Teaching entrepreneurial skills for sustainable development

Authors: Tashi Zangpo (Curriculum Developer, Royal Education Council), Ram Bdr. Gurung (Deputy Chief Program Officer, Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment Division, Ministry of Labour and Human Resources), Tshering Penjore (Deputy Chief Program Officer, School Planning and Coordination, Ministry of Education), Jigme Thinley (Program Officer, Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment Division, Ministry of Labour and Human resources) and Bishnu Chettri (Youth and Innovation-Solution Mapper and Explorer, UNDP Bhutan)

Entrepreneurs play a vital role in the economic development of a country. They mobilize resources and add value to the business ecosystem by providing new goods and services needed by society. They create jobs, and add to the government revenue by paying taxes and through other contributions.

Teaching entrepreneurial skills and knowledge is therefore becoming an indispensable part of any educational system. It enhances business skills, such as creativity, innovation, calculated risk-taking, and problem-solving, which all in turn help to generate business ideas, and eventually encourages the establishment and management of businesses to meet socio-economic needs.

Problems such as youth unemployment, trade deficit and rising national debt, have made business education crucial for Bhutan. Bhutan faces a global market where ethical issues, such as product adulteration, excessive prices, integrity and trust, customer rights, violations of ethics and ethical obligations prevail. It is important to make students aware of these problems and help them to overcome or solve them through entrepreneurship education.

The new business and entrepreneurship curriculum developed by Bhutan’s Royal Council of Education in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources and Ministry of Education are designed to enable students to develop basic knowledge and skills to generate and promote business ideas, formulate business recommendations, and mobilize funding to pursue entrepreneurship as a career. The course will also lay a solid foundation for higher education in entrepreneurship and business management. In this regard, the curriculum incorporates the latest content and teaching methods relevant to today’s business world, while remaining particularly suitable for Bhutan’s business ecosystem. In addition, the new textbook is based on the development paradigm of Bhutan’s values, including Gross National Happiness to ensure that students fully understand the country’s goals and aspirations.

Governments around the world are eager to help their citizens develop 21st century skills for the labour market, but without a more precise understanding of what those are it is difficult to design optimal courses and learning strategies. Things that are not clearly defined are difficult to teach. However, there is no better way to prepare yourself for the 21st century world, whether you aspire to work for a large company, start your own business, go into academia or to public service, than through cultivating your entrepreneurial skills.

Entrepreneurship LMS: The booster for personal entrepreneurship learning curve

Learning itself has undergone a massive change. Personalised, efficient, time-saving methods with easy access to information, up-to-date and immediate content, improved communication between learner and instructor, and interactive learning are all among the means to ensure a smooth learning experience.

Youth Colab, an initiative co-led by UNDP and Citi Foundation has developed a Learning Management System (LMS, https://www.youthcolab-learn.org/) to provide just that. The LMS is focused on the Learning Loop Path. Teachers and students enter the infinite loop of learning by enhancing their readiness and encountering opportunities, facilitated by technological platforms and accelerated by Catalytic Touchpoints (learning interventions that help to accelerate the growth of the idea or startup). The faster and more times teachers and students complete the learning loop, the greater the probability they will experience learning, build resilience and grow their solutions.

Learning Management System

Collective capacity building: from baby steps to leapfrogging. Where do we start?

More than 70 Commerce and Entrepreneurship teachers from Bhutan have been trained on different online modules through the LMS essentially to get versed with the system and topics which are new to them. While the system is open source, for now, training of trainer sessions were done virtually with support from regional field experts. Teachers can log in and learn by themselves before they start teaching their students.

Based on their requirement on the particular topic or new additional content, teachers received customized training as well, as a part of new curricula for classes 11 and 12. The Entrepreneurship LMS will be used as a bonus material through the club activities.

Training of Trainers for Business and Entrepreneurship teachers. More than 70 of them attended the training conducted in July and August 2021

How is this initiative experimental in nature and where would it lead?

The learning from the first year of capacitating teachers and application of the platform will be used to build coherence whilst formulating the Entrepreneurship Curriculum for those in the formative years. Best practices across the region and globe are a valuable addition to this. Learning from practices in other places, while still trying and testing our own small and cost-effective ways can help us derisk the huge investment and restricted learning curve at stake. Quick and fast iterative learning is critical in ensuring the relevance of the entrepreneurship curriculum for the formative years while balancing evolving needs both locally and globally.

The initiative also provides a safe place to test some of the learning objectives, core concepts, and both process and essential skills that need to be addressed through the Business and Entrepreneurship Curriculum. At the same time, experimentation is needed when it comes to effective pedagogy such as using blended learning which is core to the Entrepreneurship LMS.

Approach forward: An initiative to portfolio offering

With a number of moving parts across the entrepreneurship ecosystem, there is a range of initiatives that should be seen as one portfolio, which include: setting up a revolving seed fund in schools, a mentorship programme, idea challenges, providing an international networking platform, an acceleration programme, funding support, and an entrepreneurship curriculum in schools. While all formidable, only when implemented as a portfolio can these individual efforts bring about systems change. The key is not to offer an individual a shiny new approach but to offer progress as one interconnected system.

Portfolio design of entrepreneurship support programmes

These initiatives are deliberately called ‘support programmes’ because the support programmes are meant to do a job for a bigger purpose. They are means to an end, and should not exist for themselves, as often becomes the case. All initiatives need to be aligned to create an experimental system that creates more value than the sum of its parts.

Entrepreneurship is not only the ability to start a business, but the ability to think creatively and ambitiously. Such skills are very important to be enhanced through a school curriculum. Entrepreneurship education helps students of all socioeconomic backgrounds to think outside the box and cultivate unconventional talents and skills, create opportunities, ensure social justice, instill confidence and stimulate the economy. Entrepreneurship education is a lifelong learning process, beginning in primary school and continuing for the rest of your life.

The Entrepreneurship LMS initiative is led by:

Royal Education Council: Wangpo Tenzin (Dean), Kinley Namgyal (Unit Head), Tashi Zangpo (Curriculum Developer)

Ministry of Education: Karma Galay (Director General, Department of School Education), Kinley Gyeltshen (Chief Program Officer, School Planning and Coordination Division and Tshering Penjor (Deputy Chief Program Officer, School Planning and Coordination Division

Ministry of Labour and Human Resources: Kunzang Lhamu (Director General, Department of Employment and Human Resources), Kinley Dorji (Chief Program Officer, Entrepreneurship and Self-Employment Division) with support from Youth Co:Lab team(Sze Wai Cheung, Eleanor Horrocks and Yaqi Chu), UNDP Bhutan Accelerator Lab team( Tshering Wamgmo, Sonam choki, Tshoki Zangmo, Kunzang Wangmo and Bishnu Chettri).

Empowering lives and building resilient communities to leave no one behind.