Article Originally Published in Forbes.com, 6/24/2013 @ 10:55AM
Does Entrepreneurship Education Matter? Candida Brush
This is a question that I and my colleagues here at Babson College are frequently asked by the media, entrepreneurs, friends and fellow academics. The number of colleges and universities offering courses has grown dramatically from 253 schools to more than 2600 worldwide (Katz, J., E-web- SLU.edu, 2012; Kauffman Foundation, 2012). With this rise in courses, also comes the question of metrics- how do we know that these courses are effective? The most popular way to measure, based on questions posed by the many rankings organizations, has to do with the number of students “starting a new venture right after graduation”.
In the first place, this the narrowest possible measure of entrepreneurship, and may not in any way reflect the value of entrepreneurial learning. The vast majority of graduates who study entrepreneurship are not likely to start a business until 5 years after graduation. Why? Because they need experience in the industry and practice using their entrepreneurial capabilities. Here at Babson College we teach entrepreneurial thought and action. Students learn how to identify or create opportunities, acquire resources, and build a team to create something of economic and social value. Students learn both learn predictive and creative approaches and practice these behaviors. Even though 100% of our students are required to take entrepreneurship courses, only about 11-15% actually start businesses at graduation. But, our recent alumni survey shows that 5 years out more than 50% are founders, co-founders, or part of a start-up team while 68% think of themselves as entrepreneurs!
In the second place, ‘start –up’ doesn’t capture the other pathways into entrepreneurship. Here at Babson, we believe entrepreneurs can come to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs come to entrepreneurship by buying businesses, acquiring a franchise, commercializing technology, starting a venture within a family, corporation or social enterprise. When these other pathways are considered, we find that 25% of our students are in fact “entrepreneurs” at graduation.
Finally, our alumni survey confirms what we teach about entrepreneurial thought and action. Our graduates are ‘ambidextrous thinkers’- using both creative and predictive approaches in all their work endeavors, whether or not they own their own business. More than 80% report they are highly confident in their ability to think creatively, while 66% report that they are highly confident in their ability to identify and create new business opportunities. This also supports work by my colleagues, Kate McKone-Sweet and Danna Greenberg, who describe entrepreneurial leadership in their book, The New Entrepreneurial Leader.
And so here at Babson College where we have been teaching entrepreneurship since 1978 and have been ranked #1 in Entrepreneurship by most polls for the past 20 years, we find that Entrepreneurship Education MATTERS, but not in the way it is typically measured.
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