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Experts give 'f' to a boring business exam

Last week's leaving cert business paper was a tired old exam that highlighted how poor and irrelevant the business syllabus is for the students who will become the entrepreneurs of the future. The experts weren't impressed!

Michael Carvill

CEO, Kenmare Resources

"What shocked me when I read the exam paper was that it asks people to explain definitions. I was appalled by it. It's more of a comprehension test. You can't teach entrepreneurship and business in a classroom if you don't even try.

"If you think about the course that the paper represents, it's boring. Speak to a young person starting a business: they'll say it's exhausting, that they have sleepless nights, face many dilemmas and it's difficult for their family and many other things -- but they'll never say it's boring."

Gerry McCaughey

Co-founder, Century Homes and CEO, Infineco

"At Leaving Cert level, business is invaluable in exposing younger minds to business concepts, but entrepreneurship can't be taught in class.

"Being a successful entrepreneur can require skills that are frowned upon in a school environment. Some successful entrepreneurs like Richard Branson did poorly at school; others were even expelled."

David Horgan

MD, Petrel Resources

"The exam paper seemed a tough one that would be easy to mark.You can't turn a non-entrepreneur into one through schooling, but you can cultivate or suppress entrepreneurial instincts and energies.

"It's risky, lonely and most things fail. There are black lows, euphoric highs, setbacks, compromises, high uncertainty. It takes resilience and perseverance. Can this be taught?

"My boss John Teeling is impatient, instinctive, has an agile mind, is academically strong, energetic, street-wise and creative, at times moody, and these qualities threaten the establishment."

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Lulu O'Sullivan

MD, GiftsDirect.com

"A lot of the exam involves regurgitating what's in a book. There's been such a change in the last three years in business, and that should be reflected in the curriculum.

"Students should be given a taste of business, encouraged to come up with a business plan, marketing plan and financial projections for an idea, apply that in a mini-business and then assess why they succeeded or failed.

"Real-life case studies involving companies that students might relate to would also be better than the made-up ones in the exam paper."

Joan Kehoe

CEO Quintillion

"A lot of the exam looks for regurgitated definitions. This might produce people who are book-smart, but don't have cop-on or real-life skills. Risk-taking is an entrepreneurial attribute but it can't really be taught.

"The parents of many students in a school would be in business and they're a resource that should be looked at. Students need to hear failure and success stories."

Sean Baker

Co-founder, Iona Tech

"Judging by the exam paper, the subject teaches basic business knowledge -- which most business people would benefit from -- and related issues. These can be taught in a classroom. But a good mark in this isn't necessarily going to show a flair for being an entrepreneur.

"I was involved with judging a business competition at UCD that involved students in different subjects teaming up to come up with and develop a business start-up idea over a weekend. I'm not sure if something similar would translate to the Leaving Cert."

Liam Casey

founder of PCH International

Casey feels that the Leaving Cert business syllabus should encompass more practical training for entrepreneurship. The corkman, who is one of the most successful Irish businessmen in China, points to the importance of "story telling" when it comes to building a business as entrepreneurs need to sell their "story" to investors or clients. "People are not learning that in the Leaving Cert, more practical experiences are needed," he said

Dylan Collins

Founder, Demonware, Gruupy.com and Jolt Online Gaming

"A case-study question about a clothing retailer on the exam paper doesn't mention the word 'ecommerce' at all. The only mention of the internet is related to job vacancies on their website. We're the fastest growing internet hub in Europe and this is the best we can do?

"A second case study also lacks relevance and imagination. Business and entrepreneurship might be better taught through real-life case studies and getting students to establish their own start-up companies. Nothing beats experience."

Roy Horgan

Co-Founder, SolarPrint

"The key attribute common to all entrepreneurs is that of having an idea or spotting an opportunity and then putting that plan or idea into action. Though the curriculum seems to be adapting to our current environment, nothing is more inspiring than meeting real-life entrepreneurs and listening to their stories.

"We also need to teach that in business, failure is not a bad thing; and the faster in life you see or learn about failure the more valuable this experience will be in later life."

Frank O'Keeffe

Partner in charge of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year

"One would be concerned that a significant element of rote learning --learning by memorizing -- is being examined.

"Ernst & Young recently issued a report called Nature and Nurture? Decoding the DNA of the Entrepreneur -- and one of its key findings was that entrepreneur leaders are often made, not born. What this says to us is that education can form a key element in the evolution and progression of entrepreneurs."

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