Since we develop learning materials, you would think that we’re passionate about teaching. But you’d be wrong. We’re not passionate about teaching. We’re passionate about learning. And this subtle shift in focus from teaching to learning is what really defines our educational philosophy.
When you focus on teaching, you necessarily focus on the transmission of content from educators to learners. This is a process in which the teacher is the active participant at the centre, and learners are the passive recipients at the periphery, like people watching TV.
When you focus on learning, you focus on learners’ discovery and construction of ideas. This is a process in which the learner is the active participant at the centre, and the teacher is an important facilitator of learning who helps learners to plan, to act, to reflect and to learn. Given this focus you’ll appreciate that we don’t just develop learning materials. We develop learning cultures: new, creative and effective ways for learners to interact with one another, with resources and with their teachers.
What vision guides our creation of learning materials and learning cultures? Perhaps this quotation from novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand describes it best…
“Project the look on a child’s face when he grasps the answer to some problem he has been striving to understand. It is a radiant look of joy, of liberation, almost of triumph, which is unself-conscious, yet self-assertive, and its radiance seems to spread in two directions: outward, as an illumination of the world — inward, as the first spark of what is to become the fire of an earned pride. If you have seen this look, or experienced it, you know that if there is such a concept as ‘sacred’ — meaning: the best, the highest possible to man — this look is the sacred, the not-to-be-betrayed, the not-to-be-sacrificed for anything or anyone.”
We design all the content, logistics and methodologies of our learning programmes to create experiences that lead to this kind of radiant joy in learning and illumination of the world. After all, for us education is not about filling empty vessels with content, but developing in learners a passionate spirit of entrepreneurship. Content and even skills last only as long as they are used. But, if developed early, continually and well, attitudes and dispositions last a lifetime.
If you really want to develop an entrepreneurial mindset in learners you have to ask yourself whether text books and conventional classroom teaching are up to the challenge. In comparison with text books, we design Business VENTURES materials with many different layers. The intellectual layer describes the world of business and entrepreneurs in down-to-earth words and full colour images. The emotional or affective layer presents the intellectual content through the eyes of entrepreneurs, in a way that allows learners to put themselves in the shoes of adventurous risk-takers. All of this content is given a form that is appropriate to learners at different ages. In grade two, we have a mouse pop up and interact with learners. In grade three, we have a monkey dream up entrepreneurial challenges. In grade four learners meet seven different animals who help out. And in each subsequent grade, learners find in VENTURES a world of entrepreneurs who match their interests and passions.
VENTURES doesn’t just give learners the content prescribed by the National Curriculum Statement. VENTURES gives learners a whole new way of looking at the world. It’s as if VENTURES allows learners to grow up in “entrepreneurland” in much the same way that France allows children there to grow up in “Frenchland” and Spain allows children there to grow up in “Spanishland”. Wherever you grow up, you learn to see the world in terms of your home language. Everything has a name in your mother tongue. Similarly, VENTURES gives learners a chance to live in the world of “entrepreneurland” where everything is a product or service that meets important human needs and wants, has inescapable costs, and prices that rise or fall with changes in demand and supply.
Instead of dull and dissociated text book descriptions of business concepts, VENTURES embeds business concepts in the exciting world of risk-taking entrepreneurs eager to launch new products and change the world. And to help learners engage with this world, we include a range of quality, tactile props such as work cards, charts, spinners, play money, and much more.
Today we usually associate technology with PCs and pixels. But VENTURES takes the old media of paper and plastic and combines them with powerful ideas to produce new technologies that offer learners state-of-the-art learning materials. These are not just bells and whistles to liven up the classroom, but carefully designed tools that capture important learning techniques and methodologies in a tangible form.
The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Teachers very often struggle to escape their teaching frame of reference, which is the result of their own experience as learners during their years at school. What most teachers do in the classroom is what their teachers did decades ago. And if tertiary qualifications cannot guarantee that teachers adopt learner-centred teaching methodologies, then it is impossible to expect short courses in Outcomes-based education (OBE) to make much of a difference.
But if we can provide teachers and learners with materials that drive the learning process and create a new kind of learning culture in the classroom, then our challenge changes. Instead of attempting to change teachers’ frames of reference, our goal is to show teachers how to use our materials to bring the new methodologies into the classroom. This is the aim of Business VENTURES.
Business VENTURES programmes focus on learning. They blend content, logistics and methodologies. They develop entrepreneurial passion, spirit and vision. They provide learners with the experience of “entrepreneurland”. They offer state-of-the-art learning props that bring creative learning cultures into the classroom. And they do all this to help learners light and sustain the fire and joy of learning.