From education to employment

Dyslexic students getting lost in the battle for educational reform

Ben Dyer is co-founder of the National Enterprise Challenge

With scientists estimating that 3% – 10% of the global population is affected by dyslexia, the idea of a one size fits all education system is outdated and ostracises a large portion of society, who’s learning style befits a more practical based education, rather than theory based. Many young people who suffer from learning difficulties like dyslexia often feel that their options are limited when faced with the decision of going into further education or entering full time employment. This decision can seem daunting to those who have already struggled through secondary school and college, with the world of work seeming like the easier but also less fulfilling option.

Dyslexic children struggle to excel in the traditional classroom environment, much as I did in school as I struggled with written work and maths. This in many cases leads young people to becoming disengaged with traditional subjects. It is these children who need to be encouraged to think outside the box, draw on their personal strengths and explore success through enterprise.

Enterprise education is the key to social mobility amongst young people, who feel lost when it comes to mapping out their career path, especially as enterprise education is not a subject children are exposed to as a viable career during their early years. Some of our country’s most prolific entrepreneurs suffer from dyslexia, names such as Lord Alan Sugar, Anita Roddick founder of the Body Shop, Richard Branson and Jamie Oliver, have openly expressed the issues they went through during their school years. However despite their early set backs, have gone on to excel in enterprise. Bringing to mind the question of how can we continue to replicate their success in others, while learning from the mistakes of the past by adapting our education system to encompass all learning abilities and styles.

Students who struggle with dyslexia are great at communicating their ideas verbally and excel in practical work, but this fails to be shown if their assessments are all conducted through exams and essay writing. Students should be given the choice to present their work written or verbally, allowing them to modify their work accordingly and impart their work in the best way possible, thus levelling the playing field.

Having experienced the issues dyslexic students face first-hand, my aim with the National Enterprise Challenge is to ensure that it enabled students at all learning thresholds to be able to shine throughout the process. Now in our second year, 60,000 students have gone through our challenge, meaning that these young people have now been exposed to enterprise and entrepreneurialism as a possible career option. Our challenge helps to take students outside of the traditional environment, by making them work in teams, brainstorm and to pitch, bringing their ideas to life.

Taking away the normal educational barriers, all our students work in mixed ability groups, ensuring that all teams are equally skilled and there is nothing more than good natured inter-team competition taking place. The national finals are a chance for all students to shine, as pitches are not based on how well worded the presentation is or how complex it is but simply on the idea itself and how well it is pitched.

A review on how dyslexia is viewed in schools is urgently required in order for schools to readdress the balance and to give these young people more hope for the future, ensuring that their skill set is harnessed and channeled in the right way.

Ben Dyer is co-founder of the National Enterprise Challenge, which is supported by Theo Paphits and sponsored by Rymans – the finals of the challenge will take place in Alton Towers on the 8th July 2015

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