GCSE Business: a force for good?

Colin Leith, Pearson Subject Advisor in Business & Economics, considers the role of the GCSE business qualification today, and throughout its history, in our latest #BeInBusiness blog.  

“If you want to create a business when you are older, make sure you don’t listen to other people’s opinions. In business in general people will tell you it is impossible. You have to think the impossible is possible.”   

Those are the words of Deraj, a GCSE business student from Hamstead Hall Academy in Birmingham – suggesting that entrepreneurial skills often mean going against the grain and taking a leap of faith. It’s clear that to Deraj, being in business is not an abstract concept. It’s real and relevant.  

It is this entrepreneurial spirit that many GCSE business teachers are looking to build on. While starting a business will involve an element of risk, a solid foundation of research and applied study of the subject leaves you with every chance of success.   

A changing landscape  

When I first started teaching in the early 1980s Business Studies didn’t exist as a school subject. As an Economics and History teacher I was asked to offer O level Commerce, a new departure for the school I was in at the time. I wouldn’t describe the Commerce qualification as entrepreneurial; it certainly didn’t encourage learners to challenge orthodoxy. A year or two later, however, the Hampshire Business and Information Studies (BIS) project was launched, and this encouraged teachers to approach the subject in a different way (including using computers in their teaching). It was this, I believe, that started the revolution in Business teaching. In some schools, BIS was regarded as a challenge to more traditional subjects, and this may have allowed it to innovate at a faster pace.  

So, the study of business has evolved considerably over the years and more recently, prompted in part by the work of the Peter Jones Foundation, the role of enterprise education has emerged as an important feature of both formal qualifications and enrichment activities in schools, and business and enterprise educators have become increasingly aware of the importance of ensuring that their subject reflects the lived experience of their learners outside the classroom.  

Start studying business early to encourage inclusive thinking  

One of Deraj’s Business teachers at Hamstead Hall, Aki Atwell, advises that for teachers to ensure the future diversity and inclusion of learners in GCSE Business, it is important to encourage enterprise education early on. By introducing enterprise education from as early as Year 9, teachers are able to help build interest in the subject, particularly among learners who might believe business isn’t for people like them.  

“It encourages students of all abilities because enterprise can lend itself to all abilities. The balance between males and females within the classroom choosing business studies is important. Sometimes we have had it previously where the subject of business has been heavily taken up by males, but we are seeing more of a balance through the examples of businesses we introduce into the subject.”   

Can GCSE business help break down stereotypes?  

In business and more broadly in society, discrimination and inequality are becoming less acceptable, and people are increasingly realising that businesses need to be representative of the communities in which they operate. Having said that, there are still challenges: women still earn less than men in the workplace, and there is an even wider pay gap for black women.   

One contributor to the breaking down of stereotypes is in the careful choice of case studies chosen by Business teachers, ensuring that both male and female leaders are represented for example. According to the HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency), in 2019-2020 with 48% of Business Management students were female, and educational materials used in schools should reflect this more or less equal split between the sexes.   

The future of GCSE business  

GCSE Business can certainly play a part in both reflecting and shaping a world which strives to embrace diversity and inclusion in both its educational and its work environments. It is the responsibility of all educators to try and ensure that the world learners experience in classroom case studies allows them to imagine a future for themselves in a world of equal opportunities.  

To find out more about Pearson’s #BeInBusiness campaign and their commitment to diversity and inclusion in business and education, as well as free resources, please visit: go.pearson.com/beinbusinessbypearson and follow @PearsonSchools and #BeInBusiness