In Lebanon, Entrepreneurial Learning Goes National
Thematic Area: Key competences; Policies and Systems
‘The education system is preparing young people academically, but not preparing them to understand what the world of work is all about,’ says Dima El Khouri, the executive director of Injaz, a Lebanese charity organisation, which runs business education classes for young people’.
The organisation is trying to improve students’ entrepreneurial and leadership skills and their economic opportunities. Injaz, with five offices in Lebanon, will reach some 15,000 students this year with its short classes focused on business or “life skills”.
‘Three years ago we started to work with Injaz on a very specific project to train career guidance counsellors in Lebanon,’ says Abdelaziz Jaouani, expert in enterprise skills development. ‘The counsellors also gave entrepreneurship training at a small number of schools.’
Thanks to the funding of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the ETF in lead and in cooperation with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and UNESCO, 20 vocational schools and 20 general secondary schools will introduce a pilot programme on entrepreneurial education in September. In the following years the programme is expected to expand to cover all secondary schools.
The ETF is liaising with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and is helping update school curricula. The ILO provides its tested education package “Know about Business” (KAB), which is available in Arabic and currently implemented in more than 50 countries in the world.
‘We do not create entrepreneurs; we try to help these young people think differently to add a new career option, which is self-employment,’ says Rania Bikhazi, Enterprise Development Specialist at ILO Regional Office for the Arab States. ‘The programme tackles the attitude towards entrepreneurship or the concept of self employment, and gives young people another career option to think about, which is self employment.’
The KAB programme goes well beyond attitudes and teaches how to actually establish a business, what is cash flow or a balance sheet. It can consist of up to 120 hours of instruction, but every country adapts the programme to its local conditions.
But what is the purpose of having a national programme on entrepreneurship in a country with such a long history of trade, where, some say, money itself was invented?
‘It is true that people here are entrepreneurial by family, by history,’ says Ms Bikhazi. ‘But the problem is that if you take over the business from your parents, you don’t necessarily understand how to run it. You may run it very well, but if I ask you about book keeping, stock control, about marketing, or about how you price your stuff, you won’t be able to answer, because you’ve never learnt it.’
This summer the project foresees a two-week intensive training course for teachers involved in the pilot phase. Then from the start of school year the students will benefit from the entrepreneurship classes.
In the end, cooperation with the local charity, Injaz, on a relatively small project gave the opportunity for the ETF to negotiate a more comprehensive training scheme with the government; it prepared the ground for a national entrepreneurial learning programme.
‘Civil society initiatives, while very important, can’t reach the majority of students,’ says Mr Jaouani. ‘The only way to do it is through changes in education system. So, at the ETF we target the policy level, because the policy framework is a necessary precondition for entrepreneurial learning to reach all young people.’
Photo: One of Injaz's entrepreneuship classes at a secondary school in Beirut