Over the last couple of academic terms with the increasing uncertainly in the future of the country’s economy, a certain amount of pressure has been put on third level colleges to introduce more business related courses in non-business related degrees. Programmes such as “Enterprise Finance”, “Entrepreneurship & Growing Business” and “Building Personal Investment Portfolios” (!) are offered in the final year of the Bachelor of Arts Degrees in IT Tralee despite the fact that “Enterprising Media and the Arts” is already a mandatory programme in the same year.
While there is of course, an argument for installing a certain amount of “business sense” in its graduates, one can’t help but feel that these subjects are being forced upon us in place of subjects more relevant to the chosen course—at the expense of students’ own personal and creative development.
Of the six EBMs (Education Broadening Modules) offered in the Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Multimedia, the only subject that comes close to being relevant to the course title is “Studies in Irish Culture”. On top of all of this, students had to sit through two mandatory business related subjects (Business Communications and Marketing) in earlier terms, with marketing in particular catching many students out—forcing them to repeat or worse—as it requires an intensive study period for a difficult written exam; something students of the department don’t have to do at all for their other courses, which are mostly project based.
As a student of this department, I can’t help but feel that my classmate’s time and mine might be better spent developing better skills in more subjects that actually relate to course we chose. If we are to be educated to a level that would allow us to compete for jobs against graduates from large universities, then I would have thought it fundamental for the Institute to give us some sort of “edge”, but not so.
So why do these courses exist?
Aside from the current government’s very obvious progression towards private “Market Based Education” by squeezing the department’s funding and increasing tuition fees, Kerry has always associated itself with the “entrepreneurial spirit”. The word was even invented in Kerry by an Irish-French merchant banker (ahem) named Richard Cantillon. Born of a rich land owner from Ballyheigue; Cantillon himself was a ruthless mass accumulator of wealth who “earned” his success though his family name, political contacts and investing in speculative bubbles. Cantillon left behind him a long line of debtors and law suits. Men such as these did absolutely nothing for the local economy, except feed from it and line their own pockets.
Of course, those in favour of encouraging more entrepreneurship to boost the local economy argue that it creates jobs and in turn creates wealth and brings much needed outside funding. Companies like Kerry Group are pointed to as the shining lights of the region, which it once was when it was a co-operative of local farmers. But, for the last 25 years or so, Kerry Group has rapidly expanded its product base and traded on the stock market. Its interests have moved from providing for the needs of local farming communities to stuffing the wallets of its shareholders. In May of this year it was reported in the Irish Independent that Kerry Group was setting up a subsidiary in Luxemburg in order to avoid paying millions in tax in Ireland: Tax which should be going towards funding local services, schools and the Institute of Technology where many of its future workforce will study. So much the Kerry “co-operative”.
What is Entrepreneurship, Really?
Look the word up anywhere, and you will see that the modern understanding of entrepreneurship is all about opportunism and venturing upon projects with the sole aim of “building capital” as opposed to providing tangible benefits to other human beings. Words such as “intellectual property” are used to protect new ideas in the interest of personal gain as opposed to the interest of society. Students are now being taught to think about how to make their ideas “marketable” and “profitable” as opposed to simply developing great ideas and giving them to the world. Can we really call that an “education”?
It’s a phrase that is perhaps overused, but more and more we’re seeing colleges “teach” students exactly “what to think instead of how to think”. This was never more evident in Tralee than last year during one of the Institutes “guest” lectures—I’m presuming he didn’t give the lecture for free—on the subject of motivation. He began by waving a €50 note in the air beckoning students to show which of them wanted it more!
As repulsive a spectacle this might seem, it at least served up the perfect metaphor for what modern day entrepreneurship is really all about: Personal accumulation of capital and absolutely nothing to do with art, new ideas or education.
Fight for better education.
Fight for free and accessible education for all.
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