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INTRODUCTION:  Policy Levers for Changing Mindsets

“We need to embed entrepreneurship education in the DNA of every nation’s education provision.”

Jeremy Lefroy, Intl. Youth Job Creation Summit, September 2013

There are several policy levers governments can use to change mindsets. The first, obviously, is to recalibrate national education provision to embed entrepreneurship training at every level of a child’s school experience. Meanwhile, schools can form strong links with local businesses, inviting successful entrepreneurs into classrooms to share their experiences. Career guidance, project-based learning and encounters with the world of work should be part of every child’s experience growing up. And every child who shows a scintilla of interest in setting up a business should have access to ‘ideation’ sessions (brainstorming business ideas) leading to courses in how to write viable business plans. Changing youth mindsets also involves life skills – networking, resilience, persistence, considered risk taking.  Though Policymakers can start the process, this should happen socially in jobs clubs and out-of-school events.

Recalibrate national education provision to include entrepreneurship:

Everyone considers basic skills such literacy, numeracy and critical thinking vital for every child. Entrepreneurship education is equally vital and can motivate pupils to learn these basic skills: after all, you need to be literate and numerate in order to write a business plan and prepare a budget.  With most primary schools in sub-Saharan Africa delivering low literacy rates among graduates (less than one in five in some schools), the challenge of motivating students to read and write can be helped by the incentive of using those skills to earn money. In West Africa, where many of the young rural women who arrived for Peace Child International’s (PCI) business plan creation training were uneducated, the temptation of a PCI loan to start or grow a business was enough to get many registered for remedial literacy trainings.

Entrepreneurship education:

There are so many ways to teach and learn entrepreneurship: Work experience, apprenticeships, running businesses within schools, jobs clubs, business plan creation training – all practical, learning-by-doing, team building experiences that embed the seeds of entrepreneurship in young minds. Policies should be built on this practical experience which seems to work everywhere from highly developed cities, to rural farms, to urban slums.

Many primary school teachers find 5- and 6-year-olds have well-tuned entrepreneurial instincts: even for the very young, project-based learning and entry-level ‘ideation’, along with simple exercises and games about sales and marketing, can sow the seeds of entrepreneurial talent. These seeds can then be nurtured throughout a students’ school career, climaxing in a fully researched, costed and viable business start-up plan completed before the student leaves school. The challenge of finding enough qualified teachers to teach this, and classes small enough to ensure effective learning can be mitigated by the widespread introduction of pyramid peer-teaching and mentoring systems.

German/Austrian/Swiss – dual system of education: Sometimes the oldest paths to youth job creation are the best, and Germany, Austria and Switzerland have some of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world. For centuries, they have operated a dual system of education, where roughly half the country’s students are educated in college – and the half in the workplace. This means that, like the guilds of medieval times, students get hands-on training from skilled craftspeople while also being paid a small salary and learning useful workplace habits and attitudes. The UK has set up a similar programme with its studio schools, project-based learning academies where students spend more and more time in the workplace as they reach the end of their school careers.

Efforts to export the dual system to other countries have not always met with success. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to entrepreneurship education. All we know is that school is where the seeds of entrepreneurship must be sown. Review what’s worked in other countries, then create your own solution, tailored to the needs and cultures of your own community and country.

Aldridge Academies, UK:  Aldridge Academies in the UK employ a novel approach to education that appears to be exportable.  Each academy focuses on developing entrepreneurial attitudes, as every key stage 3 student runs a business as part of the curriculum. One of these team companies established a social enterprise which funded the building of a bakery in Uganda and the students worked virtually with local partners, exchanging ideas and shared experiences between girls in both schools. By focusing on this skills development alongside their academic qualifications Aldridge students are equipped to succeed in education, employment or self-employment.

Financially Sustainable (FS) Schools: Teach A Man To Fish promotes FS Schools by providing schools across the world with the skills and knowledge they need to set up their own school businesses. By running real year-on-year school businesses that address local market demands, schools are able to generate incomes that support investment in improved educational resources and meet schools’ and students’ needs.  The school businesses are planned, launched, managed and scaled directly by teachers and students. By using this school-business model, students gain critical workplace competencies, life skills and entrepreneurial mindsets, as well as aspirations and self- belief.

Ssebuguzi John Robert, from St Denis School in Uganda, was involved in two of his school businesses: the canteen and the computer business. In the canteen, he was tasked with exchanging money and learned good customer care by being fast and efficient with transactions. He also learned how to balance the books. At the computer business, he learned how to use software. “The businesses have helped St Denis become a better school in the four years I have been there,” he says. “The profits helped decrease the fees, so more students can learn the valuable skills I did.”

