Last Tuesday we facilitated a workshop in Iringa for Tumaini University’s academic staff on entrepreneurial teaching methods. Goal of the workshop was to raise awareness and generate ideas on new ways of teaching, mainstreaming entrepreneurship education in all degree programs, and come up with new ways for linking up and serving the surrounding society and industries.
Entrepreneurship is already one of the cornerstones of Tumaini’s strategy as a university, and the Provost is driving it even further. We started to work on entrepreneurship education with Tumaini last year, and this was already the third time I’ve visited Iringa regarding this theme. We also have plans regarding entrepreneurship with Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, State University of Zanzibar, Zanzibar University and University of Dar es Salaam.
So why is entrepreneurship such a hot topic right now universities in Tanzania?
Of course, to some degree, entrepreneurship is seen as easy fix for the huge problem of unemployed graduates in Tanzania. Universities used to educate job seekers, professionals for the needs of the private sector, industry and the state. Now the thinking has shifted to educating or generating job creators instead. Making this shift happen in practise is the hard thing, and at least the universities we work with have realized that it needs a lot of work and changes in the way universities operate to achieve this. It’s a long and difficult process, but it also creates competetive advantage for the university.
Entrepreneurship is not only about having students who start their own businesses, it’s about students who set their own goals in life, and figure out means to achieve them. It’s about initiative and proactive attitude to solving problems that matter to people. It’s about university working closely with the surrounding society and private sector. It’s about understanding what you need to know to achieve something, and how to learn it. And this last part is what universities have a hard time adjusting to. If you want the students to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial, you can’t just have them memorize what the curriculum requires, and you can’t just keep them in the classroom! Real innovation and creativity happens in interaction with real life. And what is further away from real life than a university?
So what did we discuss in the workshop? For example, what different degree programs are already doing, how the academic staff understand entrepreneurship education in their teaching, what kind of theories and pedagogical approaches we could apply, and what kind of models there are at a degree program level for entrepreneurship education. I used to work as a coach for a team of entrepreneur students at Proakatemia in Tampere University of Applied Sciences, and back then we also worked with the Polytechnic of Namibia as they were starting their Bachelor’s Degree Program in Entrepreneurship called ProLearning. We talked about what makes learning special in those programs, and what ideas are interesting and relevant for Tumaini.
Entrepreneurship education and alternative learning methods are not really new. Both Proacademy and ProLearning are based on the model of Tiimiakatemia (Team Academy) at Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, and Tiimiakatemia just celebrated its 20th anniversary about a week ago – Congratutions! Here’s a video from the anniversary gala, in which Peter Senge (MIT Sloan School of Management), the father of learning organizations and systems thinking theory, shares his thoughts about Tiimiakatemia:
Back to Iringa. We finished the session by brainstorming on how Tumaini University could become more entrepreneurial. One of the ideas in the brainstorming board was from the theology lecturers: “We should work more closely with our customers”. Who are the customers, I asked. “The sinners, of course!” they answered. Now that’s entrepreneurial thinking!