News & Analysis

Rare Birds launches edutech platform Phronesis Academy to educate youth on entrepreneurship

- August 10, 2016 4 MIN READ

Australian entrepreneurship movement Rare Birds has announced the launch of a new edutech offering, Phronesis Academy, to help school kids learn about entrepreneurship. Seeing a gap in the teaching and value of vocational education and training (VET) subjects in school, founder of Rare Birds Jo Burston is aiming to enhance the level and outcomes of school education.

“We’re not trying to disrupt education, we’re trying to enhance it and make it accessible. We aim to have no barriers to education at whatever level,” Burston explained.

“The idea and the vision is to use the community platform that we’ve built and the learning systems that we have to connect students all over the country and the world to learn entrepreneurship to help them solve their problems.”

Phronesis Academy will deliver the Rare Birds vision of learning in action and will focus on educating youth on creating jobs over getting jobs, given statistics show many of the jobs students are currently studying for today will be disrupted in the future.

Burston also explained that core to the organisation is the idea that entrepreneurship can’t be taught, it has to be learned. “It’s about setting up the environment for the individual to learn in,” she said.

The Phronesis Academy has created its first program, startup.business, which will be offered to students between the ages of 12 to 17. The program can be completed over 20 weeks inside curriculum at school or 12 weeks outside curriculum. Students learn the basic elements of business which are vision, capability, finance, product development, and market accessibility.

Throughout the course students watch videos and read text all relating to real Australian businesses and successful entrepreneurs. Content is based on community case studies and ties back to Burston’s three books, including her latest book Brilliant BusinessKids.

The course also takes a practical shape as students learn from the local community by actively going out to pursue stories and asking local businesses questions on their visions and how they were achieved.

“For a child we don’t say what’s your vision, mission and value, we say who do you want to become and what do you want to do?” Burston said.

“Instead of saying we need to go and learn code, the coding is the carriage to the passion. The 20 week program out of curriculum or the 12 week program in curriculum results in them having a business plan and they can pitch that business plan.”

The program is structured into six modules and is priced at $96 per module, which Burston said is the same price it would cost a student to learn chess outside of school. The complete course is set at $496 and Burston believes that this low cost enables students of any location, culture, demographic or financial status to participate.

The price point is interesting. Though the organisation may want to target every school student in Australia, almost $500 for a course could exclude a vast number of students – the cost of raising children and sending them to school alone is already expensive, and affording other extracurriculars on top of that can be difficult for many.

The cost is also in contrast to a growing number of free programs aimed at helping students learn about and “do” entrepreneurship, from the likes of coding schools such as Code Club Australia and Code the Future, to the Entrepreneurs Club Brisbane’s River City Labs launched in partnership with St Paul’s School to teach students skills and knowledge in entrepreneurship and how to execute the lean startup model. If the choice lies between one of these free initiatives and $500 for a course delivered mostly online, it would be easy to understand parents picking the free course.

The course is aimed at adults as well. Priced at $795 for older participants, the course aims to shift the focus on $20,000 university degrees, from which students can graduate still lacking in skills and job opportunity.

In terms of course accessibility, startup.business is completed online with an in class teacher acting as a guide or mentor. Over a period of time Burston believes that people who have previously completed the course will become members. If a student is completing the program outside of school, Rare Birds gives them access to a program director who will guide learners through the program online.

In a way to facilitate both online and community engagement, Phronesis Academy has gamified the learning process. Students go through a journey within each module and collect points for completing certain stages of the course. Those points can be collected and redeemed through the online platform to be used to engage with the local community. For example, a classroom can combine all their points to ‘pay’ for an entrepreneur to come to their school and give a talk. Points can also be used to visit local businesses, for instance a classroom could tour Australia Post’s innovation lab.

Phronesis Academy was cofounded by Burston and Dr Richard Seymour, senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Business School. The original idea for the education programs was based on Seymour’s work with grassroots communities in Southeast Asia.

For over 10 years Seymour has worked to produce an educational program in Burma, Vietnam and Indonesia, educating more than 10,000 women on entrepreneurship. Over the years Seymour has accumulated data around the success rates and number of businesses that have started from women creating their own jobs.

“The no brainer for me was, why don’t we bring this to Australia and use technology to scale it? Why don’t we put it into every school in Australia, because at the moment there is no large scale programs for learning entrepreneurship in schools other than coding,” Burston said.

Phronesis Academy has already completed trials at Reddam School in Sydney and is aiming at launching the first program for students on August 22.

Seymour said Phronesis Academy is a “ground-breaking collaboration” between entrepreneurs and academics.

“The program will also create communities of entrepreneurial learning and practice with a community platform soon to be released. Our vision is to connect young entrepreneurs worldwide,” he said.

There are almost 3.7 million school kids in Australia and Burston said she aims to reach every single one of them.

“Even if they don’t become entrepreneurs I think the mindset is so critically important to take with them for whatever jobs they have in the future. To keep pace with the rest of the world Australia needs to do this,” she said.

“We need to start at a much earlier age so that the fear of failure or the fear of risk is totally eliminated. Why should we wait until we go to university and get a job about having a business when there’s no risk or downside when I’m 14 years old.”

Image: Jo Burston. Source: Supplied.