Nurturing the changemakers of tomorrow
Entrepreneurs are harbingers of hope. To promote and nourish entrepreneurship, many countries have given substantial attention to entrepreneurship education and strengthening related institutions. Management gurus view entrepreneurial activities as a critical contributor in fostering economic growth and development.
We have observed that both entrepreneurial initiatives and education have expanded significantly in the US and Israel. You will find that the maximum numbers of unicorns are based in the US and China, such as Ant Financial, Airbnb, SpaceX, OLA Cabs, Rubrik. A unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over USD 1 billion. Among former unicorns, Uber, Facebook, Xiaomi, Alibaba are the more notable ones. Some perfect examples of entrepreneurial legacies are developed in Silicon Valley in Northern California, Austin TX, San Francisco, CA. To boost entrepreneurial initiatives, the US has also developed a unique culture of Angel Investment Ecosystem. All giant startups and entrepreneurial initiatives have been developed by nurturing the entrepreneurial mindset of people. Qatar is also doing good in the domain of innovation and research; for example, Qatar Foundation is working on education, research, and community development.
In our education system, we do not assess or evaluate a person's natural talents, innovation or entrepreneurial mindset. An innovator or entrepreneur does not only mean being a successful businessperson; people with an entrepreneurial mindset can contribute or engage themselves in different sectors or segments. Those entrepreneurial minded people may be in government, law enforcement agencies or in the corporate sector. These individuals possess unique traits like creativity, innovativeness, ability to take risks. A nation can only progress by nurturing these people.
To maintain sustainable and equitable development, the tertiary-level education system needs to be transformed, focusing heavily on encouraging and cultivating entrepreneurial minded students. Practical or hands-on experience is needed in our education system. At the tertiary level, our students should be involved in practical experiences. Besides, the country's education needs to adopt innovation, instead of following the archaic method of teaching-learning. The old system should be replaced by Outcome Based Education (OBE). Effective pedagogy and innovative teaching methods can be applied with entrepreneurial minded academics.
We must take into account one thing, that our education system should also focus on the theme of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". We also need to think of our future workforce where emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, Internet of Things (IoTs), Robotics will play a pivotal role in production and manufacturing. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, robots could replace 800 million jobs by 2030, while the World Economic Forum suggests that a "skills revolution" could open up a raft of new opportunities. So, our tertiary education should concentrate on innovation in every area. "If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now, we're going to be in trouble," said Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group, China's e-commerce giant. The knowledge-based approach of "200 years ago" would "fail our kids", who would never be able to compete with machines. Children should be taught "soft skills" like independent thinking, values and teamwork, he said.
I believe it is high time we focused on ensuring sustainable education model in the country, where innovation will be an integral part of that process. There are some real-life challenges in the country to establish a good entrepreneurial ecosystem. In tackling the challenges, students should be familiarised with alternative funds like venture capital, angel investment, etc.
At Daffodil International University, we have already planned to introduce courses on robotics in each department. A good number of them have already started their own ventures, which has been facilitated by this holistic initiative. We believe entrepreneurial education creates high job satisfaction. Higher levels of entrepreneurial education achievement lead to higher earnings and reduce the level of unemployment. Of late, many universities around the world are in the process of strengthening their entrepreneurship education programmes in order to create more young entrepreneurs in the future.
We are pretty hopeful as our government formulates various pro-entrepreneurial policies. The government is already set to form a specialised firm (to be called Startup Bangladesh Company Limited), to fund and nurture startups and ICT entrepreneurs under the Innovation Design and Entrepreneur Academy of the ICT division with the view to encouraging innovative ventures in Bangladesh, which is a unique and holistic initiative. It is worth mentioning here that Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in association with Bangladesh Bank, has organised Creating 2000 Entrepreneurs (E2K) in the country. We hope the central bank will come up with more such initiatives to contribute in creating entrepreneurs in the country. The initiative has given the direction to nurture the entrepreneurship process, which was acknowledged and accepted by the government.
Imran Khan, former Chief Strategy Officer of Snap Inc., at a national debate programme remarked: "My talent will not be nourished here; that's why I have decided to go to the US." Though it was meant to be a light-hearted comment, it sums up the situation and highlights how we need to stop the brain drain by providing entrepreneurial facilities to the young generation.
Bangladesh has enormous opportunities to grow more. According to a World Bank report, Bangladesh is among the five fastest-growing economies of the world, with a 7.3 percent GDP growth projection in the FY2019. The report also added that Bangladesh's growth outlook remains strong and stable. Sound macroeconomic policies—such as keeping the budget deficit below 5 percent of GDP—and resilient domestic demand have led to growth in manufacturing and construction industries on the supply side. On the demand side, growth is led by private consumption and exports. Aligning with this trajectory, quality in tertiary education plays a vital role, as the world is now moving towards the fifth industrial revolution. For sustainable growth, we need to build a skilled pool of human resources.
I strongly believe our young population can adjust well, with their inherent power to transform, and can retain the existing progress of the country where entrepreneurial mindset and innovation will work as a catalyst. The new generation of our country needs to be educated and trained up in such a way that they will believe in their own minds that they can become successful entrepreneurs, who will not have to search for jobs, rather will provide jobs to others as Bangladesh works to transform into a "developed country".
Dr Md Sabur Khan is Chairman, Board of Trustees, Daffodil International University.