Fostering future entrepreneurs

Coping with challenges of the future require the right skill-sets and that involves developing entrepreneurial mindset early, says Mekin Maheshwari of the Udhyam Learning Foundation

March 27, 2021 10:04 pm | Updated 10:04 pm IST

Skill-building: Customers interacting with students at a business fair.

Skill-building: Customers interacting with students at a business fair.

Today, as the focus of education shifts from academic learning to skill-building, developing an entrepreneurial mindset makes students job-ready and helps them address the challenges of the future. This is what the Udhyam Learning Foundation (ULF) has been working towards, through its programmes, Udhyam Shiksha (for students) and Udhyam Vyapar (for micro-entrepreneurs).

Launched in 2017, Udhyam Shiksha works on education reforms, co-created with state governments, to enable learning-by-doing. Focused on education modules that are more connected with real-world aspects while increasing learner autonomy among students, it has collaborated with the governments of Delhi, Haryana, Assam, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Karnataka. The Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum (EMC), designed specifically for students from classes IX to XII, is currently being implemented across 1,024 schools, in Delhi.

Mekin Maheshwari, Founder and CEO, Udhyam Learning Foundation, offers insights into the need for entrepreneurship at the school level and the various facets of the programme.

Need for entrepreneurship

Humanity is staring at complex social and environmental problems that require us to be more empathetic, experimental, and collaborative. When entrepreneurial mindsets and skills are built, students are equipped to solve challenges.

Being entrepreneurial adds significant value to every student, irrespective of whether they go on to be a scientist, teacher, doctor, or business leader. Entrepreneurial people are able to solve more problems, operate with higher grit, try new things, and continuously understand and improve themselves. These mindsets, and the 21st-century skills that students learn, are what employers seek.

Building agency

Students learn various skills and mindsets through a set of structured activities and reflection questions. One of the mindsets is to develop self-awareness, and this is done in a fun and engaging manner to enable them to understand themselves and each other. Every week, on one day, they take a break from teacher-facilitated activities and anchor a student-driven process in which they practise building communication skills through debates and Just-A-Minute talks. Interactions with other professionals and entrepreneurs also help them explore different careers.

Then there are field projects, where students apply their learnings by running a small venture to create value in any domain that aligns with their strengths and purpose. Every learner receives seed money between ₹5,000 and ₹10,000 to run their own business for six weeks, and 91% is returned at the end of the course. The shift in learners’ attitudes towards risk-taking, collective problem-solving, and self-belief can be seen in this level.

During the pandemic

This past year, the focus has been to continue the engagement with the learners. Hence, social media and online interventions have been used as implementation channels. For students who don’t have Internet access, interactive worksheets have been developed. The activities in the curriculum have been re-imagined for a more independent context, to enable learners to experience them without any facilitation from the teachers. It has also opened up more opportunities for integrating real-life learning. For example, now, students can work on situations that are real for them and their immediate contexts, such as family and neighbourhood.

Anyone who is interested in conducting an entrepreneurial mindset programme can write to contact@udhyam.org for a copy of the curriculum, which is open-source.

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