A mixed response from private tutors
Private tutors by their nature are both educators and businesspeople, so who better to ask about the UK Government’s expected support of the teaching of entrepreneurship in schools? We asked our tutors what they thought about the subject being taught in classrooms and whether it has potential to find its way into the private tuition industry.
Under the Government’s radical new plans, primary school children as young as five are expected to receive teaching in entrepreneurship, which for some UK companies, is a breakthrough that has been a long time coming. Around 80 UK businesses including Sage, Tata Steel, Citi Group and NatWest have previously expressed their support of the subject being taught in schools by calling for employability and entrepreneurship to be included in the National Curriculum.
So what do our private tutors think of this development? Well, according to Richard Smith, a private tutor in Leeds and Bradford, the subject would be a welcome addition to the classroom but may not have the scope to be taught on its own.
‘As a qualified and experienced Business Studies teacher, I believe that in principle, teaching entrepreneurial skills is a very good idea. Not least because it could help Britain become a more competitive country but because it could also help instil a much needed work ethic in the younger generation. However, it's questionable whether it would have enough content to be a stand-alone course. The best option is to integrate it with other subjects like Business Studies (which already covers entrepreneurship) or with Citizenship Studies if the target audience is younger.’
So, we might assume that the answer to successfully introducing entrepreneurship in schools is carefully planned integration, possibly being taught in conjunction with another, similarly business-focused subject. However, not every tutor feels the same way about how effective the teaching of entrepreneurship might be. Lindsay Dow, a Language Tutor in Daventry, Northants says:
‘In my opinion, teaching entrepreneurship in schools will not necessarily inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs. I teach languages. Just think how many students leave school thinking languages are dull as dishwater and unnecessary. In later life, people are put off learning them because they think it’ll be like school. If entrepreneurship became a subject taught in schools, I believe the effect would be the same. Many people would feel uninspired. I think those who become entrepreneurs later in life, do so without having learnt it in school.’
Will the teaching of entrepreneurship in schools lessen the appeal for people further down the line? Chris Waller, a Maths and Photography tutor in Bristol, makes a very good point that for many of today’s entrepreneurs, school didn’t factor into their business education at all.
‘It’s my belief that entrepreneurship cannot be taught. There is ample evidence that many people who subsequently went on to become highly successful were regarded as 'duffers' at school. Sir Richard Branson comes to mind as a modern example. Walt Disney is another. Indeed, the mind-set of an entrepreneur is probably diametrically opposed to the mind-set that allows someone to settle comfortably into school and subsequent academic life. Entrepreneurs will, by their very nature, simply emerge.’
It’s true that for many, entrepreneurship has been about learning along the way, about making mistakes, learning from them and then trying a different approach. We might assume that if entrepreneurship could be broken down into a science of sorts, then it would have been done so already and we’d all have read the book several times over. Margaret Tyers, an English and Maths tutor in Warwickshire, makes a valid point about entrepreneurship being the result of life experience.
‘Many teachers and tutors already teach skills required for entrepreneurial enterprises, such as mental arithmetic, sourcing and evaluated information as well as using computer software programs. It’s one of the luxuries of childhood that there is no necessity to worry about finance. If children are well prepared with the necessary skills, they will cope with business when they take on the responsibilities of adulthood. Fagin's boys were taught how to make a profit and look where that led.’
So, what of entrepreneurship in private tuition? Do tutors see it taking off as an after-school subject as well as a classroom one? Anna Paton, a Maths tutor in Greenwich thinks it might.
‘Entrepreneurship tuition might take off, as people are interested in becoming self-employed and there is a massive business in various self-improvement disciplines (life coaching for example). It might be the right thing for the right person to do.’
And Vanessa Alexander, a private tutor in Cheltenham, Gloucester, despite having mixed reservations on the idea of a sudden increase in demand for entrepreneurship tuition, believes that there could be a market for it.
‘I am not convinced there will be a sudden demand for entrepreneurship tutors because it may be a case of “suck it and see”. However, tutors of an entrepreneurial nature may be gearing up as we speak. I believe most, if not all, private tutors (unless they have the backdrop of working as an employee) have honed their own personal entrepreneurial skills to both survive and succeed.
Perhaps entrepreneurship is a skill that can be taught to some degree but the real qualification relates to life skills, not necessarily those of megastar status but the humble entrepreneur. As a language tutor in French, Spanish, and English, entrepreneurial skills are really based on using experience to provide the best possible service. Word of mouth in any industry is crucial so the Government needs to think through what it is hoping to achieve. If that is global competition, then we should at least provide future generations with better business wherewithal.’
However, Richard Ashelford, a private tutor in Norfolk, has some reservations about whether the subject has scope to be taught privately.
‘I would say the subject needs careful planning. It would be easy for people like Richard Branson or the three dragons to give talks but they will all have different ideas on the subject.’
If entrepreneurship was to make the transition from business to school and then to the private tuition industry, what background would tutors need to be deemed suitably qualified to teach it as a subject? Jane Vuglar, Director of Tuesday Tutors in South West and Central London, believes the core subjects would provide the best grounding for an entrepreneurship tutor.
‘Tutors should have a successful business background to tutor entrepreneurship; however, a business qualification could be optional, depending on the tutor's experience and the level of tuition. At Tuesday Tutors, we would not expect a sudden surge in requests for entrepreneurial tuition. We would be prepared to consider tutoring in this field, as we have a number of business trained tutors well qualified to offer this subject area. However, any tuition in this subject should be subsequent to and include specific areas of Maths and English. Percentage calculation, basic numeracy skills, estimation, correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, layout, formal English and report writing are just some of the essential skills required by any start-up.’
It appears that the general consensus among private tutors is that entrepreneurship perhaps isn’t the easiest topic upon which to create an academic subject although there could be scope to combine it with other areas of teaching. In terms of entrepreneurship making its way into the private tuition industry, some do forsee it happening but how to approach the subject and how to structure lessons would be a challenge. And in terms of suitable qualifications, it seems that the core subjects as well those with a business focus could provide the best grounding for tutors to teach the subject privately. However, there’s also the arguement that there’s no substitute for real-world experience when it comes to entrepreneurship.
What do you make of these opinions? Are there any that you strongly agree or disagree with? How do you see entrepreneurship as an academic subject shaping the private tuition industry? We’d love to hear your comments on this.
Image credit: Miki Yoshihito - https://www.flickr.com/photos/mujitra/5232270530