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Experts: New education models, green economy key to economic development

Focusing education on learning, rather than teaching and students rather than curricula, taking into account skills, content and culture are the key to the successful change of the island’s entrepreneurial landscape, two international entrepreneurship and innovation experts agreed during their participation in the seventh “Echar Pa’lante” conference.

Luca Iandoli, associate dean for global and online programs at St. John’s University in New York and Olli Vuola, former head of the Aalto Ventures Program, a strategic business education program at the Aalto University of Finland, expressed their opinions during the conference organized by the local chapter of the International Council for Small Business and the multisectoral alliance Echar Pa’lante.

For Vuola, students were key in what he called the business revolution in Finland, as they changed the mentality of the academic sector in his native country, giving way to a new generation of young entrepreneurs that has been increasing in the past 10 years.

According to the current visiting professor in entrepreneurship at the University of California at Berkeley, to achieve the economic model’s transformation it is important to evolve the educational system to one that integrates entrepreneurship education in a way that impacts all disciplines.

Meanwhile, Iandoli pointed out that to transform the economic model it is necessary to change traditional education to one centered on learning based on the content, student skills and country’s culture.

To this end, he said, “it is necessary to focus education on the individual, developing their creative skills and stimulating innovation, rather than problem-solving, since many of the problems will be solved by machines.”

To questions from the audience about what the recipe would be to boost Puerto Rico’s economic development, Voula said, “Let the young people take the lead.”

For his part, Iandoli said, “The island can explore entrepreneurship based on the resources it has such as the green economy, agriculture, tourism and ecotourism combined with others that develop a diversified economy.”

Eileen Figueroa, president of the local chapter of the International Council for Small Business and college professor in entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity, said: “it is clear and urgent for Puerto Rico to implement transcendental changes in the educational model at all levels focusing education on learning and students.”

“If we’ve learned something with our colleagues from various countries in Asia, Europe and South America, it is that the future has arrived, it is the present and what was once small is now big,” Figueroa said. “It is urgent to transform the island’s learning models based on entrepreneurship as an attitude of life.”

Gloria Viscasillas, vice president of Banco Popular’s economic development programs and integrating leader of the Echar Pa’lante initiative, said the goal of the gathering was to continue stimulating the accelerated growth of entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico to serve as an engine of economic and social progress of the population and communities.

“Through these conferences we’ve been reinforcing the entrepreneurship training programs that the Alliance is offering throughout the island to develop a critical mass of principals and school teachers, university professors and professionals dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs,” Viscasillas said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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