Can you teach Entrepreneurship?

An entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit (source: Google Dictionary). While entrepreneurship was traditionally defined as the process of designing, launching, and running a new business (source:  Wikipedia), this has expanded and is now akin to having an entrepreneurial spirit (ES). “Entrepreneurship is much broader than the creation of a new business venture,” said Bruce Bachenheimer, a clinical professor of management and executive director of the Entrepreneurship Lab at Pace University. “At its core, it is a mindset; a way of thinking and acting. It is about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value.”  It is also about the willingness to take calculated risks.

Our students participated in Model United Nations, to learn about diplomacy, international relations, to develop a deeper understanding of current world issues and to develop proposals to eliminate these issues.

According to Randy Duermyer, (, people with an entrepreneurial spirit  (ES) not only think and view things in a different light, there are certain distinct character traits that typically define this spirit.

Character Traits How this defines an entrepreneur
Passion A passion/love for what you do and enjoying it in the process
Independent/ Innovative Thinking Thinking outside of the box
Optimism Believing always in a good outcome
Self-confidence Ability to overcome self-doubt to achieve their goal
Resourceful Problem Solvers Never let problems and challenges get in the way, and instead find ways to achieve their goals despite hardships
Tenacity / Resilience An “I do not quit” mentality, failure is not an option
Vision Have a definite end goal to propel you towards the goal
Focused Stay on-track to reach the goal
Action-oriented Do not wait for things to happen. Make things happen

These traits all seem to point to innate abilities like that of an artist or a musician, or is it? Can you teach one to have an entrepreneurial spirit? Nay-sayers like Victor Hwang, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, will share that it is about having “real world” experiences that ‘will groom’ one to have this spirit. “You need a broad spectrum of personal experiences to deal with the unexpected, unprecedented, and the unquantifiable.” You cannot teach this.

Dr. Andrew Nelson, who has taught at both Stanford and University of Oregon stands to differ. “In the classes I’ve taught, the approach leverages a mixture of lectures that present overarching lessons and frameworks, guest speakers and media clips that offer “real world” insights, and hands-on exercises that enable students to practice fundamental skills. For example, one fundamental skill lies in observing existing business and social arrangements and identifying situations that could be improved. I send my students out to observe the location of their choice and to take careful notes on the problems they observe. They quickly discover that problems and, therefore, opportunities – are everywhere.

Grade 9’s gathering ideas for their own project work on sustainable measures for a city, when they visited the NEWater treatment plant to understand how sustainable initiatives have benefitted Singapore.

Entrepreneurship education is most effective when we offer a wide menu of options. Thus, a given course might include some combination of simulations, case studies, feasibility studies, lectures, discussions, interviews, hands-on exercises and other activities.

By the same token, entrepreneurship education works best when it’s not limited to traditional courses, but also includes internships, mentoring relationships, workshops, seminars, speaker series and other extramural engagements. This diversity of offerings enables students and others to engage with entrepreneurship in different ways and with different levels of commitment, tailoring the content and format to their specific interests.”

This is how the Aedes mosquito infects us with the Zika virus!

Hands-on exercises, field trips, simulations, case studies are just some of the methods employed by our teachers in our elementary school to strengthen what has been taught in class in their “Unit of Inquiry”. This gives our elementary students authentic experiences to enable them to develop new ideas for their projects, to strengthen their learning and make connections. In our Grade 4 exhibition on the human body, our students shared their personal inquiries, their information, models and interactive games which outlined their new understandings about how the body systems are interconnected.

Grade 5 Market Day.

Our Grade 5’s organised their very own “Market Day”. This hands-on project gave them the opportunity to flex their entrepreneurial spirit by creating a small business of their own, focusing on fair trade and environmental sustainability practices. This was preceded by class discussions and research and with the close guidance of our teachers, Market Day become a reality!

The outcome of first-hand experience of stage musicals is to develop new ideas for their own drama production projects

In our drama classes in the Middle School, Mr. Lebon, our Drama and French language teacher shares this. “Every Middle school MYP Drama lesson at ISS starts with the sharing of a passion for drama, to inspire the students and initiate a vision that will be the starting point of each of their performance projects. Through group work and a team approach in developing creativity, each Drama class project naturally aims to help the students solve problems, be resilient and develop self-confidence in communication by the time they give their final performance in front of an audience.” These traits of resilience and self-confidence are not only confined to a performance scenario or drama project alone. These nurtured traits become part of the student’s natural mindset as they approach future experiences. “I typically bring my students to a musical that is making its run in Singapore. At the musical, I have them note and observe the practical aspects of staging a musical production – from the stunning production sets, musical scores, choreography and special effects to the roles of the actors, directors, and producers. When we are in class, we discuss what they observed and we discuss what is good, what can be further improved. The students always find new opportunities to do things better and that adds value to their own work. What this also means is that they learn to seek opportunities from observations and create value-added solutions that benefit them thereafter!”

“I provide the guidance for the Student Council to explore and find opportunities to serve others, and I support them in the projects they have initiated.” Mr. Hayward
Walking for a good cause and applying self-initiated efforts to make this happen!

