Compendium 2.1.2 Entrepreneurship education

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2.1.2 Entrepreneurship education in schools & colleges


The challenge

The Lisbon European Council in 2000 established entrepreneurship as a basic skill that education in EU Member States should provide. The EU also recognises entrepreneurship as a key competency for growth, employment and personal fulfilment.[1] However, while most European countries have made a policy commitment to promote learning about entrepreneurship, it has yet to gain widespread recognition as a core subject in our education systems.

On top of this, as a career option, entrepreneurship compares poorly to work as an employee. In fact, a 2007 EU Barometer poll showed that only 45% of Europeans, compared to 61% in the US, would prefer to be their own boss.

Cultural support through educational programmes can play a vital role in fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in Europe as well as providing the skills to make this possible. Research suggests that such support can positively affect the level of entrepreneurial activity. However, skills such as creativity, innovation, independence and initiative are also highly transferable to the workplace as an employee, and to daily life.

The European Commission, together with many EQUAL partners, recognises the role of education in schools in stimulating young people’s awareness of entrepreneurship as an option for their future and helping them to be more creative and self-confident in whatever they undertake. They believe this should start from an early age as well as being integrated as an important part of the curriculum in universities and technical institutions.

The Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe and the Commission Communication on fostering entrepreneurial mindsets[2] offer a broad range of policy proposals including support for curriculum reforms, the embedding of entrepreneurial behaviour in school pupils and students, and the celebration of entrepreneurship education activities that work well. EQUAL is supporting a number of projects in Europe that have put such proposals, and others, into action with a special focus on disadvantaged groups.

[1] 2006 Communication from the Commission on Implementing the Community Lisbon Programme: Fostering entrepreneurial mindsets through education and learning, 2006
[2] ibid

How EQUAL has approached the issue – examples

A search on EQUAL website shows a total of 172 projects supporting entrepreneurship education between 2002 and 2008. This group of EQUAL partnerships has been at the forefront of initiatives focusing particularly on the needs of under-represented groups like women and people living in rural areas. These EQUAL partnerships have developed support tools for teachers, influenced the mainstream curriculum and had an effect on training. Linked to this approach is the need to integrate entrepreneurship training into all stages of the educational system.

Mainstreaming entrepreneurship within national curricula and training teachers

The importance in intervening across the complete life cycle has found broad consensus among EQUAL partners. In Spain, Valnalón’s Director, José Manuel Pérez, compares it to training for a high risk sport: “To become an entrepreneur is like becoming a sportsman. If you really want to do it, you have to start when you are five years old.” However, experience reveals that many teachers are unfamiliar with entrepreneurship as a subject or methods for delivering such an education. They therefore need substantial support if children are to see their entrepreneurial skills nurtured throughout their school years.

In Portugal, ENE (Emprender na Escola, “Enterprising in School”) has elaborated a range of integrated activities which teachers can use to help pupils design a business plan and set up a company, get to know the business and service world in which they live, and identify future business opportunities – all in a fun environment.

It has also focused on training courses for teachers and the production of didactic materials such as a Business Plan Support Guide for pupils. Moreover, to encourage maximum uptake and relevance, its courses on entrepreneurship for secondary school pupils are adapted according to three different categories of pupil. The three different versions focus on the needs of those studying humanities and sciences, those on technical courses and those on education and training courses.

In Wales, Cyfenter provided the knowledge base for the Welsh Entrepreneurship Action Plan (EAP) which must be considered one of the best examples of an integrated, inclusive regional entrepreneurship strategy in Europe. A key strategic objective of the plan has been to embed entrepreneurship into the National Curriculum and to create an entrepreneurial culture among children and young people.

Through its Dynamo project, the Welsh EAP sets out to change people’s outlook and create a culture where enterprise is respected and valued. Dynamo organises teacher training events and produces a resource pack for schools including teacher notes and lesson plans, CD-ROM cards with information on the Welsh economy and a CD ROM interactive game around entrepreneurship. All secondary schools in Wales are now able to access the Dynamo project and its materials.

Learning by doing: enterprise games and competitions

Some EQUAL partners have developed particularly imaginative methods for “learning by doing” which have proven effective in capturing the interest and enthusiasm of pupils and developing entrepreneurship skills by giving them real responsibilities and demonstrating the implications of entrepreneurship in real life.

This is the case of Valnalón in Asturias, northern Spain. Promoting a culture of entrepreneurship has been particularly relevant in this region which, with the decline of coalmining and steel, lost almost a quarter of its jobs in just two decades. Unemployment among young people is nearly 40%. Its EME (Empresa en Mi Escuela – a company in my school) programme imaginatively turns the entire class into a real co-operative. The children make the rules of the co-operative, design and make the products, and organise the marketing and publicity campaign. In May, they actually assemble in the marketplace of their hometown and sell the products.

In Valnalón´s EJE (Empresa Joven Europea – European Youth Enterprise) programme, secondary school students from 12-16 years old participate in a similar project – but this time for international trade. They invest their own money and contact other co-operatives in Spain or other countries to which Valnalón has transferred its methodology. The co-operatives trade using new technology and communicating in English. There is even an agreement with the regional bank to support the co-operatives with microcredit.

Also in Spain but in the Basque country, Garapen has also created support material for teachers and students including a computer game for primary school children, a Monopoly-style board game about creating a business and a resource manual for teachers. In total, 5,740 students have benefited.

Many EQUAL business simulation games also take the form of a competition, with prizes being presented to the most notable projects. While the emphasis tends to be on generating enthusiasm and fostering skills, elements of competitiveness have proved successful in motivating pupils to work harder and collaborate more closely within their teams.

