In Alberta, Inspiring Education is asking school systems to graduate students who are “Engaged Thinkers,” “Ethical Citizens” with an “Entrepreneurial Spirit.” For most of the public, including educators, graduating students who are ‘engaged’ and ‘ethical’ is easily accepted. However, the term ‘entrepreneurial’ causes alarm bells to sound in the education field, mostly because of its business-based connotation.
Part of the apprehension may be alleviated by clarifying what is meant by the phrase, “entrepreneurial spirit.” In the Inspiring Education document, a student with an entrepreneurial spirit is defined as: someone “who creates opportunities and achieves goals through hard work, perseverance and discipline; who strives for excellence and earns success, who explores ideas and challenges the status quo; who is competitive, adaptable and resilient; and who has the confidence to take risks and make bold decisions in the face of adversity.” With that definition, it is difficult to argue that gaining an entrepreneurial spirit is not of the utmost importance for our students.
The significance of developing an entrepreneurial spirit was emphasized a couple of weeks ago when I had the opportunity to hear Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist of ScotiaBank, Warren Jestin, address a national superintendent’s panel. The belief that our students will graduate from high school, complete post secondary studies and then remain in the same job for their entire work life is remote. In fact, many of the jobs of the future do not currently exist today and many jobs of today will disappear tomorrow. With that in mind, preparing students for an ever-changing world requires an education system, and a society in general, that puts a high priority on the development of the skills of the entrepreneur.
While I appreciate the entire definition above, I cannot stress enough the importance of developing the skill of resiliency. Without a resilient nature, students will be ill prepared to adapt to a changing status quo and overcome real or perceived barriers. Clearing the path for our future adults so they do not face challenges or struggle with any adversity does not build resiliency. In fact, this “snowplow effect” creates just the opposite.
The development of an entrepreneurial spirit in our children is a process, not a single event. While the responsibilities we give children to teach them resiliency should always be age-appropriate and must never be without support and guidance, it is so important that these skills are consistently imparted; ensuring that this next generation has the ability to thrive in adversity. It is essential that we give our children wings so that they can fly rather than clip them so they never leave the ground!
This blog post was provided to the Lethbridge Herald and published on March 11, 2015