Teachers’ Thoughts on Entrepreneurship Education

A report by Bettina Backström-Widjeskog, taken from Creativity and Innovation – Preconditions for entrepreneurial education Chapter 8 (pp. 107-120) Eds. Kjell Skogen and Jarle Sjøvoll

This research explores (and seeks to change) teachers’ attitudes to and interpretations of the ‘entrepreneurship education’ cross-curricula offering in Finland. Interviews were carried out with thirty teachers in Swedish-language schools, consisting of both male and female subject teachers working with the higher ability classes (ranging from 13-18 yrs) and teaching either at a general upper secondary school or a vocational institute.

The interviews focussed on the three elements, ‘content’, ‘practice’, and perceived ‘value’ of entrepreneurial education. The author finds three interpretations of content: the technical, competency-based form (“defined as a separate course or project which is graded and evaluated and carried out during a certain period of time”); the form where it constitutes “work that aims to further the development of strong identities and promote self-efficiency based on pupils’ own values”; and the “co-operative” form where “emphasis is on the co-operation between schools and society/business for the purpose of preparing students for working life”.

Teachers identified the hallmarks of success in practice as: authenticity (students are aware that their actions have ‘real-world’ effects, achieved via the technical elements of the course), an “auspicious atmosphere” (which “consists of encouragement and confirmation” as well as “a positive manner of thinking”) and activity-based methods (experiential learning).

Complicating this though, is a “field of tension” which exists between the “economic, pragmatically-oriented” aspect of entrepreneurial education and the “attitudinal and personality-developing education goal” through which teachers operate. All teachers in the study “stressed the value in that entrepreneurship education should be seen as a permeating, immanent , and internally steered activity that is primarily aimed at the personal development of an individual’s inherent traits” as opposed to the competency-based model. However, many had conceptualised it as the more rigorous, content-driven, academically-focussed form. This perception was related to a reduction in the perceived value of entrepreneurship education: “those teachers who expressed an ambivalent attitude…had solely accentuated functional entrepreneurial consequences”.

The author links the personal qualities of an ‘enterprising’ student to the recruitment needs of employers, saying that “the individual being sought should be willing to take initiative, flexible, responsible and enterprising”. Therefore, the key value of entrepreneurship education does not lie in students’ capacity to start a business or how competent they are in technical skills, but in the fact that it significantly develops employability skills and contributes to the growth of the person as a whole.

Teachers’ Thoughts on Entrepreneurship Education – full report