This article first appeared on LinkedIn.
Last week I participated in a new venture competition at my son's high school. Several teams of students were competing for venture funding for their startup concepts, all of which had to incorporate the theme of "learning."
I spent an hour and a half providing informal coaching to several bright and enthusiastic students ranging from 14 to 17-years-old. I was impressed by their ideas and by the way they articulated the problems they were setting out to solve with their ventures.
And, while they may not have been conscious of all of the issues they were grappling with at the time, to me they looked very familiar. These were exactly the same types of issues that any startup founder needs to tackle: Testing business concepts; crafting a business plan; pitching ideas to potential investors; building a brand.
One participant told me he wanted to create an organization that would provide violins to economically disadvantaged music students in Nepal, an idea that was inspired by a trip he made there during his summer break.
Another team told me of the web application they wanted to create that would encourage students to submit questions to their teachers outside of regular classroom hours, at the times when they most needed help with their homework assignments.
Two girls passionately described their plan to introduce United Nations-style debating programs to schools that didn't have such programs in place.
No, these kids weren't 25, the age we've come to know as the age of the startup founder. They were just 15-years-old, on average. Nevertheless, I came away from this experience deeply impressed with the intelligence and passion they brought to creating solutions to problems they felt needed to be addressed.
And even if their ventures don't win, and they don't secure funding, they'll walk away from this experience with a far better understanding of the fundamentals of creating a new business from scratch.
Who knows? Maybe one or two of the teams will eventually take their concepts and build them into viable ventures, possibly ones with global reach and scale.
It's not totally implausible.
Last week, Fortune showcased 18 entrepreneurs?--all under the age of 18--?who are "changing the world", like Mikaila Ulmer, the 11-year-old founder and CEO (yes, CEO) of Me & the Bees Lemonade. Me & the Bees sells lemonade that uses flaxseed and local honey as a sweetener, and is sold in major US retailers like Whole Foods and Wegmans. A portion of the profits go to organizations dedicated to saving honeybees from extinction.
Or how about Shubham Banerjee, the 14-year-old founder of Braigo Labs, which offers low-cost Braille printers to help the visually impaired. The latest model uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to print text from a website and translate it into Braille.
Don't get me wrong: I'm a strong advocate of liberal arts education. I also believe that kids should exercise their bodies just as much as their minds. And kids just need time to be kids: To ride their bikes, play video games, and hang out with friends.
So why do I think 15 could be the new 25 when it comes to building startups that change the world?
I believe that teaching our kids how to become "startup ready" at a young age will give them the skills and confidence they will need if they ever decide to strike out on their own and build the startup of their dreams.
And even if they decide to take a job in a profession like law, medicine, or education, or if they opt for a career at a major corporation, having had the experience of starting a new venture?--whether for profit or for social impact?--will give them skills they can apply to whatever career path they take.
And what should schools be doing to teach their students how to become entrepreneurs?
Encourage the creation of new venture competitions in high schools.
Some high schools have launched new venture competitions like the one at my son's school, but few still offer them today. Competitions like these aren't difficult to organize, and they don't cost a lot. And they can easily be conducted by a club or other informal school group, outside of regular school hours.
Make entrepreneurship an integral part of the school curriculum.
Introducing startup competitions is a good start. But I don't think it's enough. Schools that understand the value of teaching entrepreneurial skills to students should offer courses as part of the school's core curriculum. It's a subject that can--and should--be taught just like any other subject, such as math, computer science, music, or art.
Tap into the local business and nonprofit communities.
I was one of about 10 business leaders and entrepreneurs invited to offer mentoring to the teams at my son's school. I was willing to take several hours out of my day to share what I know about business. I am confident that if schools just reach out and ask, they can easily tap into the expertise and financial resources of their local business and nonprofit communities.
Just as students today are recognized for winning a coveted spot on the honor roll, or for making it onto one of the varsity sports teams, students that are creating startups should be celebrated and rewarded. Recognition from peers and teachers is a powerful motivator for kids of any age.
Am I stretching it by saying teens should start learning what it takes to build the next Kiva, Code for America, or TOMS Shoes? Or the next Facebook or Amazon?
I don't think so.
Teaching our kids the fundamentals of entrepreneurship?--and giving them opportunities to think of real solutions to real problems--will give them valuable skills they can use in their careers, and in their lives.
Let's start teaching our kids how to create the startups that will change our world.