Entrepreneurship Education: shared meanings and understandings and their implications

Frank Hennessey, Head of Business Studies at St. Mary’s University College in UK

Some of you may know the old joke “10 people understand binary, those that do and those that do not.”

For too long there has been a binary, at least, approach to Entrepreneurship Education, (EE) which we need to address, and do so, as a matter of urgency. Over the years I have been fortunate to attend a number of EU sponsored conferences addressing EE. A consistent feature of these conferences has been the wide divergence of interpretation of what is meant by EE.

There are two distinct, if not totally contradictory, perspectives: the first is that EE is primarily about the promotion and fostering of business start-ups. The second and broader view is that of EE as a Key Competence. Viewed as a personal competence, access to EE can be seen as an individual entitlement, which cumulatively, will enhance the human capital and economic competitiveness for that country.

Inherent in this duality is whether one views EE as either a product or a process. EE viewed as a product implies a clear body of knowledge which logically flows from an agreed definition and is ultimately a stand-alone course within the curriculum. In turn subject provision suggests subject specialists are needed to teach such a course with the associated need for expensive courses from teacher educators at both initial and in-service levels.

On the demand side pupils, (and their parents by proxy), need to recognise and commit to a given course which will, through formal accreditation, promote personal growth or serve as a means to a career objective.
This product proposition has four implications:

  • if it is a specialist subject then that lets everyone else off the hook as EE becomes some other teacher’s responsibility;
  • the need for expensive investment in education to support the supply of these unique teachers;
  • to include this stand-alone subject in a curriculum must inevitably lead to the displacement of another subject, since time and resources are finite;
  • one might argue that these courses already exist and are called business studies while others would suggest such courses are the very antithesis of what is meant or implied by entrepreneurship.
    The second and broader perspective for EE is to view it as a process which emphasises individual attitudes and competence. To take this view is to accept the proposition that EE is as fundamental to a child’s education as the ability to read, write and use digital technology.

To regard EE as a Key Competence suggests a different approach to teacher education since all teachers should be expected to be able to teach E.E. in exactly the same way that it is impossible to conceive of any teacher education programme which would deny the need for an individual teacher to be able to read, write and use a computer. On this basis, then the rationale for EE becomes one of pedagogy i.e. a process rather than product. As a result, a lot of the perceived objections or impediments cease to be as problematic or challenging. The question pivots rather from “What to teach?” to “How to teach?”

As EE is integrated throughout the curriculum and is taught addressing the specific and relevant learning outcomes, it becomes a responsibility for all teachers.
There is no need for expensive pre- or in-service courses, rather the challenge is how to foster a positive, self-sustaining educational eco-system that facilitates and supports the teaching of EE?

Hopefully this Hub will help in the recognition, support and exchange of the good work that is already being done.

Category : entrepreneurship education, education Posted : 10 August 2015 09:20 UTC
About the Author
Frank Hennessey, Head of Business Studies at St. Mary’s University College in UK

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