The importance of “Learning by doing” in Entrepreneurship Education
Yann Camus, President, JADE
In the recent years, entrepreneurship education has become a key priority at European level. Indeed, to counter slow economic growth, insufficient company creations and a high unemployment rate (especially for young people, reaching 17.2 % in the EU281 ), the European Union needs to give the right tools and support to its people so they can become better skilled and even create their own company.
This is why the European Commission released in 2016 the Entrepreneurship Competence Framework (EntreComp) in order to define the elements of entrepreneurship and the learning outcomes of entrepreneurship education. The first result should be to debunk the overly simple understanding that entrepreneurship is about creating a company. Instead EntreComp defines entrepreneurship as “Entrepreneurship is when you act upon opportunities and ideas and transform them into value for others. The value that is created can be financial, cultural, or social”. The second result is to identify key competences, part of a transversal entrepreneurship competence, such as creativity, spotting opportunities, motivation and perseverance, mobilizing others, planning and management, taking the initiative and learning through experience.
I would like to focus especially on this last one as I believe that this is a vital part of entrepreneurship education and a key best practice. As a matter of fact, universities are often criticized for being too theoretical and students lacking actual experience and skills when they graduate. This trend has been shifting with the introduction and increasing focus of apprenticeship, internships and complementary initiatives as mini companies from JA Europe or Junior Enterprises from JADE. There are also new learning schemes at university with team projects, mentoring or review of experiences, all of which enable students to properly consolidate their knowledge and develop their skills in a more practical way. A vital change would therefore be needed, in order to better train and prepare teachers for new styles of teaching or coaching, especially in the field of entrepreneurship education, which requires practical experience. Theory and practical experience need to go hand in hand and support each other for a better and clear understanding. Every child was taught that fire burns, still they all tried at least once, to make sure and properly register this information. This is even more meaningful in entrepreneurship education as an entrepreneurial spirit requires to take ideas and to turn them into concrete actions. Having already experienced practically these situations, in a safe environment as a Junior Enterprise for instance, is thence key to succeeding as young people can become more creative and confident. In addition, this kind of environment and experience enables students to make their own mistakes and learn from them, to understand that failure is a first step toward success and part of continuous learning. Those failures will also help students to identify their strengths and weaknesses, developing their self-confidence and understanding what they want to do in their life.
As an addition, I believe that entrepreneurship education should try to embed as much as possible ownership. Surely proactivity is necessary for an entrepreneur or intrapreneur and this can be best developed when one takes on the responsibility and ownership of the project, its success and failures become even more meaningful. An interesting tool to provide both this learning by doing experience and this ownership is the concept of Junior Enterprise (JE). These are non-profit organizations managed exclusively by students at university and that realize real projects for companies, in relation to what the students learn at university. This acts as a sandbox for entrepreneurship education and enable students to put in practice what they learn at university, thus developing their skills. A concrete example would be for an engineering Junior Enterprise to create a website or an application for an entrepreneur, thus enabling him to start his company and acquire his first clients. That’s a unique opportunity for the students to learn about how to define specifications, working with a real client, creating an application and delivering the project on time. It is as well a great experience as the students can become aware of the impact they can have on their local community and how they can contribute to society, creating meaning for their work. This concept has been recognized as a best practice at European level for several years now and this was highlighted in the European Commission study from 2012: “Effects and impact of entrepreneurship programmes in higher education” with, for example, Junior Enterprise Alumni scoring better in knowledge on entrepreneurship and roles of entrepreneurs in today’s society.
As a conclusion, I would like to acknowledge the important progresses that have been made in the last years toward entrepreneurship education in Europe. From a few initiatives working in this field, we can now see increasing support from policy makers and businesses with EntreComp or the Pact4Youth. More and more universities implement entrepreneurship education in their courses and I hope that more and more of those will include learning by doing and peer-learning schemes, in order to consolidate the acquisition of skills by the students. There is also a role for institutions to provide the enabling environment for entrepreneurship whereas civil society should continue to provide concrete opportunities for students, as JA Europe and JADE are doing. I am confident that in the years to come, we will build an entrepreneurial culture by changing the mindset of the new generation that will shape and co-create the future of Europe.
Category : entrepreneurship education Posted : 19 July 2017 12:13 UTC