Dr . Greg Ibe, the Chancellor of Gregory University, Uturu in Abia State exhibits an interdisciplinary approach to academic issues. He is a teacher in the relatively new field of entrepreneurship education which he presently handles at his university . In this interview, he provides a new insight into the link between education and entrepreneurship development. He spoke to Fred Okopie
What is the relevance of entrepreneurship education to national development?
I have been involved in the field of entrepreneurship education first as an academic and later as an entrepreneur. It is a total branch-out from management as a discipline. Management used to be the umbrella course we offered to everybody. But as soon as it developed more critical knowledge in the area of entrepreneurship development, it had to be separated from the mainstream of management as a course of study.
So, entrepreneurship education came after project management and marketing got their places as separate disciplines from the mainstream of management. Its strength was based on national development. Entrepreneurship education is the only vehicle in which you could have everybody re-orientated and re-discover his or herself and consequently add to the critical elements of economic growth.
What this means is that even though we have already called ourselves entrepreneurs, it should not be applicable to only buying and selling or a small businessman who is into one aspect of manufacturing or the other. Entrepreneurship education is now encompassing. When somebody comes with an idea and that idea is put into action and it generates activity. If through that activity the individual makes money and keeps growing, that is entrepreneurship in action. It means entrepreneurship has two basic components; an act and the actor.
When an actor performs an act that leads to creation of an activity, he’s like an actor who got himself engaged in an activity and produced a film. If that film now makes money; that is entrepreneurship.
Now what management and marketing are telling you is that the beginning and end of everything is the idea. Idea is an innate thing; it comes from your body; it comes from within; your intuition and sub-conscious mind. Those ideas are not just coming from the vacuum: you must live in a society and in an environment encompassing others before an idea could come on how to solve a critical problem in that society or community. For instance, ideas are said to rule the world. If idea is ruling the world, it means that entrepreneurship education has come to stay. That is why entrepreneurship education as a course of study has been introduced all over the world as critical to the development of every nation’s economy.
Other developing countries embraced entrepreneurship education as a course and developed a curriculum for teaching it from primary school to the tertiary education level. The World Small Business Forum gave rise to the small business associations of the United States. I joined that forum as far back as 1994. So, small business association is a member of the World Body promoting small business enterprises and associations. If small business and entrepreneurship accounts for 99 percent of the development of any nation’s economy in terms of contributing to the gross domestic product, GDP, it means it is no more a child’s play.
In Nigeria, we left entrepreneurship development at the level of the mundane; at the level of our parents doing the same old business of selling groundnuts and other articles in shops and the like.
However, in the environment in which you live, there are things you can introduce to bring innovation. For instance, having acquired knowledge of the computer and university education, one could ask himself if there is something he can bring entrepreneurially to change the status quo?
Anybody that changed the status-quo and brought something new and better into the society is an entrepreneur and that person is practicing entrepreneurship.
That is why when we assemble 100,000 members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, who have graduated from their various higher institutions in this country, we need to ask ourselves how many of them are ready for the world of work?
How can somebody who has spent 25 years in various educational institutions at various levels end up being a fashion designer? That means after spending 10 years down the line, he would have been a better tailor. The economy of the United States of America, USA, is supported by entrepreneurs. In that country, you don’t need to be a graduate before you can identify your talent.
For instance, people didn’t use to have regard for disc jockeys, DJs, until the Americans popularised the idea that every skill you have, can put food on your table. And there is no job you do by creating a job for yourself and being your own boss that smells bad. It means that you are contributing to national growth of the economy. That is why entrepreneurship is key among educationists and anybody trying to run an economy. That includes the domestic economy, house-hold economy, state economy and the national economy. If you jettison entrepreneurship education in its total practice, then ideas would not flow and you would not move your people and you would end up stagnating.
How can it be introduced into our national education curriculum?
It has already been introduced as a course of study at the tertiary level . It is taught as a 6 unit credit course in all tertiary institutions across the country. We hope this would trickle down eventually to the secondary and primary levels of education. For this reason, the National Council on Education, the teachers and all other stakeholders have agreed that entrepreneurship education should be introduced in our educational curriculum. What remains is how to introduce it into secondary and primary school levels in order to teach the students and pupils at these lower levels that their future is in their hands; That they need to go beyond the theoretical knowledge they have acquired and also acquire practical skills. This would equip the individual to look at his environment and consider that which is new which he could introduce to solve a particular problem or close a particular gap in the society.
What is its relationship with vocational education which is already captured in our 6-3-3-4 system of education?
A scientific study has shown that most small businesses die in less than two and half years after they were established. You can attest to this all over the country. Many of our brothers and sisters who started one business or the other didn’t last for up to two and half years. But entrepreneurship says you have to recognise the idea and also the risks involved. Everything about that business should be clear to you before you start. Although Nigerians seem to throw you overboard when it is said that your business failed, whereas in America and the developed world if your business fails once or twice, you are not thrown away. The experience you have acquired is still regarded as valuable. Here we reject everybody whose business has failed.
What I am saying in effect is that the inability of our people to combine their business attitudes to idea creation is a problem. That is to say you can actually learn a lot and create new ideas on how to do a family or community business which has existed for a long time. For instance, when you go to Anambra state, you could come across communities that are strong in supermarket business. What it means is that you can’t beat that community in that line of business. There are communities that run bakeries and you can’t beat them in that business. Over the years, they have known the rudiments and problems of that business. This is entrepreneurship in total practice. This is why the ingenuity of our people in the business world is so great. What this also says is that there are cultural issues relating to business.
For instance, the culture of Fulanis in Nigeria is to rear cows. They have the mastery in that line of business. No Igbo man can be given that type of work because Igbos don’t rear cows. So, in Nigeria all of us have areas of comparative advantages.
Question: How can teacher training and retraining which is the key to educational development be revived in Igbo land?
Answer: There is nothing peculiar about the role teachers play in Igbo land when compared to other parts of the country. When you look at the issue holistically, you would realise that at some point in our educational development the importance of teacher training was relegated to the background. We thought that awarding a bachelor’s degree in education was the correct thing to do. But teachers are critical people in a society. With the population boom that Nigeria has witnessed, the government needs to invest in teachers so that they can inculcate knowledge in our younger ones. But instead, teachers training colleges were abandoned.
We introduced crash programmes for the training of teachers and this messed up our educational system. We have also failed in investing in our colleges of education for effective delivery. That was where we got it wrong. When the bachelor’s degree in education was introduced, those who did not possess it were not recognised. This was wrong. Our universities began to make money from this system by organising crash programmes for bachelor’s degree programmes in education. But many of those who obtained the bachelor’s degree went back to the school system where they lost track of the core professional training and orientation they require. The core training of a teacher is completely different from what is offered to those who go for the bachelor’s degree programme. This is because when they go for teaching practice, they are monitored to ascertain whether they were using effective teaching and learning techniques. Is it being practised now? We need to go back to the teacher training colleges to revive our educational system.
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