Entrepreneurship education, an approach to foster innovation
Anyone interested in understanding the factors that help to create and sustain a dynamic economy would do well to appreciate the role of entrepreneurship and research and development (R&D) play. In Bangladesh, there are increased signs of appreciation of the centrality of entrepreneurship in economic developments, not least because it is one of the most significant determinants of national growth and development. Sadly, when it comes to R&D there has been only spasmodic appreciation of the part that it plays in economic well-being, and thus it is imperative that the Government and public and private entities make every effort to increase investment in R&D across the board. There is a direct correlation between countries that champion the entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to tackle high levels of unemployment and under-employment. Moreover, by stimulating entrepreneurial activity across all sectors Bangladesh can help further diversity its economy. The issue of diversification is particularly pressing as currently approximately 80 per cent of Bangladeshi exports come from the apparels sector. So how can positive change be brought about?
Entrepreneurship Education is an essential component for knowledge-based economies and thus needs to be a top priority across both the public and private higher education providers. Education is at the heart of human capital fulfilling its potential, hence the need for the higher education sector to be at the forefront of Entrepreneurship Education. Currently, such an approach is the exception rather than the norm, hence the value to be gained from those in leadership and management roles giving this matter serious consideration, as well as adequate investment.
Entrepreneurship Education must strive to provide a quality education that empowers students in such a manner so that they feel confident enough to start a new venture, one that can be sustained and become profitable. Whilst Business/Management courses are popular in Bangladesh it is important to remember that Entrepreneurship Education and business education are not one and the same. Entrepreneurship Education focuses on the specific activities than an entrepreneur perform; underlying innovation and business growth, whilst business education tends to focus on general business management theory and skills.
Among its blend of public and private universities and colleges until recently not a single higher education institution had introduced an undergraduate or postgraduate degree in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is invariably taught in a perfunctory manner, with a few more committed institutions offering entrepreneurship as a single unit within their degree course. Currently, a total of 25 departments in public universities are found to offer a single unit on entrepreneurship with their degree portfolios. It is thus clear that there urgently needs to be a concerted drive to introduce degrees in entrepreneurship, with scope for progression to postgraduate studies including doctoral programmes.
Whilst Bangladesh has some serious catching up to do in respect of Entrepreneurship Education, it is heartening to see that private providers are beginning to wake up to the opportunities. Many private universities have Centre for Entrepreneurship Education in Bangladesh. They also offer a four year degree programme in Entrepreneurship. This is encouraging, but at present this is the exception and not the norm. The following rank positions underscore the fact that Bangladesh has largely overlooked the value of entrepreneurial activity in general, and Entrepreneurship Education in particular. By being benchmarked against regional neighbours and international trading partners it soon becomes apparent that the country needs to raise its game: USA (1), Switzerland (2), Canada (3), UK (4), Australia (5), Singapore (27), China (43), Brunei (53), Malaysia (58), India (68), Sri Lanka (90), Indonesia (94), Pakistan (120) and Bangladesh (134).
Internationally institutions not only set tremendous store by Entrepreneurship Education degree courses, they are eager to encourage students to establish Enterprise Societies aided at stimulating discussion and being a springboard for those who dream of setting up their own business. Furthermore, there is a growing trend towards the introduction of Intrapreneurship courses for those who have set their sights on leadership and management roles in larger corporations. Globally there is a sea change in attitudes and expectations is taking place, and this has resulted in a gradual move away from Business Administration degrees to far more dynamic degrees that focus on entrepreneurship, innovation, intrapreneurship and social entrepreneurship. Anyone familiar with the work of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship (www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/faculty-research/skoll) at the University of Oxford will appreciate how Bangladesh would benefit from higher education providers that establish social impact centres. Initiatives such as the Intrapreneurship Hub (www.intrapreneurshiphub.com) are a useful reminder of the importance of forging international partnerships and collaboration. Bangladesh is fortunate to have a wealth of remarkable companies, both large and small, that make for excellent case studies. Having access to individuals who have theoretical and practical knowledge of entrepreneurial education helps build greater resilience into the economy, as well as encouraging business of all shapes and sizes to adapt so that they both survive and thrive.
Already increased automation, robotization and the Internet of Things is beginning to transform not only the world of work, but our lives. Bangladesh needs to be alive to new opportunities and be prepared to plan with foresight in mind. The higher education sector needs to be at the forefront of change, and this means helping to equip students and other interested parties so that they are better able to prosper in a world that will simply bypass many of the traditional ways of doing things. In addition, students need to be made much more aware of patents, trademarks, copyright and registered designs. Financial literacy and the value of thrift are elements that are often overlooked, and yet are integral to an entrepreneur's chances of success. The foundation work by secondary schools is clearly of significance, and in this respect literacy and numeracy skills are of paramount importance. It might well be worth the country considering introducing a National Numeracy Day as has been done elsewhere (See: www.numeracyday.com). It is worth remembering that when it comes to entrepreneurial spirit there are plenty of people in Bangladesh who inspire, here are a few examples: Md. Shofiul Alam (http://belancer.com/), Fahim Mashroor (www.bdjobs.com), Kamal S. Quadir (http://bkash.com/), Maliha M. Quadir (www.shohoz.com), Ivy Huq Russell (https://maya.com.bd/) and Mahmudul Hasan Sohag (http://onnorokom.com).
There is a need to challenge some of the prevailing orthodoxies, just as it essential that students are both self-critical and yet able to defend their own opinions. Entrepreneurship Education does not guarantee that society is supplied with cohorts of entrepreneurs, but it can help generate a spirit of determination and mental agility that helps people play a more positive and purposeful role in society at large. Fortune favours the brave, and the time is right for the higher education sector in Bangladesh to embrace change, undertake bold initiatives and help the country to move up the Global Entrepreneurship Index rankings.
Dr P R Datta FCIM, FCMI is executive chair at Academy of Business & Retail Management, UK and Mark T Jones BA (Hons), FABRM is editor-in-chief at International Journal of Higher Education Management