Thursday, May 1, 2014

Entrepreneurship is a way to lead better life. And our education system should strive to provide such courses in Bhutan




I heard one of my former primary school colleagues just bought a bolero truck worth at least 0.6 million ngultrum without a loan. He had studied upto 2nd standard which meant he would hardly know how to write his name in English. He later partook in priestly studies, completed three years of meditation and became village umdze which meant his alternate education was far from being entrepreneurial in nature. His first attempt at a business was when he bought power chainsaw worth ngultrum 40000 with loan from one of the financial institutions. That investment turned out to be lucrative as there were hardly any people who had power chainsaw at that time which became a necessity for gathering and fashioning woods for house construction. As more and more people bought power chainsaw, profits dwindled. But he was not shattered with poor return. By that time, he had saved enough money. He was on look-out for alternative opportunity suited for his ability and capability. Opportunity came in the form of farm road to his gewog. He seized the opportunity and bought bolero truck. Now he ferried people from Gyalposhing town to village  at Nu. 800-1000 per individual for a round trip. Each trip earned him around Nu. 5-10 thousand depending on how many people he ferried. He ferried people almost every alternative day as there are no dearth of passenger since only two of them owned such trucks including one ex-gup. People said that unwillingness of taxi operators to ferry people in rough road turned blessing in disguise for truck operator as well as people. People don’t have to worry about swindling by unknown operator while operators earn around 0.1 million in a month.
On other hand, I am a graduate who graduated four years ago. I am still unemployed aspiring to be a civil servant at 28 years of age. I am not boasting myself but I bet I am better than 80% of general graduates. I was also a bright student in high school because of which I completed my undergraduate course through royal government scholarship. I got job in one of corporate house in Bhutan but due to dissatisfaction, I resigned and opted to sit for civil service examination. I was successful in clearing examination but I was not really successful in the training institute. I am waiting to reappear for examination in one of the subject I failed in first trimester. As I sat home babysitting my little daughter, I seem to have ample time for introspection of my life. One thought that seeped into my mind is comparison between me and my entrepreneurial village mate who never really got educated in modern education.
From where did he acquire entrepreneurship skills? Who instilled in him the ability to take risk? May be it was born out of necessity. May be his village life experience taught him how to be an entrepreneur. May be none of what I assumed was right. I am a graduate with internet at my fingertip from where I can sieve in thousands of credible business ideas. Yet I am waiting to be employed by some agencies instead of creating self-employment and be my own boss. Why am I waiting to be employed? Is it because I have no genes of entrepreneurship? But then nor that village mate had. We could be third cousin and none of our ancestors had been business people.
Our political leaders and thinkers make so much noise about unemployment and how youth lack means and will to create self-employment. Government emphasize that one of the ways to solve unemployment is to be entrepreneurs. Government had started giving one-month intensive entrepreneurship course to youth depending on their educational level. Yet, only few of them take entrepreneurial activities after the completion of training course. Many believed it is due to lack of capital. While capital could be one of the reasons, it is just manifestation of symptom not cause.  The real cause lies in our education system.
We were programmed for years in school to study hard. By this term we were taught to mug up textbooks. We were expected to vomit what were written in the books. We were not taught to question. Even if some curious students with slightly more bravery questioned, we were scolded for not reading textbooks. We were also taught to follow the track not to create new track. One simple example is traditional discipline which where we were expected to behave like flock of sheep. We were also not taught to critique but to appreciate and respect. Those who critiqued elder or leader were considered revolts and those who critiqued texts were considered blasphemer. On top of that our tantric Buddhism where devotion of Milarepa to tortuous Marpa is idealized doesn’t help either. Our teachers, parents and systems expect us to be obedient. Democracy of thoughts, expressions and ideas are hardly appreciated.  And our education system had remained same till today just like it was fifteen years ago. Such expectation of respect and discipline should be put into context. We cannot effort to be handicapped by our traditional values.
However, what changed today is the fact that government can’t provide employment to all educated people. When I was in school I was reminded time and again that to get job, I needed to study hard. By job, it was implied government job not any types of job. The concept of creating employment or being entrepreneurial was never even told in passing to us. The idea of being a hotel manager as opposed to convention manager was made into butt of jokes by our teachers. But we can’t blame them because they were also not taught to think beyond box. Today, youth like us are in alien scene. We are nowhere near pictures our educators drew in our mind. Telling youth to be entrepreneurial today is like expecting computer to do works beyond what it was programmed to do. To be entrepreneurial is to think different and ahead of others. To be entrepreneurial is to have diverse idea and capability programed in our brain. But we must understand that we can’t make inroad through cliffs today with hammer of yesterday.

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