Edinburgh for kids who don’t like going outside? You know sort of all about teams, self-discovery and working together and helping the community to make you a better person? Or is it about developing skills for the workplace, in addition to those teamey ones? Or is it about running a business? Or maybe about being entrepreneurial. “It’s all of them” I can almost hear the managerial classes shriek in delight as it ticks the equivalent of a rainbow of targets in one sweep. “That’s the brilliant thing about it. It covers everything and more”.
I have to disagree, not because it doesn’t cover these things, but because it does, albeit in a limp way. It does when business actually doesn’t. Business, market based business, red in tooth and claw is a million miles away from the sanitised exercises we see students engaging in. The first sort of rule of free market business, ok not the first but the first relevant one, is moral hazard.
If you start a business and you get it wrong you lose. You lose enough to really sharpen your senses and make you focus. Maybe it’s not capital but your credit rating– either way there is risk associated with any return. Of course we don’t see this in the classroom, not only do students not risk their own money they don’t even risk grade. Fundamentally this is not free market business.
The second rule of business, above caveats on order notwithstanding, is that you must provide what the market wants. It would seem the market wants cupcakes, more and more cupcakes. Cupcakes and various other confectionaries. Not that I can’t easily obtain these from my nearest bakery or supermarket, not when I can purchase an inferior quality one at an inflated price from a, heaven forbid, social enterprise. You see we send students out to sell to the great and the good as students not as businesses.
These are not market based purchases but sympathy purchases. Sympathy purchases mess up markets. Utility goes out of the window and we pay over the odds because it’s a nice thing to do.
So now we have no risk businesses selling sympathy products. Third on my list, I was going to say our list but that’s a little presumptuous, is costs. Four students working on their business for six weeks, putting in a day a week, manage to generate £1,000 profit. Well done. Less than you could have earned working for 24 days equivalent at minimum wage of course, but well done. Of course you have used the organisation’s public liability insurance as an umbrella and managed not to have to pay advertising or rent as these also form part of that umbrella but let’s not be picky. If we were picky and rigorously applied a hypothetical charge, like we would in making an investment decision, of course profit would shrink o something far, far less than minimum wage but that’s all rather theoretical isn’t it.
We aren’t teaching enterprise what we are teaching is a funny eclectic set of nice things. We
have badged it as enterprise but it’s not the sort of enterprise that generates
GDP growth or wealth. Until we get
straight what we are trying to achieve we will remain in this mire, failing
students by passing them.