Education is an essential element of entrepreneurship. Studies show that students who receive entrepreneurship education are not only more likely to be employed, but also more likely to start their own companies. With that in mind, the European Commission has proposed a series of actions that will help expose students to entrepreneurship and, as a result, help create jobs throughout Europe. Full story
A way forward for entrepreneurship education
How can Europe best equip the entrepreneurs of tomorrow with the skills and knowledge they will need to contribute to economic prosperity? A report has been published assessing how entrepreneurship education is delivered across Europe; it also outlines strategies to improve the way the subject is taught.
A pilot action launched by the European Commission brought together policy-makers and a range of stakeholders from 26 countries to discuss entrepreneurship education. The action involved a number of high-level reflection panels, typically made up of representatives from national ministries for education and enterprise, along with educationalists and experts from the business world.
The panels - which took place in 2009 and 2010 in London, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and Zagreb - shared experiences and examined ways to improve the development of strategies for the teaching of entrepreneurship throughout the education system.
The panels' final report - 'Towards greater co-operation and coherence in entrepreneurship education [3 MB] ' - offers an overview of the current state of play. The report also provides suggestions for building effective strategies, setting priorities and launching actions using a 'progression model' developed through panel discussions. In addition, the report provides a 'cook book' of good practices, along with recommendations for action at EU level to support Member States.
An uneven landscape
The high-level panels found that there was a broad consensus on the aims and objectives of entrepreneurship education, which should seek to develop general competencies, such as self-confidence, adaptability, creativity and the ability to assess risk. Students should also expect to receive a grounding in specific business skills and knowledge.
The report says that entrepreneurship education "should no longer be just an extra-curricular activity, but instead be embedded in the curriculum across all educational levels and types".
However, delivery of entrepreneurship education across Europe seems to be patchy, with only a minority of countries providing well-developed strategies. Much teaching in this area tends to be ad hoc and varies greatly in quality and quantity. It is possible to find pockets of excellence, but teaching relies heavily on the enthusiasm of individual teachers and schools.
According to the report, moving entrepreneurship education into the curriculum proper would require changes in a number of areas.
Teaching methods would need to be overhauled to include greater use of experimental learning. Teachers would have to adopt a "coaching role" to help students become more independent. Students would have to get out of the classroom so they could learn the ropes in real businesses. Government also has a role to play if the reach and quality of entrepreneurship education is to be improved.
The report provides pathways to develop effective policies and strategies which would boost the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education. Drawing on good practice, it describes the contents of an ideal strategy which emphasises the need for cross-ministry involvement, effective stakeholder consultation and the need to embed core competencies throughout the national curriculum. Effective dissemination of good practice, teacher training and decent levels of funding are also required to execute a good-quality strategy.
The progression model is there to help Member States and their stakeholder partners develop more systematic approaches to delivering entrepreneurship education.
The model provides a framework to set priorities for action and identifies the building blocks that need to be put in place through four sequential stages: pre-strategy; initial strategy development; strategy implementation, consultation and the development of practice; and mainstreaming.
The report sets out a number of key actions that countries must take if they are to improve the delivery of entrepreneurship education, all of which can be incorporated into the model.
Firstly, a national policy framework must be developed which embraces input from ministries responsible for education, enterprise, the economy and trade. Engagement with stakeholders and social partners is also critical.
Secondly, teachers must be given the proper support. More training, the development of resources, tools and methodologies could all help teachers to deliver a better product.
Thirdly, more effort must be made to engage with businesses and their associations. The world of work is where students are best able to learn about entrepreneurship in action, so visits and placements are a must.
Developing an active role for local and regional authorities is the report's fourth key action. These bodies are in a good position to develop support measures for students and teachers; they can also take the lead in developing school clusters and help forge links between business and education.
Finally, efforts must be made to build up the local and regional "entrepreneurship education ecosystem". To achieve this, every school at every level should be engaged in entrepreneurship education. Meanwhile, links should be forged between primary, secondary and higher education establishments and with the wider entrepreneurial community.
The report suggests that the EU can help national governments deliver entrepreneurship teaching into education and lifelong learning strategies. For example, the European Commission could build a platform where stakeholders could come together to discuss common issues. The Commission could also provide a research hub to collect and disseminate good practice.
The European Commission is helping policy-makers to exchange ideas and develop new methods to promote entrepreneurship under the auspices of the Small Business Act. Principle 1 of the Act, which calls for the creation of an environment where businesses can thrive and enterprise is rewarded, identifies the need to 'foster entrepreneurial interest and talent'.
Learning from the Swedes
In 2009, the Swedish government announced that it was aiming to integrate the teaching of entrepreneurship throughout the entire education system. To make this happen, extensive education reforms are being carried out.
The Government already supports several initiatives for the development of entrepreneurial programmes in schools and higher education institutions.
These activities have been fed into a strategy for entrepreneurship, published in May 2009. The strategy has 11 key points outlining action by government and stakeholders, such as providing more scope for in-depth study of entrepreneurship in upper secondary school and the development of cutting-edge programmes in the fields of entrepreneurship and innovation.
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry
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