Dandora Slum Waste Dump, Nairobi, Kenya

Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs;  See Video about Uganda Club

Hays Solo Frank and his classmates will not find good jobs. Here in Dandora, an eastern suburb of Nairobi where waste-picking counts as local industry, they’ll be lucky to find jobs at all.

It’s a story being repeated in cities and countries across the globe, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. Six-hundred million young people are forecast to graduate into joblessness over the next 10 years, a generation so robbed of prospects they’ve been labelled a ‘ticking time bomb’ by their elders.

Self-employment will need to be part of the solution, but it’s not typically esteemed in Kenya. Hand in Hand’s Entrepreneurship Clubs aim to change all that, raising its status among 10- to 16-year-olds like Hays and paving the way for their future success – or at least giving them a fighting chance. Club members learn the basics of business and complete income-generating group projects – making and selling soap, say – that cover the costs of the after-school programmes. Surplus profits subsidise their school fees.

Since piloting with Hays and his classmates at Wangu Primary School in 2014 the programme has expanded, thanks to the generous support of the IKEA Foundation and the Swedish Postcode Lottery. Today, almost 3,000 students in 180 clubs are embracing the entrepreneurial spirit. As for Hays, “I can say that I have started my career already,” he says. The 15-year-old envisions developing an online system to keep track of pharmacies’ stocks of prescription drugs, saving customers from making unnecessary trips.


Enterprise Your Life (EYL) in Plan International UK projects: The EYL training programme is focused on six core enterprising life skills topics: 1) Thinking Ahead; 2) Knowing your Market; 3) Decision-making; 4) Negotiation; 5) Wise Investments; and 6) Being Different. Following the trainings in Ghana, Tanzania, Egypt and Zambia, pre- and post-tests found that EYL showed an uplift of 43% of knowledge after training, and youth set up 59,434 income generating activities of which 64% survived three months or more.  For many, this was their first attempt at generating income in a systematic way. The curriculum’s ‘coaching’ format featured interactive learning techniques where coaches provided continued support and troubleshooting assistance after the course.

International Youth Foundation (IYF) Via Programme: For nearly 30 years, the IYF’s top priority has been to help young people succeed by ensuring they develop the skills to earn a livelihood. Via is a partnership with the Mastercard Foundation that seeks to update and re-invent the TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) systems in Tanzania and Mozambique by making their skills training more market relevant, preparing young people with the technical and life skills to be workforce ready, not just for their first job, but for a lifetime of work. Via will be driven by careful analysis of market opportunities, labour force needs and potential, and business ecosystems. It will directly benefit 30,000 economically disadvantaged youth by equipping them with the aspiration, grit and resilience to secure a decent job or the skills to start and grow enterprises.

The UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) is a reminder that job creation for girls often begins with getting them into schools. Working with NGOs and private sector partners, DFID aims to give one million of the world’s poorest girls the opportunity to improve their lives by going to school. It aims to improve literacy, numeracy and skills relevant to young women’s lives and work; to tackle harmful social and gender norms that contribute to girls being out of school; and to engage with the private sector, governments, civil society and other donors to evaluate, thoroughly, each intervention to understand what really works.  Based on that learning, DFID plans to work with governments and NGO practitioners to shape future policies and programmes to improve the quality of girls’ education and thus transform women’s futures. Through the first phase of the GEC programme 25,000 girls received vocational training.

Paying for it – some policy ideas: 

The best initiatives in the world are of no use to LEDC governments unless ways can be found to fund them – adequately and sustainably. Foundation and donor initiatives last only as long as the grants that support them, and entrepreneurship education is a long-term provision, not a short-term project. We offer the following policy ideas:

  • Retrain teachers in every school to deliver effective entrepreneurship teaching and career guidance as part of their teaching, and include both in national curricula.
  • Use peer-to-peer entrepreneurship teaching models.
  • Create a club of successful businesspeople, active and retired, to regularly volunteer in schools, teaching classes on how to be a successful entrepreneur.
  • Adopt the Teach a Man to Fish (TAMTF) ‘Financially Sustainable School’ model to introduce experiential entrepreneurship teaching, devising a business plan that covers its costs (see more in next .
  • Do all of the above under the PCI, Hand in Hand or Plan International model of extra-curricular Job Clubs or Youth Entrepreneurship training – open to all students and community members;
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