Is there a new Steve Jobs in your class?

Stimulate children’s entrepreneurial behaviour in and outside the classroom

Steve Jobs, the driving force behind Apple, was an entrepreneur par excellence. As a result, Apple’s turnover today is nearly the size of Belgium’s gross national product. Perhaps there is a new Steve Jobs sitting at a school desk somewhere amongst us – but his or her entrepreneurial talent is not being stimulated by his environment. Yearly, only 4% of our country’s population starts a new venture. Even though we were all active entrepreneurial pre-schoolers at one time. What went wrong, and how can the situation be improved?

In a class of seven year-olds, a little girl who does not do her school assignments very well is sitting in the back. They have sat her at one of the desks in the rear of the class
precisely because her schoolwork is not very good. One day, the teacher asks the children to draw something. They are allowed to draw whatever they want to. The teacher comes past the little girl’s desk and asks what she is drawing. “I’m drawing a picture of God,” she says. The teacher frowns: “But nobody knows what God looks like!” Without a moment’s hesitation, the little girl says: “Then, we will know in just a minute.”

This anecdote was once told by creativity expert Ken Robinson in one of the most widely viewed TED Talks. In that talk, he demonstrates how seriously the Western educational system undermines children’s creativity. Robinson says that we make children study in order to get diplomas. Being obedient, nodding assent, parroting back the subject matter, and always colouring within the lines suffice to achieve that end. But to contribute productively later in an unpredictable world, it is necessary that children be creative, dare to do things, and develop entrepreneurial behaviour.

How to do that? In the Effecto study ‘Is the new Steve Jobs sitting in your class? Towards a meaningful stimulation of the entrepreneurial mind-set in primary education’ the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School examined the current theories and conducted a written survey of 150 Flemish pupils.

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