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Business invades Education

There has never been a time in capitalism when the two worlds of business and education have not had some kind of relationship. Today, however, the influence of business interests on education has gone much further. Business people, and those in the media who promote their interests, have become much more assertive in the role they see business playing in education. Government policies, such as those driving the new city academies, are designed to strengthen the link between what goes on in educational institutions and what goes on in workplaces.

Popular language plays a part in all this. “Enterprise” has become an overworked cliché. It is seen as a good word because it is linked with energy, using one’s initiative, setting something up. It is youthful, can be satisfying, even dramatic in an otherwise somewhat dull and routine world.

Capitalist values have a secure foothold in the later stages of education such as sixth forms, colleges of further and higher education. As a contributor to the Business Daily programme of the BBC World Service remarked (28 April), “Business people actually teach the courses.”

There are also moves to get even young children interested in “enterprise”. You’re never too young to learn about buying and selling and making a profit (don’t think about exploitation — just experience it when you grow up).

The question of whether young entrepreneurs come from entrepreneurial families of not seems to be unresolved. What is not in doubt is the rarity of successful entrepreneurs. A youngster may feature in the media by boasting about making a million or so from finding a gap in the market at the age of perhaps 12 or 13. But the sobering fact is that 80 percent of new businesses fail within two years.

Some of the winning entrepreneurs make a point of saying that it isn’t so much the money that they find satisfying but the sense of achievement and meeting a need. Fine. The most enterprising thing we can do is to work to replace a system of gross inequality, deprivation and destruction with one in which meeting human need is at the top of the agenda.

STAN PARKER