By Peter J.Foley, Ed.D.

This month’s feature article describes exceptional places where students learn entrepreneurial skills.

These places and schools in Germany are exceptional. Teaching young people how to survive in business is not taught in schools here in Thailand or in most schools in the world. Strange, isn’t it? A great percentage of those who go to our schools will end up in business or working for a business. Yet, schools give us little or no preparation for what will be our likely livelihoods.

One happy exception was my brother Michael’s experience in a New York public school in the sixth grade back in the 1950’s.  The teacher was a progressive educator named Dr. Candreva. He taught the whole class how to be entrepreneurs and how to raise money for a business venture. He had the class set up a school supply and snack store from scratch. Students were offered stock in the store. With money from the stock sale the students bought school supplies, candy and other sale items. As the store progressed selling more and more goods to the other students in the school, the sixth grade students could sell their stock at whatever the going price might be in terms of the store’s profitability. My brother, Mike, is dyslexic. Up to that time he had little interest in school. Suddenly he could not wait to get to school. He quickly understood that the stock in the store would go up linearly and bought almost all the other students’ stock in the store giving them a modest profit even though the store was only in existence a month when Mike started buying the other students’ stock. At the end of the year Mike was reaping many times over his original investments. Mike went on the make a fortune in the stock market before he reached thirty years old.   He credits Dr. Candreva for lighting the spark that ignited his whole, successful business career.

You might think that other teachers who witnessed this successful teaching of entrepreneurial skills would want to follow Dr. Candreva’s lead. But that is not what happened. Teachers were told that such experiments might be interesting, even successful as was the case of Dr. Candreva sixth grade class, but teachers had to first concentrate on the New York State curriculum. Only then could they do “experiments” such as Dr. Candreva’s school store—and of course such “experiments” could only operate during lunch breaks and after school activities time.

Our feature article, “Learning in the Market”,  provides many other splendid examples of student centered activities that provide opportunities to learn entrepreneurship. In the October 18, 2012 edition of the Nation newspaper, the columnist Suthichai Yoon complained that the I.Q scores for Thai children in 38 provinces were on average below 100, they had not changed from this low ebb for more than a decade. This month’s SCLThailand article complains of dull classrooms in Germany.  How much duller are those classrooms in Thailand! The SCLThailand web site has advocated in the last 18 months for radical changes in the conducting of classes in Thailand throughout public sector education. Away from rote learning and toward student centered education marked by problem solving using activity based learning.

What better way to start real education reform in Thailand than by introducing as part of the curriculum teaching skills in a real business context to our youth?  Such interventions will go a long way to making Thailand more competitive in business and trade well into the 21st century. It will also hone the problem solving skills of Thai youth and in the process their IQ’s and E.Q.’s.

We agree with Suthichai Yoon that the educational future of Thai children being taught in public schools does not look good and that a key to reform is teacher education. Introducing how to teach entrepreneurial skill through activity based learning would be a giant step towards improving educational outcomes for students and the nation.