Can You Teach Entrepreneurship?
Can You Teach Entrepreneurship?
By Laura Parkin
Laura is the Executive Director and co-founder of the National Entrepreneurship Network (NEN). NEN is a leading catalyst for entrepreneurship education in India. Prior to this, she was Vice President at Ashoka, an organization that identifies and supports leading social entrepreneurs in over 40 countries. She is a serial entrepreneur, having founded four companies, and former venture capitalist at Highland Capital Partners in Boston, Massachusetts, where she invested in health care companies.
Creativity, resourcefulness, risk management, team building - desirable skills in those you hire? For yourself? Absolutely. The good news is that courses and workshops to develop these skills are easier to find today, as top institutes around the country rush to build entrepreneurship programs on their campuses.
But the rapid rise of entrepreneurship education in India raises questions, including: who's doing the teaching? A new discipline, requiring new teaching methods - is anyone qualified?
Over the past three years the number of entrepreneurship faculty teaching high-growth entrepreneurship has risen from a mere 50 to 75 to over 570, a tenfold increase, even if one limits the tally to faculty engaged through NEN member institutes. According to surveys of the group, over 85% have never before taught entrepreneurship. This sudden and massive increase represents a revolution in the discipline.
Institute Directors, Principals and the faculty themselves clearly recognize the need for new entrepreneurship educators to build their knowledge before launching into teaching. Fortunately for faculty based in India, there are several faculty development courses available to them, more so than in most areas of the world.
The largest program in Asia is the Entrepreneurship Educators Course (EEC), led by NEN in partnership with IIM Bangalore and Stanford University's Technology Ventures Program. At the current time, there are over 260 faculty members enrolled across the four batches of the EEC. Faculty members who go through this year-long course, and pass strict performance requirements that include successfully building campus programs, receive Certification from IIM-B, Stanford and NEN.
Another key offering in India is the CPET, developed and delivered by the Wadhwani Centre for Entrepreneurial Development at Indian School of Business. CPET also requires development of teaching materials among other requirements to receive Certification from the course.
Recently Intel and UC Berkeley signed on with the Department of Science and Technology to run workshops for entrepreneurship faculty, and University of California Davis will be running a program in Jaipur early in 2008, targeting both entrepreneurs and faculty.
The international flavor of all these faculty development programs is critical. Entrepreneurship education has been active on US campuses for over two decades. "Adapting practices that are working well overseas will jumpstart the development of Indian teaching methods and tools," explained Prof. Tina Seelig, who teaches in Stanford's Technology Ventures Program and is one developers of NEN's EEC.
Most faculty agree that entrepreneurship can't be taught using traditional lectures, so faculty development focuses both on core concepts and innovative teaching methods. Conveying the practical and emotional aspects of entrepreneurship requires a hands-on and experiential approach. This can include using games, building mock and real companies, spending time in markets and streets, and using arts-and-crafts to experiment with rapid prototyping.
"Truly, it's joy-filled education" exclaims Prof. Arya Kumar of BITS Pilani, sharing his view of these new approaches. Some faculty members are already adapting the new, participant-centered teaching methods to teach their more traditional subjects.
The knowledge gap for faculty will persist for some time as the number of institutes offering entrepreneurship programs expands rapidly. Therefore, it would seem to behoove anyone signing up for a course to check the qualifications of the faculty.
However, many faculty and institutes are actively investing in their own education, and the results are already showing on some campuses around the country. Prof. Radha Iyer Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research was part of the first batch in NEN's EEC "A few years ago entrepreneurship was unheard of," Prof. Iyer explains, "but now we have a well received course with a large group of students excited about it."