Are U.S. Students Born Entrepreneurs?

High unemployment rates have led more people in the U.S. down an entrepreneurial career path, and some believe this is just the pathway all Americans should be taking. Yong Zhao, presidential chair and associate dean for global education in the college of education at the University of Oregon, recently gave a keynote at the International Society for Technology in Education conference where he compared high-achieving students around the world with American students, known for their declining test scores, according to a recent Education Week article.

He called out some of the top ranking countries, like China, South Korea, and Singapore, and drew attention to their low rankings in entrepreneurial skills. This is where he believes American students can have an advantage over the rest of the world. Zhao calls today’s U.S. students “confident” — a quality that can fuel entrepreneurship and give entrepreneurs the grit they need to be a business owner.

Zhao believes we are approaching education reform the wrong way. “It’s not about fixing someone’s deficit; it’s about enhancing their strength.” Instead of focusing on academic skills, should we gear more classes toward American’s strengths? Probably not to the extent that Zhao suggests, suggests Kate Ash in her article “Yong Zhao: Focus on Entrepreneurial Skills, not Test Scores.” However, entrepreneurship, leadership, problem solving, and critical thinking are 21st century skills that many of today’s students lack. There doesn’t need to be a separation between teaching soft skills and rigorous academic courses. We can enhance yesterday’s lessons with the skills and technology students need to succeed today in school and out.

Bringing professionals to speak in a class, giving students more chances to take leadership roles in the classroom, using a budget for a small business as the basis for math project, or offering an enrichment class can teach students the value of and skills for fulfilling an entrepreneurial role without lessening the importance of literacy and STEM education for today’s students.



“Yong Zhao: Focus on Entrepreneurial Skills, not Test Scores,” by Kate Ash. 26 June 2012. Education Week. Accessed on 27 June 2012.

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