5 QUESTIONS AND 5 ANSWERS WITH HELOÍSA NEVES

During her visit to Belo Horizonte, the Sebrae Entrepreneurship Education Reference Centre had a chat with the specialist about the current scenario of entrepreneurship education in Brazil.

“Do it yourself”.

This is the concept behind a current that has been gaining strength around the world: The Maker Movement.

One of the main spaces where makers bring their projects to life are Fab Labs, technical laboratories which are structured for prototyping new ideas.

Each Fab Lab is also a learning platform, which develops local entrepreneurship and stimulates innovation.

Heloísa Neves is one of the main ambassadors of the Maker Movement in Brazil.

During her visit to Belo Horizonte, the Sebrae Entrepreneurship Education Reference Centre had a chat with the specialist about the current scenario of entrepreneurship education in Brazil.

SCEE – How does the entrepreneurship learning process occur in a Fab Lab?

Heloísa Neves – I understand “entrepreneur” to be a person with autonomy, who performs actions and isn’t afraid to break rules when necessary. I believe this is an attribute of startup companies which should be adopted by small, medium and large companies who think more traditionally.

The Maker Movement is all about this. Within any maker space, such as a Fab Lab, equipment and technology are fundamental since they allow us to concretise things, but the potential for collaboration, the capacity to work in networks and do things are much more important.

I therefore believe that this maker spirit is the foundation of entrepreneurship and this is one of the main competencies that can be developed in a Fab Lab.

SCEE – What are main challenges for current educational institutions to introduce entrepreneurship in the classroom?

Heloísa Neves – The main barrier is that the Brazilian curriculum is very restricted, based on competencies and skills that we no longer need or are sufficient enough for us to act in the world today.

No matter how innovative a school may be, it’s tied to some MEC regulations and cannot introduce many new ideas. In addition, we still have a generation of parents that demand this teaching of traditional content from schools, as that is how they learnt.

The Paulista engineer Paulo Blikstein, a professor at the Lemann Centre, Stanford (USA), for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Brazilian Education, says that it is very difficult to implement a model such as this in the schools of today, because to introduce something new, something old has to be removed.

There’s no space for new skills like innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship in the old curriculum and nobody wants to leave their comfort zone to remove something form this curriculum.

SCEE – Is it possible to stimulate entrepreneurship from an early age?

Heloísa Neves – I not only believe it is, but that it’s also essential. I’ve had some experiences with children in maker spaces and perceived that they always arrive expecting us to dictate the rules for them to do something. And this is the exact opposite of the entrepreneurial behaviour that we intend to stimulate.

It seems they come programmed to receive a task which will later be approved, or not, by the teacher.

We try and inspire autonomy and confidence in these children, showing them that they are the ones who need to find the path to start and finish a project.

We also try to make them understand that the project doesn’t always have to be perfect and that things can often go wrong. It’s important that they experience frustration face complex non-mathematical problems.

This is the seed that should be planted by schools so that pupils grow up believing they can make things happen.

SCEE – What would be the impact of having a whole generation with an entrepreneurial attitude?

Heloísa Neves – I believe that there would be a huge impact on the ideas that these youngsters have in relation to going to university. It’s very likely that for a generation raised with an entrepreneurial attitude, not going to university would be much more natural. Unless universities changed as well. If not, they probably wouldn’t represent an option for a generation such as this.

The youth would consider that they need to engage in entrepreneurism or study outside of Brazil in institutions that offer this type of experience: more open, in touch with reality and connected with innovation.

It’s very important that this Maker Movement begins in primary education and reaches university level so that this country’s youth also has the access to this type of thinking in higher education.

Which makes complete sense, right? Everybody knows that the universities need to be reformed and maybe this is the way.

SCEE- If you had to give a message to educators who are still in the dark about entrepreneurship or the Maker Movement, what would it be?

Heloísa Neves – This may seem very direct, but it needs to be said: The Maker Movement – innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship – is not something that’s just going to go away. This is already part of the lives of today’s youth.

It’s a reality that’s here to stay.

So, whether teachers are going to adopt this type of thinking or not shouldn’t be at the centre of the discussion. We should be debating when they will be introducing this culture to the classroom. After all, we must no longer allow knowledge that is no longer relevant to be transmitted to our children.

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