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Entrepreneurial education – nurturing not just a career but a lifestyle

Entrepreneurial education – nurturing not just a career but a lifestyle

The weather was bad in Trincomalee, the port city on the northeast coast of Sri Lanka. As a result, the opening session of the 7th UNESCO-APEID Meeting on Entrepreneurship Education was delayed by about two hours and some activities were postponed or cancelled. Nonetheless, the 80 participants from 21 countries took the disruptions in their stride, sharing their experiences and providing suggestions for enhancing entrepreneurship education in and beyond Sri Lanka based on their commitment and belief in the importance of entrepreneurship education.

Persistent high youth unemployment and under-employment rates are worrying policymakers. Many reports have predicted shifting labour practices and job markets, potentially displacing workers who lack the knowledge and skills needed for the new world. More than 5 million jobs could be lost by 2020 to disruptive labour market changes, according to the World Economic Forum, while 65% of primary school students will be working in jobs that do not exist today. Concerns about robots taking over the world of work only add to the unease.

Inspired by successful entrepreneurs who started Amazon, Facebook, Google, Airbnb, Alibaba, AirAsia, Grab and many other ventures, entrepreneurship is seen as a viable alternative for job creation. At the same time, the traits and characteristics of entrepreneurs – creativity, innovation, critical and strategic thinking, adaptability, resourcefulness, motivation, confidence, risk-taking and more – resonate deeply with educators and parents. Countries with such talented girls, boys, women and men will be better equipped to deal with the demands of the 21st century.

To nurture an entrepreneurial mindset and skills, entrepreneurship education is necessary. To be effective, it requires the input of multiple stakeholders, including governments and their various ministries, educators, teachers, private sector and local community.

The UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education in Bangkok established the UNESCO Entrepreneurship Education Network (EE-Net) in 2012 to enhance entrepreneurship education in the region. The annual EE-Net meetings provide an avenue for sharing information and experiences on issues related to entrepreneurship education. This year, in collaboration with the National Enterprise Development Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, UNESCO Bangkok convened the 7th UNESCO-APEID Meeting on Entrepreneurship Education, Leveraging Multi-Stakeholder Engagement to Nurture Future Entrepreneurs, on 9-11 October 2018 in Trincomalee, Sri Lanka.

The sun shone on the last day of the meeting as participants travelled back to Colombo with echoes of the takeaway messages flitting through their minds: Entrepreneurship is …

  • taking the initiative
  • accepting failure, taking risks
  • not about starting a business, but more about solving problems in real-life situations
  • about hardship and struggle
  • having the hunger to achieve
  • not a career but a lifestyle choice!

Reflecting the key points discussed during the meeting, the Trincomalee Declaration is a valuable document to promote and support entrepreneurship education in Asia and the Pacific region.

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