Knowledge is risk-averse, so is there room for entrepreneur innovation? | So Good News


What role can entrepreneurs play in the development of the UK education system?

It’s a challenge raised by the launch of a new initiative aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs to come up with ideas to tackle what organizers describe as the UK’s “one size fits all” approach to education and training.

In the form of a £1 million prize fund, the Big Education Challenge was created to support entrepreneurs as they develop ideas that have the potential to help students thrive in life, rather than preparing them to pass exams.

That’s a worthy goal, but what does entrepreneurship mean in the context of a school system that tends to resist change, and perhaps for obvious reasons?

Of course, entrepreneurs are already active in the field of education and development. This is especially true in the corporate world, where employers’ desire to upskill their employees while keeping budgets in check has given rise to many innovative courses and training providers. Additionally, the internet is full of educational solutions aimed at individuals looking to improve their skills or knowledge. For example, language apps or massive open online courses offered by a university.

But when it comes to making changes at the core of the education system, things get a little more difficult. An employer can test a new online training course. If it doesn’t work, it does very little damage. Other options will definitely be available.

But if you start talking about changes around how children and teenagers work and learn in school, there can be long-term consequences. Keirin Goddard is Senior Director of Impact, the charity Big Change, which organizes the Big Education Challenge. Education is “high stakes,” he said. Thus, change comes more slowly than in waves of disruption.

The need for change

But Goddard is ready to prove that change is needed. “The system is too standardized,” he says. “It’s one-size-fits-all, and it’s hard to be successful if you don’t.”

Research by the charity shows widespread youth dissatisfaction, with 64 per cent of respondents aged 18-25 saying the education system has not prepared them for life, and 73 per cent saying the mix of subjects is poor. they don’t need it. More than 70 percent believe that an opportunity to reform education has been missed since the pandemic.

The surveys may be imperfect, but the responses show that there is a demand for change. Where there is little consensus, what form that change might take and who might deliver it.

Completing the task

This is where the Big Education Challenge can help. As Goddard explains, initiative falls into two categories. The Groundbreaker Challenge for 18- to 25-year-olds with great ideas and the Gamechanger Challenge for contestants with experience from leading impact businesses. £700,000 is available to the winner of the Gamechanger Challenge, with the remaining £300,000 going to the Groundbreaker category.

But is the field of education open to innovation? As Goddard recalled, twenty years ago the Department of Education had an innovation unit, but that unit has since been scrapped. “This is a very dangerous sector,” he says.

So does this mean that any good ideas and business plans that come out of the Challenge fall on deaf ears?

Goddard says progress is possible. He cites the example of Tranquiliti, a mental health tool funded (in its early days) by Big Change. “It gives schools an idea of ​​the well-being of students,” he says. It began expanding into schools and received additional funding from the Times Educational Supplement.

In addition, businesses that offer services such as extra classes outside of the core curriculum may also find appeal. Goddard points to Rekindle School, which offers weekend classes to students in Manchester. It has also received funding from Big Change.

There is also room for innovation in areas of education, perhaps not given enough weight in the current system. Goddard cites Oracy as an example of teaching around fluency. Another venture that supports this big change, Voice21 is an active area.

So there are opportunities for businesses to make an impact. Hopefully, the challenge will lead to more. So far, 100 applications have been received for the competition, which will end in February next year. But what does success look like? “If we can get 15 to 20 ideas that have potential from people who wouldn’t otherwise get support, that would be a great result,” says Goddard.


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