En­trepreneur­ship gains pop­u­lar­ity in Shang­hai schools

China Daily (Canada) - - SHANGHAI - By XU XIAOMIN in Shang­hai

xux­i­aomin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The end-of-se­mes­ter as­sign­ment for se­nior stu­dent Han Xu and fresh­man Greta Solomon from New York Uni­ver­sity Shang­hai was a rather un­con­ven­tional one that did not in­volve lengthy es­says — they had to sell T-shirts.

About 20 stu­dents from the co­hort were pre­sented with the chal­lenge of de­sign­ing busi­ness mod­els, fol­low­ing which they were given just two hours to im­ple­ment them. Han and Solomon stood out from the com­pe­ti­tion by sell­ing 200 T-shirts.

“In just two weeks, we had to de­sign and re­view the images that were to be printed on the T-shirts, find busi­ness part­ners and ne­go­ti­ate deals with them, cre­ate posters and pro­mote our event on Chi­nese and English so­cial me­dia,” said Han, who joked that he al­most suf­fered from a men­tal break­down dur­ing the as­sign­ment.

“Through this project I’ve learned what it takes to start a new busi­ness. I’ve also learned how to de­ploy every pos­si­ble re­source around me and what is re­quired to man­age emer­gen­cies.”

A grow­ing num­ber of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions in ma­jor Chi­nese cities like Shang­hai have in re­cent years been ad­vo­cat­ing en­trepreneur­ship, ei­ther through chal­lenges like this or via spe­cial cour­ses and guest lec­turer ap­pear­ances.

Eight renowned uni­ver­si­ties in Shang­hai, in­clud­ing Fu­dan, Tongji and Shang­hai Uni­ver­sity of Fi­nance and Eco­nomics, had in 2010 es­tab­lished a net­work to help col­lege stu­dents start their own busi­nesses. Ac­cord­ing to the au­thor­i­ties of Yangpu dis­trict where most of these uni­ver­si­ties are lo­cated, the ini­tia­tive has since its in­cep­tion ben­e­fit­ted about 6,000 stu­dents who got the chance to learn about the real life ex­pe­ri­ences of suc­cess­ful en­trepreneurs and in­tern at startup com­pa­nies.

At Shang­hai Jiao Tong Uni­ver­sity, stu­dents can choose from 34 cour­ses re­lated to in­no­va­tion and startup busi­nesses. The uni­ver­sity also al­lows stu­dents to take a hia­tus from school for as long as two years to pur­sue their startup am­bi­tions.

At the Shang­hai Amer­i­can School, en­trepreneur­ship cour­ses are avail­able in both the In­ter­na­tional Bac­calau­re­ate and Ad­vanced Place­ment pro­grams. Stu­dents can also start their own en­trepreneur­ship clubs — Wil­liam Kim, 18, was the first to do so in 2015.

Kim said that the cour­ses the school of­fers, such as IB Busi­ness and IB Eco­nomics, pro­vided him with vi­tal knowl­edge about be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur, while his club’s ac­tiv­i­ties, con­ducted un­der the guid­ance of a teacher, ex­posed him to in­valu­able real-world ex­pe­ri­ences.

“It’s the school that helped me re­al­ize it was busi­ness that I re­ally wanted to do. I’ll al­ways be grate­ful for these op­por­tu­ni­ties. With­out them, I don’t think I’ll be pre­pared to even en­ter a firm,” said Kim.

Ju­nior Achieve­ment In­ter­na­tional China, the world’s largest non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to ed­u­cat­ing stu­dents about work readi­ness, en­trepreneur­ship and fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, found out that about 71 per­cent of Chi­nese high school stu­dents are in­ter­ested to learn how to start their own busi­nesses. How­ever, only 18 per­cent of Chi­nese stu­dents — in con­trast to 45 per­cent of stu­dents in the US — said they have op­por­tu­ni­ties to at­tend such cour­ses.

While lo­cal pub­lic high schools have yet to ac­tively cham­pion en­trepreneur­ship, one in­ci­dent in 2015 sug­gests that even such ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions are sup­port­ive of the cause.

When it was dis­cov­ered that a grade-one stu­dent had fre­quently skipped class in or­der to op­er­ate an on­line cos­met­ics store, ad­min­is­tra­tors from the high school in Shang­hai’s Jiad­ing dis­trict ac­tu­ally en­cour­aged him to find a bal­ance be­tween his stud­ies and busi­ness in­stead of met­ing out pun­ish­ment.

An­gela Ma con­trib­uted to this story.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

An in­creas­ing num­ber of schools are of­fer­ing en­trepreneur­ship cour­ses in their cur­ricu­lum.

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