Education in Barbados seems to be entering a new era and the powers that be, are seemingly undertaking an evaluation of the current secondary school curriculum, with much discussion on the abolition of the 11+/ common entrance exam. There is no doubt that, this selective exam has served this country well for 50 + years but much has changed in the world of work during this time, and how we respond to that change will require a re-evaluation of how we prepare and equip future generations of Barbadians to compete in this new and ever challenging environment.
Every couple of years, there is a new catch phrase which captures the mood of the nation, the economy and the world. Phrases or words such as “globalization”, “carbon footprint”, “sustainability”, “green economy”, “cultural industries” and of late, it seems to be “entrepreneurship”. There is, of course, the usual debate of who is or what makes you an entrepreneur. Is it a natural phenomenon or can it be taught? However, when it all boils down, it’s about the identification of an opportunity, the courage of your own conviction and then, having the correct tools to capitalize on it.
In terms of the available tools, there are several teaching methodologies (many of which have been around for a number of years) that incorporate the tenets of entrepreneurship in their attempt to teach it as a subject to the lay person. These techniques have been employed by the Sagicor Cave Hill School of Business in their Lean Launch Pad Programme (sponsored by the Ministry of Labour) and also by the Caribbean Science Foundation in their Student Program for Innovation in Science & Engineering (SPISE) class, which focuses on the next generation of Caribbean leaders in the STEM field. This program is led by Dr. Dinah Sah, a biotechnology executive based in the Boston area who has more than 25 years of experience in research and drug development in the biotechnology industry and has been part of founding teams of new biotechnology companies developing novel classes of drugs to treat human neurological diseases, and Dr. Cardinal Warde, a Barbadian and professor of electrical engineering at MIT and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on materials, devices and systems for optical information processing. It is their desire to see a major technology originating from the Caribbean and key to this is entrepreneurship. Such is the importance of entrepreneurship to this vision that they have included it in their program for the past six (6) years.
So now that we have established that these models have been employed in Barbados with success for over five (5) years, let’s imagine this… What if the Government of Barbados was to introduce entrepreneurship into the national curriculum so that it would be taught, alongside English and Maths, in every school? What would the impact of this bold move be and what would the landscape look like in five (5) years?
Imagine, if every student leaving secondary school in Barbados, irrespective of whether they are in a STEM, skills/vocational or hospitality stream, had the understanding that they were entering a world where they were expected to deliver Value in whatever service they provide or product they produce and understood and could articulate what that value was? Suppose they could describe the Customer Segment they were providing that value for and could outline the Customer relationship they wished to establish and knew the Channels they would use to make them aware of the value they were offering?
What if these same students could identify the Key Activities they would have to perform in order to create this value and had an understanding of the Key Recourses needed? Further, let us assume that these same said students were acutely aware that they lacked the resources/infrastructure to do this on their own and were able to identify Key Partners to assist them in launching their product/service. Let’s say they had the ability to calculate their Cost Structure associated with the production of this value and all its elements? Finally, that they understood the Revenue Streams by which they would derive compensation for their value? Are you seeing the picture yet?
Investment in lifelong learning of our school children will reap rewards in the long term as we encourage students to see the world of work in a broader context , not just as a mere employee, but as someone who is able to take an idea from its inception through to its launch. Individuals who see the benefit of greater efficiency in the public sector, with less of an emphasis on “that is not my job” but rather a desire to work collaboratively across the board to achieve a more efficient front to back process. Ultimately, I hope that this will lead to more economically stable tax paying citizens who understand their business and the value that it adds to their lives and the growth of the country, both socially and economically.
So the question is, if these methodologies have been tried and tested, why are we not experimenting with implementing them in the school system? If Barbados is to prepare its citizens and future work force for the possibility of being voluntarily self-employed and still live at a standard comparable to those who take the employee route, we must make a conscious effort to provide them with the tools necessary to make this perceived leap, a natural step for future generations.