Mr. Hayward, our Assistant High School Principal believes that his role is to help students realise that their actions can make a positive difference to those around them as well as themselves. “Encouraging students to see and find opportunities in situations is of great value for their school experience. This builds an entrepreneurial spirit amongst them.” He oversees the High School Student Council team. “I provide the guidance for them to explore and find opportunities to serve others, and I support them in the projects they have initiated. We meet regularly as a group but the students lead these discussions and collaborations. Activities they discuss or plan usually involve serving others: through appreciation days, celebration events, and stress-relieving activities. I do not tell them what to do.  Case in point, the Student Council took a leading role in organising students to attend a charity run last year.Rather than just raise awareness of the opportunity, they organised the sign-ups, the format for sponsorship and the registration with the organisers to try and increase the ease of having students participate. Practice will make perfect and eventually, this will become a natural way of handling issues. They will view an issue from the perspective of how they can value-add and create more opportunities for the task at hand!”

I have ISS to thank for developing my entrepreneurial spirit.

One of our senior students, Mhairie Flor had the opportunity to intern with the human resource department’s ‘learning and development’ team at a local industrial company. Her interest in psychology and the role that social learning theories play in enhancing employee training, propelled her to contact the Head of Learning and Development at this company. “I requested permission to test my theory at this company, and this led to a 4-month internship. During this time, surveys were sent out to the employees and the answers received confirmed that social learning theories, when applied in employee training, can engage the employees better, boost the learning process and help employers retain the new knowledge gathered from training.  This company has now adopted some of my findings and recommendations and I am thrilled and happy that I have managed to make a beneficial difference.” This is a fine example of how Mhairie Flor’s entrepreneurial spirit, passion, vision, tenacity, innovative thinking and focused determination led her to deliver a value-add project, that has brought strong benefits to the company’s learning and development goals. “I certainly have my teachers to thank for helping me nurture this spirit of entrepreneurship. They have always guided me not to quit, but to believe in myself and the potential that I have, to pursue and reach my intended goal.”

This is both a power-bank and a choker.

Over at our Design Class in High School, Ms. Vlad our High School Design Teacher believes strongly that students who have an entrepreneurial spirit thrive better in society. To her, an entrepreneurial spirit is typically characterised by a “can-do” attitude and this is what drives the student to search for creative pathways when encountering challenges or opportunities. She sees this very often in her classes. She cites an example of a project on augmented reality (AR) with her Grade 9 class. “My students were tasked to create an AR clip with the help of an open source application (app). They were all obviously apprehensive when I initially started the project with them, as none of them had ever done AR projects before. However, after explaining how this app can help them create the clip, showing and guiding them with some examples, they all very quickly integrated their prior experience with technology and knowledge acquired over their years at ISS, with this newly learned skill, and the results were astounding. They were extremely innovative and resourceful.”  Grayson, one of her students developed his AR clip on his topic of choice; a solar-powered choker that doubles as a power-bank. He showed how pieces of small decoratively cut polymers can be attached to a ‘snap-on’ choker band. “Chokers are worn by many young people, so it would be ideal to turn this into a sustainable energy tool and use it to power up our mobile phones. The “snap-on” band makes it more convenient to wear the choker, even with one hand, since we usually have our mobile phones in the other hand!”

“Grayson’s work displayed not only his resourcefulness in adapting and adopting this new technology, his idea is innovative. I can see passion for the subject. If this proposal is developed into reality, imagine the value-add and convenience that this will create. This is true entrepreneurial spirit being manifested!” gushed Ms. Vlad excitedly.

I always plan my lessons around what my students would like to explore, in order to stimulate them to draw connections, question and ‘dream’ of possibilities.

To facilitate building an entrepreneurial spirit amongst her students, Ms. Vlad combines lectures, discussions, field trips, case studies, hands-on exercises, amongst other activities. “This stimulates my students to draw connections, question and ‘dream’ of possibilities. Most Importantly the learning environment that I create is centered on what stimulates my students the most. I always plan my lessons around ‘What would my students like to explore? What interests do my students have outside of school? Which technological applications or websites would my students like to use? What part of the problem seems most important to my students?’ This way, every design is highly personal and students take ownership of their ideas and creations more so than if they were guided towards the “right” answers. This is a more challenging and sometimes slower process, but it also fosters greater entrepreneurial competencies.”

The visit to the Google office in Singapore sparked new ideas and goals amongst our students.

Take for example the field trip to the local Google office which Ms. Vlad arranged. “I selected Google because of the reputation and standing of this company in the Information Technology industry. My objectives were simple. I wanted the visit to inspire the students to think, be creative and have an insight into how Google functions as a large conglomerate. I wanted them to apply what they saw at Google to their own life goals.” And apply they did. Her student Tarish was impressed by the employee retention strategies at Google. “They have a very lean and diverse organisation structure. But despite the amount of work, they have happy people working there. Why? All employee ideas have a chance to be heard and everyone is given equal opportunities to involved in the development of products in the Google suite of services and features offered. This to me represents a culture of respect, which in turn results in employee motivation and satisfaction. When I become an entrepreneur and have a company, I will want to promote and inculcate a culture of respect.  Staff welfare will be a priority, to ensure that they deliver good work and I am able to retain staff.”

At ISS, we believe in and cultivate an entrepreneurial spirit in our students from a very young age. This gives them a head-start into a multitude of pathways that fit their needs and interests; a business owner who offers new products and services or a social entrepreneur who believes strongly in a cause and provides value for the wider community in the process. What is core is that they leverage this entrepreneurial spirit that they have developed at ISS to develop new opportunities, provide value, realise their best potential, and are fulfilled and enjoy the journey as they pursue their interests.

If you’d like to find out more about ISS, please contact our Admissions Team or call them at 6737 9171 (for K1 to G8, Paterson Campus) and 6475 4188 (for G9-G12, Preston Campus).