It’s never too early to teach entrepreneurship

Ben Butters, EU Affairs Director at EUROCHAMBRES

Why Entrepreneurial Learning should start from primary school

Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives”.

In 2006, the EU used this definition to recognize entrepreneurship as one of the eight key competences for lifelong learning, thereby putting entrepreneurial learning on the same level as, for instance, maths, science or foreign languages. These eight key competences are those considered by the EU as “necessary for personal fulfilment and development, social inclusion, active citizenship and employment”.

We may agree that individuals are certainly more likely to achieve these personal and socio-economic objectives if they receive the appropriate tools during their childhood than later in their life. Nevertheless, except for some very good programmes designed to teach young people and even three-year-old children entrepreneurial skills, the great majority of European schools do not provide any teaching or training on this subject yet. You might well be able to gauge this just by asking a schoolchild what they did at school today.

Entrepreneurship, youth unemployment and start-ups

Introducing (compulsory) entrepreneurial learning in curricula of all forms of education and training, starting with primary school, is becoming increasingly urgent in Europe, especially considering the current alarming job prospects of young people. The youth unemployment rate in the EU28 rose from 15.9% in 2008 to 22.2% in 2014. Today, instead of looking for a job, some - perhaps even many - of these young Europeans could be running their own business. If only they had been exposed to this exciting possibility at school and better equipped to do so.

Another positive outcome of spreading entrepreneurial learning across European schools may be to reduce the rate of failure of start-ups or to help entrepreneurs who experience failure to learn from it and try again.

As the European Commission (EC) stated in its Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan, “to bring Europe back to growth and higher levels of employment, Europe needs more entrepreneurs”. Entrepreneurial education and training is indeed one of the three pillars of this Action Plan. As the EC further explains, up to 20% of the students who participate in a mini-company programme in secondary school will later start their own company, a figure that is up to five times higher than in the general population. It is now up to EU Member States to introduce effective entrepreneurial learning schemes into different forms (purely academic as well as vocational) and phases (primary, secondary, tertiary…) of education and training.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset can turn out to be useful

Entrepreneurship programmes designed for university students or simply for any would-be entrepreneur, such as the EU Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs, are also vital to fostering entrepreneurship. However, if their participants have already developed an entrepreneurial mindset at school, these programmes will have an even more positive effect on aspiring entrepreneurs and prove more beneficial to the EU economy as a whole.

Needless to say, not everyone who benefits from entrepreneurial skills training will necessarily become an entrepreneur. Some people may never wish to do so and aim to pursue a different career. However, evidence suggests that these people can also benefit from entrepreneurial learning. Indeed, individuals with entrepreneurial education have been found to be more employable. This means that, also for never-would-be-entrepreneurs, the time spent acquiring entrepreneurial skills is not completely wasted. Once they have left education, they may be more successful in their job search and be able to exploit some of these skills as employees too.

Category : entrepreneurship education Posted : 6 July 2015 12:17 UTC
About the Author
Ben Butters, EU Affairs Director at EUROCHAMBRES


Ben Butter pushes all the right buttons in this blog! And good that it is an European employers body that is behind the push. But it is governments that will determine if entrepreneurship is to be given serious consideration in schools, colleges and universities. Not employers. So, how do we get governments strategically on board?

Much more work is needed in raising awareness and understanding that entrepreneurship promotion (in this instance, in government circles) is as much about employability and productivity in the workplace as about start-ups. And this must include why and how the entrepreneurial mindset needs more considered attention in the teaching and learning drive.

Would an entrepreneurial learning 'envoy' for each European country (similar to the EU member states' SME Envoy) be one way forward to get more strategic policy commitment across government on entrepreneurial learning?
Anthony Gribben
Anthony Gribben 2015-07-07 08:05 Reply
Many thanks for the insightful blog. The author's emphasis on the "key competence" is crucial - this is the framework that all EU education systems will (or at least should) fully implement (sooner or later!). And the author's emphasis on the need to link entrepreneurship to the broader agenda of employability is also fundamental, in my opinion.

I also totally agree with Tony's comment: entrepreneurship education is essentially having a „PR problem“. Arguably, this PR problem extends to how entrepreneurship education is probably perceived among many schools,universities and teaching staff – as something that promotes an excessively economic (read: neoliberal) vision of the role of education, rather than being about equipping young people with a key competence of„turning ideas into action“. More efforts should be made to demystify the term „entrepreneurship“ and emphasise its broader meaning in the current EU context.
Thomas Farnell
Thomas Farnell 2015-07-17 14:28 Reply
Good article with excellent idea! I appreciate your post.Regards Sarkari Result
Navatha 2015-12-02 10:32 Reply

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