Starting anewAn entrepreneurial spirit that embraces risk and promotes technological development and innovation is the driving force of economic development, economist Joseph Alois Schumpeter once declared. If that is true, the government’s comprehensive plan announced yesterday to restore entrepreneurial spirit should create a new growth engine for the depressed economy.
One of the main factors affecting business activities has been a pervasive anti-business sentiment. This worrisome situation has persisted for a while. In a survey carried out at the end of last year by the Federation of Korean Industries, half of the respondents said they distrusted businesses.
To solve this problem, social infrastructure to encourage entrepreneurship needs to be established across all walks of society. In addition to one-off events like “Entrepreneurial Spirit Week,” the government should improve laws to encourage the creation of start-ups, such as eliminating the minimum capital requirement.
There also needs to be a change in mindset. The employment rate for young adults aged between 15 and 29 has declined over the last three years. In May, 553,000 people were classified as looking for employment. A realistic alternative to the growing unemployment among young adults is to start businesses.
Problems with the educational system also need to be addressed. There is a severe shortage of the practical education needed to start up a business, as well as of economic education.
The textbooks used in schools contain vast amounts of material that promote anti-business sentiment. In an analysis of high school economics textbooks last April, the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry found material slamming unethical business behavior, such as environmental pollution, harmful foods and abuses by large businesses. American textbooks, in contrast, take a more balanced approach, also outlining the role of businesses in contributing to the development of a market economy through innovation and job creation.
Our textbooks should be revamped to contain case studies of successful and exemplary business professionals who can be role models for young students.
Many countries teach their students entrepreneurship through cooperation between the government, businesses and schools. In the United States, major universities have been providing practical business education since the late 1960s. Elementary, middle and high schools have also gotten on board.
Singapore introduced educational programs for gifted children in 1984 and has encouraged even primary school students to invent ideas for innovative products, file patents and commercialize them.
In Korea, the Small and Medium Business Administration began the BizCool project in 2002, providing education on how to start a business and supporting start-a-business clubs at 12 schools. There are now 96 schools in the program, but the government needs to increase funding in order to expand the project. Business associations should also provide support.
As far back as 2000, the European Commission said that there would be no future for the European Union without education on entrepreneurship.
The success stories of young entrepreneurs who started businesses in their teens and 20s should no longer be tales from other countries. Our future depends on teaching our youth to be entrepreneurs.