In contexts with poor educational systems, choosing the wrong entrepreneur role models can have unexpected effects like negatively affecting young viewers’ investments in education.
A national TV channel broadcast a show with around six young entrepreneurs competing to win a cash prize through a number of challenges. The show engaged both contestants and viewers in reflections on how to plan and operate a business.
- To increase preferences for entrepreneurship among viewers
- To provide business knowledge and build an entrepreneurial mindset among viewers
- To increase uptake of self-employment as a career choice
This intervention was tested in a context where poor quality and severe resource constraints in the educational sector make it pertinent to consider complementary approaches to education beyond in-school teaching. It’s also a country where economic and labour market opportunities for youth are scarce, and very few young students go on to higher education after completing secondary education.
Students in their last year of secondary education, of which 37 per cent attended the business stream (which has a more practical orientation). 12 per cent were attracted by the idea of starting a business and only 25 per cent had basic business knowledge.
- Show episodes: Eleven weekly episodes through which six real-life entrepreneurs compete in a number of challenges to win a cash prize. Challenges are built around topics like market assessment, customer care, marketing, record-keeping, credit, savings or insurance. The topics are designed to help the contestants and the viewers to reflect on important issues related to planning and operating a business. Throughout the episodes, the show provides factual information, introduces key business concepts and highlights good business practices.
- Role models: The contestants are actual entrepreneurs who run their own small-scale businesses. Contestants have different backgrounds and life stories to help viewers connect with them emotionally. The show has a particular focus on female empowerment, with three of the contestants being women and one episode specifically assigned to gender issues.
- Right after the show, viewers expressed higher interest in entrepreneurship, were more likely to prefer starting their own business over other career options (particularly so for men) and were more likely to choose entrepreneurship training over training on other topics. However, only women were more willing to pay for additional business training.
- Right after the end of the show, viewers didn’t possess higher business knowledge, nor were they more willing to take risks, compete or be more patient, which are psychological traits usually associated with an entrepreneurial mindset. Only the women’s willingness to take risks was slightly affected.
- Eight months after the show (coinciding with the end of the school year), students exposed to the edutainment show were less likely to attend school and had worse educational outcomes. That was especially true among those with higher self-employment ambitions prior to the programme.
- Two years later, students exposed to the show were less likely to be studying, with school dropout numbers not being compensated for by a significant increase in business ownership or employment.
- In contexts with weak education systems, increasing self-employment ambitions among young students might lead them to put less effort into their education if they perceive it as irrelevant for running a business. This might not be the case in contexts with high quality formal education where school activities and performance might be perceived as important for succeeding in business.
- When trying to influence young students, role models need to be carefully selected to do so in the desired direction. The fact that two of the contestants on the show had dropped out of school and succeeded in establishing their own businesses might have negatively affected viewers’ investments in their own education. However, including three women as role models might have positively influenced entrepreneurship ambitions and intentions among the women participants.
- TV edutainment shows don’t appear to be an effective tool for teaching complex business concepts. This suggests that such training requires a more standard classroom approach.