The need for countries to adopt an entrepreneurship education strategy

Prof Thomas Cooney, Professor in Entrepreneurship at the Dublin Institute of Technology

One of the great myths surrounding entrepreneurship is that it is concerned solely with the creation of a new business, and by extension the generation of wealth for the entrepreneur who established it.

The reality is that entrepreneurship is about a way of thinking and behaving, it is about identifying opportunities, assembling a team, gathering resources, being positive, taking risk, and building for the future. Indeed entrepreneurship can be applied in many different economic contexts such as social entrepreneurship, public sector entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship in the creative industries, and many other contexts besides.

For much of the past decade the European Commission has held the view that entrepreneurship must be embedded into the education system and that it should be available to all primary, secondary and third-level students. This was best highlighted in the Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe (2006) which detailed a range of actions that could be taken by different stakeholders. Unfortunately many countries still do not have an entrepreneurship education strategy despite the many calls and evidence based reports by the European Commission highlighting the substantial benefits of entrepreneurship education to a nation’s economy and to its young people.

A number of countries (such as Norway, Finland and Denmark) have already recognised the benefits of an entrepreneurship education strategy and have successfully implemented policies to ensure that all students receive some form of entrepreneurship education during their formal schooling years. While these countries have clear strategies in terms of entrepreneurship education, other countries possess a wide variety of separate initiatives taking place across secondary and third levels of education but which have no coherent overall strategy.

Current initiatives in many countries regarding entrepreneurship education are highly fragmented, lack a clear sense of overall purpose and direction, and are not meeting the needs of their local economy. There is therefore an urgent need for a coherent entrepreneurship education strategy that is integrated across all three levels and across government departments, a strategy that will provide entrepreneurship education to a wider number of students throughout the education system, particularly to non-business students (see ‘Entrepreneurship in Higher Education, Especially within Non-Business Studies’).

There is a growing body of international evidence which demonstrates that students who receive entrepreneurship education as part of their schooling show improved academic performance, school attendance, and educational attainment, have increased problem-solving and decision-making abilities, have improved interpersonal relationships, teamwork, money management, and public speaking skills, are more likely to find employment, and have enhanced social psychological development (self-esteem, ego development, self-efficacy). Indeed, a European Commission report in 2012 found that those who went through entrepreneurial programmes and activities display more entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions, get a job earlier after finishing their studies, can innovate more even as employees in a firm, and start more companies.

The reason that students achieve these benefits is because the primary goal of entrepreneurship education is not simply to get everyone to start their own business but to give our young people the ability to think positively, to look for opportunities to make things happen, to have the self-confidence to achieve their goals, and to use their talents to build a better society (economically and socially). It also recognises that students of all academic abilities can be part of this process and that success is not dependent upon academic results but on how people will live their life.

The reality is that a principal barrier to the implementation of any entrepreneurship strategy includes the budgetary constraints faced by many Ministries of Education. It should also be noted that any entrepreneurship education strategy would require teachers to understand business and be trained in its different approaches, a proposition that may not find favour with everyone concerned. Undoubtedly there will be resistance from many quarters to such an initiative as introducing any new syllabii or culture can be a difficult and lengthy process. However, because introducing such a strategy is challenging does not mean it cannot be achieved!

Prof Thomas Cooney lectures in the Dublin Institute of Technology ( 

Category : entrepreneurship education, Entrepreneurship Education Strategy Posted : 10 February 2016 12:49 UTC
About the Author
Prof Thomas Cooney, Professor in Entrepreneurship at the Dublin Institute of Technology

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