Growth Needs Learning

Posted in Blog, News by EE Team with No Comments

Jan2012 10

The Centre for Policy Studies launched a new report ‘Growth, growth, growth’ at the end of 2011, to accompany the Chancellor’s autumn statement. Introducing the report, CPS director Tim Knox commented:

“As economic storm clouds loom, the Coalition must do all it can to ensure that we have the right conditions in place for long-term private sector growth and prosperity. Boldness and conviction will be crucial.”

While the report zoned in on six big ideas from six conservative MPs, I was surprised to see that none of them were to do with education.

If, as the experts predict, the UK economy looks set to plateau and be outpaced in the coming decades by emerging economies such as China and India, we will of course need bold macroeconomic policies to stimulate growth.

But we will also need bold individuals. We need bold individuals with the qualities necessary to establish and grow new businesses. To design and innovate. To lead and manage resources. To build relationships and trade.

And we will need millions of them. The highest profile UK entrepreneurs and designers are rightly celebrated – the likes of Sir Jonathan Ive, James Dyson, Sir Richard Branson. But at the start of 2011, 13.8m people were employed by UK private sector Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), accounting for some £1500bn combined turnover.

So millions of new employers and employees will need to demonstrate these qualities if UK businesses are to survive and thrive in the coming decades.

What we do about education today will define our economic prospects tomorrow. So my big idea for growth is that education practitioners and policymakers need to prioritise equipping young people with these qualities now. And that means all students – not a handful who already show an apparently natural aptitude. How different our education system would look if we placed greater emphasis on developing students’ abilities and confidence to lead projects, work in teams, take measured risks, design new solutions to problems, be resilient, and communicate effectively in different situations.

There are many businesses and organisations like Enabling Enterprise that aim to provide students with exactly these kinds of opportunities. Working with four Aldridge Academies last term, we helped hundreds of students work collaboratively to develop proposals for new community projects in their areas. The winning teams from each Academy were recognised at an event with Societe Generale, and they are now setting up their real ventures: from a community garden to an international community dinner to a local trade fair.

It’s fantastic when students get the chance to be part of special projects like these. But for teachers facing another exams season, the EBacc, and a new national curriculum that prioritises the genealogy of the Kings and Queens of England, it can often be hard to integrate this type of learning in the way schools would like.

The bigger challenge that Enabling Enterprise grapples with is how to avoid the unnecessary choice between building knowledge and developing skills. Enabling Enterprise works to develop programmes that allow students to explore traditional subjects but to do so in a way that always develops the skills for growth: collaboration, original thinking, taking ownership and communicate their findings. The result is students who not only achieve more highly academically, but have the potential to drive the country forward.

If, as a country, we want to look forward to a brighter economic future, we definitely need to take growth seriously. An important pre-requisite is enabling the personal growth and success of individual young people, equipping them with the qualities they will need to become the entrepreneurs, employers and employees of tomorrow.

This was originally published on The Young Foundation blog, on the 10th of January 2012.

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