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Educating Europe’s future entrepreneurs

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Europe needs to create an entrepreneurial culture that permeates our schools and universities – a culture in which creativity and innovation are actively encouraged. After all, 37% of Europeans want to be their own boss, but only 10% actually are. If this potential could be tapped, millions of new businesses could be added to the current 20.8 million small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the EU. By emphasising entrepreneurship education, educators can turn students’ dreams into tomorrow’s businesses.

Entrepreneurship has never been more important than it is now: Entrepreneurs are the driving force of Europe’s economy and a cornerstone to sustainable recovery. That said, entrepreneurship is more than a way of making money; it is a way of seeing what is possible before it has been done.

Education plays a crucial role in cultivating this mindset. But because entrepreneurship education is not a compulsory part of most curriculums in the EU – and because only 28 % of Europeans say that their formal education made them interested in becoming an entrepreneur – it is essential to expand entrepreneurship’s place in the classroom.

Entrepreneurship education is centred on helping students ‘turn ideas into action’, which requires active methods of engaging students in order to release their creativity and innovation. Although a few people seem to be ‘natural-born entrepreneurs’, entrepreneurship is a competence that can be learnt.

  • Entrepreneurial competency and skills can be acquired or built only through hands-on, real-life experiences
  • Entrepreneurial skills can be taught across all subjects or as a separate subject
  • Entrepreneurship education should focus on ‘intrepreneurs’ – that is, those who fulfil the role of entrepreneur within a large group or organisation
  • The entrepreneurship education agenda should be promoted beyond educational institutions to businesses and the wider community
  • Teachers and schools will not be able to realise their ambitions without cooperation and partnerships with businesses

The role of teachers is crucial. In most cases, entrepreneurship education rests with the few teachers who are enthusiastic about it and who have been trained. This is a good foundation, but we will never see widespread impact without more development. To be able to introduce entrepreneurship in the classroom effectively, all teachers need to receive proper training and support.

EC guide for entrepreneurship education

In order to promote entrepreneurship education, the European Commission has published Entrepreneurship Education – A Guide for Educators. Available online as a downloadable PDF, the manual showcases methods for training teachers, gathered from educational experts throughout Europe. It is based on practical activities and focuses on skills that form the foundation of entrepreneurial behaviour: creative thinking, sense of initiative, problem solving and leadership. By embracing the manual’s insights and recommendations, schools and universities can help launch the ideas that will create the companies, jobs and products of the 21st century.

Entrepreneurship Education – A Guide for Educators draws heavily on a pair of events – one in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2012, the other in Brdo, Slovenia, in September 2012 – which brought together experts in education and training in entrepreneurship. About 170 delegates from more than 30 countries took part in the events, exchanging ideas and methods on how to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in our schools.

These ideas and methods, along with contact details and practical information about numerous external resources, form the backbone of Entrepreneurship Education – A Guide for Educators. As a result, the manual is an invaluable resource for policymakers, school managers and educators – a roadmap for how to create the ’entrepreneurial’ schools and universities that will form a new generation of entrepreneurs.


The Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan calls on Member States to provide all young people with a practical entrepreneurial experience before leaving compulsory education. Teachers play a central role, as their style and methods of teaching have the strongest impact on the achievements of pupils. The Action Plan recognises entrepreneurship education as the first pillar of a comprehensive plan to boost entrepreneurship in Europe.

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