Entrepreneurship education – time to make a leap

Slavica Singer, Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship at the J.J. Strossmayer University

Caroline Jenner in her blog from April 2015 asked the question “Entrepreneurship education – can we make the leap?” Two years after, just browsing through the titles of blogs provided by educators, policy-makers, business people, we can say YES, we can and YES, we will do it.

A short inventory of blog titles show that many aspects of entrepreneurship education are well thought out, and that important consensuses are reached, such as:

  • Need for national strategies on entrepreneurship education
  • Definition of entrepreneurship education (departing the narrow definition of creating a business venture, to broader definition of creating the competences of proactiveness and creativity)
  • The design of entrepreneurship education (embedded, across campus, experiential learning...)
  • The role of stakeholders in entrepreneurship education (educational institutions – students, teachers and management, business sector, governments)
  • Future of work, skills gap and the role of entrepreneurship education
  • Definition of entrepreneurial competences

We (and when I say we, I think of the European Union) have so many things in place, there is the abundance of evidence how entrepreneurship education is upgrading life competences, so, why wait - we need to act now. 


Does entrepreneurship education matter?

Plenty of research results confirm that the dispute between “born or made” entrepreneur is behind us. There is no doubt about the impact of an ecosystem in which a person has been raised and/or educated on her/his lifelong competences as proactiveness, creativity, responsibility for taking responsibility for own choices – the confirmation of the impact comes from many surveyed angles (gender, location, educational level…).

In this blog I am using findings from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey because GEM helps to check how some assumptions related to entrepreneurship work across countries, by using the same conceptual framework and standardized questionnaires. For years, GEM confirms that education matters in building entrepreneurial behavior across countries, no matter at which economic development phase they are in (factor-driven, efficiency-driven, or innovation-driven economies).  It holds for EU as well - 2016 GEM survey shows how a higher level of education related to entrepreneurial competences brings a higher level of perceived opportunities, entrepreneurial intentions and start-up activities. It is interesting that the fear of failure is quite even across the levels of education, which gives an additional signal to educational institutions. 


% of the population aged between 18 and 64 years, GEM survey 2016 – EU (without Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Malta, Romania) + Switzerland

Level of education Perceived opportunities Entrepreneurial intentions Start-up activity (TEA)
Less than secondary 28,4 10,3 5,9
Secondary 34,8 14,2 7,9
Post-secondary 43,2 17,3 10,7
Post-graduate 51,1 20,1 12,7
Source: GEM database, 2016


Does Europe have a needed policy architecture for mainstreaming entrepreneurship education?

Recently I talked to Professor Jerome Katz from Saint Louis University who is on his sabbatical tour around Europe. Professor Katz is a top world class knowledgeable person in the field of entrepreneurship, as a veteran in researching entrepreneurship and in developing educational programmes based on experiential learning of entrepreneurship. And he thinks that Europe has a huge advantage in having very important policy components related to entrepreneurship education already in place: The Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe, 2006;  Key competences for lifelong learning – A European Reference Framework, 2006; Rethinking Education: Investing in the skills for better socio-economic outcomes, 2012; Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan – Reigniting the entrepreneurial spirit in Europe, 2012; EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, 2016. And, what I would add, these policy components are building on each other, providing long-term consistency with continued refreshments, based on research inputs.

Jerome Katz, with  Slavica Singer, talking to doctoral students ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATIVENESS, at the J.J. Strossmayer University in Osijek, 29 March 2017

So, why not too make a leap, now?

Those two elements (research evidence and available strategic avenues for reaching better socio-economic outcomes by strengthening entrepreneurial competences of the European young population) provide a safe platform for making a decision on taking a leap. The European Union is ready for the departure from assumption-based policies and programmes towards the evidence-based policies related to entrepreneurship education and research-based educational programmes focused on developing entrepreneurial competences. 

This leap means a step forward in redesigning educational systems on national levels by embedding entrepreneurship content across curricula and by integrating experiential learning of entrepreneurship into the mainstream curricula, not to leave it as an extra-curricular learning activity. Why is it seen as extra-curricular in nature, anyway? Integrated learning process with experience is a natural one, otherwise the education process is superficial. But, to make such a leap a reality, besides a continuous promotion of entrepreneurship education there are other activities needed to be performed:

  • adopt national policies regarding educational systems to allow it, 
  • provide needed resources (teachers’ capacity),
  • continue to work on indicators to monitor output, outcomes and impact of entrepreneurship education (inside and outside of formal educational system), and
  • build a leadership capacity on both sides (educational institutions and business sector) in order to achieve collaboration needed for implementing experiential learning.

Researching and discussing educational effectiveness is an ongoing process, but there are also moments when accumulated knowledge and insights should be transformed into actions. There is enough evidence to say this moment is now. Why not to challenge the European Union to lead the process of redesigning educational process in the direction for equipping the young generation with skills of initiative, innovativeness and responsibility? 

Category : entrepreneurship education Posted : 11 April 2017 13:07 UTC
About the Author
Slavica Singer, Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship at the J.J. Strossmayer University

Slavica Singer is Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship at the J.J. Strossmayer University in Osijek, Croatia and former head of all university entrepreneurship programs. In year 2000 she and her team were pioneering in entrepreneurship education in Croatia, by starting the first graduate program in entrepreneurship. In 2010, the doctoral program ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND INNOVATIVENESS has been started, as a result of TEMPUS funded collaborative efforts of five universities (Osijek, Croatia; Turku, Finland; Maribor, Slovenia; Klagenfurt, Austria and Durham, UK). All educational programs in entrepreneurship are research based and the design of entrepreneurial competences was always related to identified gaps in competences among young population as well as among business community. From 2002 she leads Croatian Global Entrepreneurship Monitor research team and she chairs Research and Innovation Advisory Committee to the Board of the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association. She is the member of Croatian Competitiveness Council and Club of Rome, Croatian Chapter. For her contributions to the development of university based entrepreneurship education, in 2008 she was awarded with the UNESCO Chair in Entrepreneurship Education, and in 2010 with the honorary doctorate by the University of Turku, Turku School of Economics.

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