China / Society

Schools to offer classes in starting own businesses

By LUO WANGSHU (China Daily) Updated: 2012-08-28 23:53

Universities have been ordered to start teaching basic courses on entrepreneurship to undergraduates to encourage students to start businesses and become self-employed after graduation.

According to the draft teaching plan Entrepreneurship Foundations released by the Ministry of Education, the course requires no less than two credit units and 32 hours.

The goal of the course is to establish a positive awareness of entrepreneurship, it said.

Instead of starting businesses after college, most Chinese graduates look for employment opportunities.

There were 6.6 million college graduates nationwide in 2011, according to the ministry. However, only 1.6 percent of graduates started businesses, said the 2012 Chinese College Graduates Employment Annual Report.

MyCOS Institute, a consulting company, released the report in June.

"Becoming an entrepreneur in China, especially for new graduates, is a tough decision," said Wang Hao, a 25-year-old Tsinghua University alumnus who runs his own business.

After graduating from Tsinghua in 2010, Wang went to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

"I thought about finding a job or internship in the US in 2011, just before my graduation, but I decided instead to follow my dream to come back to China to start my own business," Wang said.

He and other two friends from school now run HHT Tech Co, a medical appliance design business.

"I always knew I had entrepreneur’s blood," Wang said, before dismissing the idea of being able to "teach the entrepreneurial spirit".

Wang described himself as good at relating to people and getting work done. "This is a natural gift," he said. "It wasn’t gained from training."

Wang started his first business in high school. He edited his biology notes and study strategies and made a book. "The test guidebook actually had great sales," he said.

While skeptical about the concept of entrepreneurship courses, Wang believes that a basic introduction to entrepreneurship in Chinese universities is necessary.

"Students lack a basic understanding of entrepreneurship, which has been considered unstable, risky and very difficult. But it is not. Starting a business is like a regular job, a job you really enjoy," Wang said.

Tsinghua University, a hotbed of Chinese entrepreneurship and leadership, provides a fertile learning environment to its students.

Deng Yongqiang, general manager of Qidihoude Co, a technical and media incubator of Tsinghua’s new ideas, said Tsinghua has been working on cultivating students’ entrepreneurship ability and awareness for years.

"Although we don’t have a detailed plan with the Ministry of Education, we are already working to provide reliable entrepreneurship education to students," Deng said.

Deng said an essential part of entrepreneurship education in college is to avoid indulging in empty talk.

"It will be big progress to have required entrepreneurship courses at colleges," he said.

The regulation also emphasizes pragmatic exercises and encourages schools to create practical opportunities for students, such as internships.

Wang, the Tsinghua graduate, also agrees with the idea that practical work is necessary in one’s education in entrepreneurship.

"We do have many lectures and activities to teach how to start a business, such as writing business plans or researching the business environment. However, in the US, students are encouraged to do business instead of research. There is a big gap between writing plans and implementing them," he said.

Another essential goal of entrepreneurship education is to increase the students’ awareness of entrepreneurship.

"There was a fear in my parents’ generation that starting up a business meant being at risk and unsafe," Wang said. "They asked me to consider thoroughly before I decided to start a business.

"But my original thought of a startup is pretty simple. I just want to stay with my major," said Wang.

"I just don’t want to lose something I love, and also want to have time and money to have fun and enjoy life. Then I started a business," he said. "It is just a job I am really into."

Focus on Training

Duan Huaqia, a professor of executive management at Anhui University, said entrepreneurship education in college is acceptable to a point.

"It is not necessarily good for it to become a required course. Instead, the course should be based on innovative education, and focus on training, to create an entrepreneurial atmosphere and awareness," Duan said.

Duan also said that it is hard to find a job, but even harder to start a business. He added that given the lack of appropriate teaching materials and practical exercises, colleges need to prepare more for entrepreneurship courses.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of 21st Century Education Research Institute, a private nonprofit policy-research body, disagreed with the idea of required entrepreneurship courses in college.

"I am willing to see some colleges open relevant courses based on their missions and teaching philosophies, but it is not necessary to require all colleges to act the same way," he said.

He said entrepreneurship courses should be interest-driven. "Colleges should have more selective courses to lead students to look for their interests," Xiong said.

He also mentioned that the faculty should have experienced entrepreneurs instead of young lecturers with only textbook knowledge.

Cao Yin contributed to this story.

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