Advancing education with an entrepreneurial mindset

Bram van Welie (Executive MBA 2014) worked in education for almost a decade before he came to a crossroads: he considered pursuing a career in business. But after his Executive MBA at RSM, Bram was motivated to stay in education. Bram is now the director of Hugo de Groot, a Rotterdam school offering three streams of secondary education, and he is determined to improve education using an entrepreneurial mindset.

What is it about your effort that makes a positive change?
“South Rotterdam is one of the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods in the city, so many students here lag behind in their learning, and many others in the neighbourhood travel to schools in other parts of the city. We intend to change this. We are well on our way by looking into innovative ways to improve students’ results. Much of their success can be attributed to the school’s extra focus on the pupil and some core subjects and quality teaching staff.”

Why do you do it?
“I come from a bloodline of educators and entrepreneurs. I think I’m a mix of both. I see myself as an entrepreneurial educator. It is challenging to work in one of Rotterdam’s poorest neighbourhoods, but you can see we really do make a difference. I think it’s incredibly rewarding to work in education, and it’s also incredibly exciting to work with the next generation. It keeps you young!”

How can others get involved in doing something with you – or something like what you’re doing?  
“Education is more than transferring knowledge and teaching skills. I strongly agree with Gert Biesta’s work; that it also entails teaching socialisation, such as diversity in populations and what it means to live in a democracy. Education is also conveying to young people what it takes to become an adult with agency; to instil the belief that they are capable of creating impact, and they are not simply part of a system that tells them what to do. “In our problem-ridden world, it is important for young people to overcome their cynicism and realise that they can make a difference, but it takes courage, bravery, and perseverance. These may sound like big words but I really think that’s how it is. Accept that you can fall but also that you can get back up again.”