E-Nation Symposium: Entrepreneurs make the best entrepreneurship teachers

  • Passion and creativity lacking among students, especially those in the B40
  • Entrepreneurship education more about overcoming challenges than technology

(From left) Open Learning head of Growth Danial Rahman; Taylor’s Education Group head of group communications and CSR May Wong; University Malaysia Kelantan Entrepreneurship Institute’s Prof Dr Nik Maheran; University of Northampton UK’s Dr Jieun Ryu; and University Malaya Office of Industry and Community Engagement’s Dr Rofina Yasmin Othman

Especially in eastern society where the young are conditioned to traverse the path of conventional careers, the shift towards a more entrepreneurial nation is challenging albeit timely, considering the increasing proliferation of tech across all sectors. How then do education institutions, right at the threshold of young adults forging their futures, inspire entrepreneurship through teaching? That was the question a panel at MaGIC’s E-Nation Symposium addressed on Nov 2.

Participating in the discussion were Prof Dr Rofina Yasmin Othman, University Malaya Office of Industry and Community Engagement (UM ICE); Dr Jieun Ryu, University of Northampton UK; Prof Dr Nik Maheran, University Malaysia Kelantan Entrepreneurship Institute; May Wong, head of group communications and CSR, Taylor’s Education Group. Danial Rahman, Head of Growth at Open Learning, was moderator.

What is needed is education that builds awareness and entrepreneurial will. Speaking from a social entrepreneurship standpoint, Jieun emphasised the role of universities is to “broaden student perspectives on society which will help students identify social problems to solve in an innovative way.” Other roles of the university include acting as a community resource centre by “collaborating with accelerators and incubators” as well as to provide networking and job placement opportunities.

However, for students, the appeal of opting for a steady job lies in securing risk-free regular income each month. “There are not many students who want to be social entrepreneurs after graduation, because society tells students getting a job in the corporate world is the best option,” adds Jieun.

Rofina concurred and shared that putting entrepreneurship on students’ radar is a challenge, but it is slowly changing. “We really need the role models from unicorns to show parents that it’s okay for students who study law, for instance, and take up social entrepreneurship.”

However, offering a contrarian view to the belief that passion and creativity are key traits needed in entrepreneurship, Nik opined that, “This passion and creativity is lacking in Malaysia, particularly in Kelantan.”

Students’ background are a huge influencing factor, he goes on to say. Often, those who are children of farmers and fishermen have no exposure to the business environment. “70 percent of those that enter University Malaysia Kelantan are from the B40 (bottom 40%) group. When we ask these students for business plans, a majority of them talk about frozen foods rather than something for a tech-savvy world.” To counter this Nik feels that the education system must help shape more creative and passionate individuals.

While that is one answer to the challenge, do universities have the right people to teach entrepreneurship in our education institutions? Rofina cautions that not everyone can teach entrepreneurship. “To teach it, you have to had experienced it first. They make the best teachers.”

Mainly, it’s about propagating the right mindset and resilience. “It’s not about technology. It’s about getting through hurdles and situations,” she stressed.

However, the fact remains that many institutes of higher education require teaching personnel to hold a doctorate degree. For University Malaya, Rofina says the focus is in bringing in more and more industry practitioners into its classes. “In the entrepreneurship programme, our teachers do not necessarily need to have PhDs.”

In this sense, she highlights one particular noteworthy initiative by the Ministry of Education. The 2u2i programme was developed with the aim of building more “holistic, entrepreneurial and balanced graduates” through two years of university learning followed by two years in industry.


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