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China Encourages College Students to Suspend Study and Become Entrepreneurs and Innovators

22 January 2015 28,253 2 Comments

China Encourages College Students to Suspend Study and Become Entrepreneurs and Innovators

“To foster a new engine of growth [in China], we need to encourage mass entrepreneurship and innovation, and mobilize the wisdom and power of the people,” said China’s Premier Li Keqiang said at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday. This is not the first time China’s top leaders have expressed their belief that entrepreneurship, innovation, and creativity will fuel the world’s second largest economy’s future growth. “Just imagine how big a force it could be when the 800 or 900 million laborers among the 1.3 billion population are engaged in entrepreneurship, innovation and creation” were the words of the Premier at the 2014 Summer Davos.

To encourage “mass entrepreneurship,” the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) asked colleges to allow students to suspend their college career to pursue entrepreneurship last month. In the policy document, the MOE wants colleges to “make innovation and entrepreneurship education a consistent element of the entire education process and develop and offer courses dedicated to creativity and entrepreneurship.” Additionally, colleges are asked to appoint successful entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, and schools as adjunct mentors to provide one on one advice to students.

The new policy has met with enthusiastic support as well as serious skepticism. Supporters believe this is a bold move to counter the cultural bias against entrepreneurs and legitimizes entrepreneurship as a decent life choice. And hopefully this kind of initiative will help address the gloomy job prospect for the 7.49 million college graduates in 2015, in addition to the 6.80 million in 2012, 6,99 million in 2013, and 7.27 million in 2014.

But skeptics don’t believe this actually will work. “Ministry’s Words Won’t Overturn Society’s Opposition to Entrepreneurship” titled an article in Beijing Today. “…even if the ministry can resolve its own bureaucratic nightmare, students still may not be willing to risk entrepreneurship” because “universities, parents and society at large do litter to encourage innovators.” “Furthermore, the current education system in Chinese universities leaves little room for entrepreneurship.”

A bigger issue is, as I have written in my book World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, is the lack of “an entrepreneurship mindset,” which has been an intended outcome of its traditional education system. The traditional system values academic excellence and compliance over creativity, risk taking, and deviation, necessary components of entrepreneurship, as I explains Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World. “Mass entrepreneurship” requires a different education. China has been working to reform its education system to create a different kind of education, as evidenced by its recent reform of its college entrance exam and admission system.

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  • Iain Lancaster said:

    Hmm…China encouraging genuine innovative thought, while the US is going backward in that regard when it comes to schooling, may spell trouble for US economic dominance in the not too distant future.

  • Jill B said:

    Is it true that a Chinese person must have a university degree to be allowed to apply to change their ‘home town’ so that they can buy property and live in preferred cities?

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