Bringing schools closer to business and the “real world”

Dynamo’s strategy in Wales (UK) also involves recruiting role models to tell school children first-hand of their experiences as entrepreneurs and instil an understanding of and enthusiasm towards entrepreneurship. Chosen to represent the diversity in Welsh society, these role models play a key role in raising awareness of entrepreneurship while encouraging self-belief, positive thinking and the ability to spot opportunities and turn them into reality. To date over 300 role modes have delivered this message to over 37,000 pupils aged between 9 and 10. Many of the business simulation techniques mentioned above also have an element of bringing school children into contact with business and organisations relevant to the needs of entrepreneurs – such as banks (Valnalón’s EJE programme), business support agencies and business incubators.

ENE’s activities in Portugal for example, are specifically designed to encourage pupils to get to know the business and service world in which they live as they plan and set up their business. While working on their business plans, pupils visit real companies as well as support organisations and business incubators before presenting their work in a competition and exhibition of ENE activities.

Such activities promote a realistic sense of the risks that exist and the support available to take on these risks and realise business ideas. In this way they also aim to raise confidence by encouraging an understanding of the environment in which the pupils live and how they can interact with that environment to shape their own lives.

Entrepreneurship education for the community

The K'cidade project in Portugal, promoted by the Aga Khan Foundation, is a long-term pioneer project testing a new methodology for building entrepreneurial capacity to help people take control of their own lives and escape social exclusion.

The long-term approach the project takes to addressing causes and not just symptoms is reflected in its education dimension. The Childhood Association develops entrepreneurial skills by training teachers in more active models of education (EDUCARE) so as to improve the autonomy, creativity and responsibility of children, their families and teachers. Children enjoy themselves while they are taught to investigate, to mobilise resources and to pursue their own interests.

The Portuguese government would like K’Cidade to expand beyond the Lisbon area from 2009 and the Portuguese Prime Minster, José Sócrates, signed a protocol with the Aga Khan Foundation in December 2005. As a result, the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity was able to invite K’Cidade to provide training to social workers from the Lisbon district and to consider expanding its work to other areas of the country.


A common strand running through this work is the need to go beyond narrow definitions of entrepreneurship as a set of technical skills such as book-keeping and marketing which are only useful to private businesses. Many projects see it as a much broader set of attitudes and competences such as team working, decision making, risking taking, innovating, problem solving and so on which can be applied to all walks of life. They argue that these qualities are essential for entering the knowledge economy and that people that do not go on to become professional business people can apply their entrepreneurial skills as employees within private companies, the public sector, the social economy and the community.

Ensure effective transfer of best practice

On top of identifying methods for encouraging entrepreneurship education, a key objective of EQUAL has been to ensure that successes are shared and transferred to other schools, regions and countries.

The EQUAL partnership RED Accent, in which Garapen acts as the lead partner, has, for example, brought together 23 local development agencies from the three provinces in the Basque Country of Spain, which now benefit from collective learning and shared resources for their work towards supporting business start-ups in each locality. As an old industrial region that has undergone major restructuring, the network has decided to encourage entrepreneurship in the Basque Country from the earliest possible age in schools and training centres. Different agencies spearhead and test specific methodologies which can then be applied to the whole network.

Valnalón has gone even further in actively promoting its methodology. To date it has transferred its entrepreneurship education programme to Mexico, the USA, Canada, the UK, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Belarus.

Recommendations for mainstreaming policies

From the EQUAL case studies together with discussions from thematic workshops, policy recommendations include:

  • Incorporating entrepreneurship education into national and regional curricula at all levels (primary, secondary and university).
  • Adapting curricula to introduce creativity, group work, risk taking, broadening the concept of entrepreneurship education.
  • Learning by doing – using games and real-life exercises (mini-companies) and making the most of transnationality.
  • Increasing the teaching of entrepreneurship within higher education outside economic and business disciplines – especially in scientific and technical faculties.
  • Retaining special emphasis on creating enterprises and managing the growth phase in the curricula of business-type studies at universities.
  • Adapting career services to focus on business creation as well as employment opportunities.
  • Outreach to young people not in education.
  • Entrepreneurship education in both formal and informal settings with a special focus on the needs of disadvantaged groups and areas.
  • Training and support material for teachers to ensure effective delivery of entrepreneurship education.
  • Support for the transfer of existing good practice to other regions.
  • Involving entrepreneurs and local companies in the design and running of entrepreneurship courses and activities
  • Creating two-way links betweens schools and business

Initiatives of Enterprise DG & Culture DG

The Enterprise and Education and Culture Directorates General also work on entrepreneurship education. Of particular importance are the following:

  • 2006 Joint Communication on Implementing the Community Lisbon Programme: Fostering entrepreneurial mindsets through education and learning.
  • DG Enterprise, in collaboration with DG EAC, is currently preparing a call for proposals for implementing the Oslo Agenda, to be published Spring 2009.
  • DG Enterprise, together with EAC, is currently setting up high-level meetings on entrepreneurship in education to bring together policy makers from Ministries of Education and Ministries of Economy. They are due to start January 2009.
  • DG Enterprise is also working on a study on entrepreneurship in vocational education (secondary and post-higher education). Results due Summer 2009.
  • DG EAC currently runs forums bringing together universities and businesses. The aim is better co-operation in general between industry and education. Entrepreneurship is one of the topics. Duration: 2008 – 2009

Links to EQUAL case studies

More recent cases

The Jeun'ess initiative was launched in France in June 2011 as a public-private partnership between a number of ministries and six enterprises and foundations from the social economy sector. It is based on three pillars:

  • the promotion of the social economy amongst young people, particularly through the education system
  • initiatives for young people in the social economy
  • the integration of young people in the enterprises of the social economy

A budget of €1.3 million was allocated for the years 2010 and 2011. Another €600,000 has been committed until the end of 2013.

Other useful links

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