in a precarious position of having an education but limited job choices. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find a person who has multiple degrees and is yet jobless.
While we continue to struggle with the inadequacies in our system, the world has been changing at an unprecedented speed. Thanks to the rise of information communication technology and globalization, jobs and industries are transforming and disrupting the status quo like never before. Consider this! Some of the most popular jobs today like smart-phone apps developer and social media expert did not exist until a decade ago. The phenomenon, however, is not limited to information technology field. Jobs like sustainability expert too were not in the mainstream until a decade ago. And many jobs that existed a decade back do not exist today.
This means that education alone does not ensure meeting the needs of the market. Having students graduate without skills to adapt to the latest market demands is becoming a major issue for developed societies as well. Therefore, the major question today is not whether students have the right set of skills and abilities but whether they are entrepreneurial enough and can adapt to the changing environment. The question is about whether we are creating entrepreneurs or just job seekers. Nepal is in dire need of the former.
In this context, it is high time that we in Nepal include entrepreneurship in our educational curriculum from the school level itself. If we start teaching students about employment skills from an early age why don’t we start teaching them to think entrepreneurially from an early age? When we teach them about Malla Kings and Lichchhavi Kings why not teach them how Nepal was a nation of entrepreneurs and how our historical monuments stand to bear the fact that once we were very prosperous and entrepreneurial. While we tell them that Nepal is home to eight of the ten highest peaks in the world, why not tell them about the immense opportunities of entrepreneurship in the tourism field. Showing them the opportunities while they are young will probably help us counter the pessimistic mindset that seems to have been infesting our nation till date.
Instilling entrepreneurial mindset among the pupils will not be enough. It is also necessary to introduce them to workings of a market and the role of an entrepreneur. This can be achieved by involving students to run small scale enterprises on their own. It can also be achieved by adding entrepreneurial components like profit-making, revenue generation and sustainability to the existing projects related to different subjects such as environment studies or social studies.
The success of student entrepreneur groups such as Enactus and Students for Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship around the world in creating entrepreneurs out of high school students shows how entrepreneurship is the solution to not only our economic but also our social problems. These two groups have been teaching entrepreneurship to high school students and encouraging them to start their own ventures which could be either profit-making or social enterprise while they are in school.
Teaching entrepreneurship to our future generation while they are young is the need of the hour for Nepal. It could be the surest and the most sustainable way to seeing a reduction in the length of lines of migrant workers waiting for their flight to foreign countries at Tribhuvan International Airport. It could also be an effective way of countering the myriads of social problems that besiege us.
(Published in the Republica Daily of 20th May, 2014)