Exam was paper exercise for business leaders

Published on Sunday 14 June, 2009. 

Can we teach business acumen to Leaving Cert students, asks John Reynolds

POTENTIAL multi-millionaires, chief executives, and tycoons of the future were among the 12,000 or so students who took the Leaving Cert business exam. But would today’s business leaders be able to pass it?

Alan O’Hara, MD, Nokia Ireland

THANKFULLY, yes, I think I would pass the exam. I was pleasantly surprised to see the case study — featuring a solar panel installation business that is being hit by both the slowdown in the construction sector and the credit crunch, resulting in tight cash flow and the need to implement a staff pay cut — was very relevant to what many Irish companies are experiencing.

However, I’d have preferred the exam to focus on the key challenges that face all entrepreneurs such as identifying the correct channel, pricing, marketing, financing, production, quality and care.

Ulick McEvaddy, Co-founder, Omega Air

I would’ve passed it with honours. A lot of it was dealing with technical issues of entrepreneurship. Nowadays, business people need to be able to deal with bureaucrats more than ever because they rule your life at the moment and we’re handing more and more power to them.

There was a question on marketing hoodie sweatshirts to teenagers that seemed difficult enough, asking students to explain market segmentation. The case study on Liam and his solar panel business was tough but relevant.

The exam paper doesn’t strike me as being relevant to true practical entrepreneurship though. Very few entrepreneurs can write down their business plan.

David McRedmond, CEO, TV3

THERE was a lot of administrative stuff in the paper on aspects of dealing with Government that might make people tear their hair out, but I think I’d just scrape through with a pass.

A lot of questions were unduly focused on administration and dealing with officialdom though. Business isn’t all about IBEC or the trade unions. It was semi-state territory rather than Silicon Valley.

Apart from anything else, it doesn’t excite you so it’s dulling the subject. As scary and tough as the recession is, at least it’s exciting.

The case study question was very good though. The business case was quite real — it asked tough questions and it was very timely. It’s difficult to teach business on a course. It’s better learned on the job, from people you look up to and other business people around you.

There’s more excitement to be had around marketing, for example. Business is about a good idea — are people interested in it? And can you make money from it?

Gerry McCaughey, Co-founder, Century Homes

I’M pretty positive that I would pass the paper but it did give me pause to think about a few of the questions. Actually when I was in school, in Monaghan CBS, the equivalent subject was not taught but another student and myself actually passed the exam after reading the textbook

The paper seems a little shy in the area of entrepreneurship, which is a pity, as I believe that it is extremely important to encourage students to look at opportunities to establish their own businesses. The Ireland of the future is going to require a strong entrepreneurial spirit.

I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on entrepreneurship and marketing as I believe that it is critical for the country to continue to foster and develop a spirit of “let’s have a go at this”.

Patrick Coveney, CEO, Greencore

I would pass it but there are several sections that I’d find difficult.

The paper is too vocational though, and too technical. It does not pay nearly enough attention to the underlying building blocks of a successful business career. In essence, I would like to see more of a focus on problem solving, creativity, and leadership than is evident in this exam paper.

It’s more important for young people (and indeed for us all) to learn the fundamentals of how businesses work, and on how to lead than to master more technical points on insurance, legislation, tax, and data protection.

Shane Nolan, Head of wealth management, Merrion Capital

ALTHOUGH I’m probably a bit rusty on giving very precise answers to some of the definition-based questions, I’d like to think that I’d still be able to pass it.

There’s a big emphasis on matters of administration or business management, with less than I would have expected on entrepreneurship and risk taking — factors which are much more important to the building of a vibrant economy going forward.

The applied business question, which covered a renewable energy business going through a difficult trading environment, was a very topical subject.

Overall, I get the impression that the curriculum gives students a good grounding in management, administration, and basic legal issues as well as in marketing and cash flow management — which are all important for survival and success in business. However, I’d like to see some more emphasis on risk taking in general and, perhaps, increased focus on business start-ups.

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