Can Europe learn entrepreneurship?

Margherita Bacigalupo, Research Fellow at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

Entrepreneurship is like happiness: everybody wants it but each one has a different idea of what it is about. 


Generally speaking, if you say entrepreneurship people will think business. Many will visualise a solo entrepreneur, who started a multi-million activity in a garage or college dorm. There are a few notable cases of great ventures set up by college mates, that's true. But here, when we speak about entrepreneurship as a competence, we do not have exceptions in mind; rather we think of normal people who can live a better life by nurturing their sense of initiative and acting upon ideas and opportunities to create value for others. Such a capacity can be taught and learnt and can be applied in any domain in life, with or without a commercial purpose. As such, it is considered a transversal competence that every European citizen should be able to develop through lifelong learning.

So, how can we teach and learn to become enterprising? How can our entrepreneurship competence be assessed and made visible to the outer world, e.g. to potential employers, to our bosses or to obtain a grant? These questions are critical, but they all depend on how we define entrepreneurship competence. The aspects we choose to emphasise influence how we define what entrepreneurial learning is, how it shall be delivered and assessed and how the effectiveness and impact of initiatives aiming promoting entrepreneurship as competence will be actually measured. A first, broad, definition of entrepreneurship as a competence was provided by the European Parliament and the Council in the Recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning back in 2006. On that basis, a wealth of initiatives has sprung in the past decade in Europe to construct a notion of entrepreneurship and promote entrepreneurial learning. The European Commission, to give a known example, has made available guidelines for teachers and "laboratories" for their professional development. Also, it has developed projects to help promote entrepreneurial learning in primary and secondary education and in vocational education and training and tools that allow higher education organizations to assess their entrepreneurial mindset. 

Despite these and many other efforts, Eurydice's report on entrepreneurship education in Europe has highlighted that the European entrepreneurship education landscape is still scattered. By 2015, the definition established in the 2006 Recommendation was in use in 14 out of the 26 EU countries surveyed, whereas 5 countries had a national definition in place and in 7 countries there was no commonly agreed definition of what entrepreneurship is in the education context. Alike, the report has pointed out that the level of progress in national strategy development and implementation is highly uneven across Europe. 

To help shorten this gap, in 2015 the European Commission launched a research project to establish a common reference framework that defines, describes and clarifies what the constituting elements of entrepreneurship competence are: the Entrepreneurship Competence framework (EntreComp). The EntreComp framework has been developed on behalf of the Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, by the Joint Research Centre, together with the Digital Competence Framework. EntreComp aim is to become a practical reference for any initiative aiming to promote entrepreneurial learning within formal education or in any other context. The framework has been developed through a mixed-method approach that has involved hundreds of experts and stakeholders in the process along 18 months of work. Iterative multi-stakeholder consultations, both in person (e.g. through the E&T2020 Transversal Skills Working Group Meetings) and online, have been key to reach consensus and build a common framework that serves the purposes of a broad variety of stakeholders. The framework breaks down the definition of entrepreneurship in 3 competence areas (Ideas and opportunities, Resources, Into Action), 15 competences and the relative learning outcomes. 

The EntreComp was published last June, coinciding with the launch of the New Skills Agenda for Europe which places a focus on the development of entrepreneurial skills, renewing emphasis on the importance of entrepreneurship as transversal key competence for citizens. EntreComp is now being disseminated in a variety of forms, being widely endorsed by the consulted experts and warmly welcomed by the community of practice. Despite its very recent launch, the EntreComp is already being taken up in many contexts. So far, the Ministries of Education of Finland and Greece have started translating it. In particular, Finland has decided to use it as part of their forthcoming national evaluation concerning entrepreneurship education and competence. The Portuguese Ministry of Education is also revising the framework in light of their development of a national framework. Beyond EU28, Ukraine, Bielarus and Moldova, supported by the ETF, are embarking into pilot adaptations of the EntreComp. Furthermore, the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Education of Madagascar, with the technical support of the UNIDO, is also adapting the framework to fit the needs of their Vocational Education and Training curricula.

EntreComp is freely available for anyone who wants to adopt, adapt and use it. So, now it is up to Member States, schools, HE institutions, private players and third sector organizations to implement adaptations of the framework that fit their needs and goals. However, the Commission's work is not over. On the one hand, we will monitor take up and facilitate the exchange of emerging practices. On the other hand, we will work to develop and test a questionnaire for citizens to self-assess their entrepreneurship competence as defined in the framework. This will help them reflect on their knowledge, skills and attitude and make them visible to the outer world.

Are you aware of any implementation of EntreComp that is taking place? Do let us know!


Category : entrepreneurship education Posted : 24 October 2016 14:41 UTC
About the Author
Margherita Bacigalupo, Research Fellow at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission

Margherita Bacigalupo joined the Joint Research Centre in 2015 to develop the entrepreneurship competence framework on behalf of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. Before that, she worked in the R&D department of a multinational company in the food manufacturing sector, and in many research projects in the air traffic control field. She has a PhD in robotics for dementia care.

Driven by the desire to learn, she has explored different domains and has found in the entrepreneurship education an area rich in opportunities to expand on her previous experience. 

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