A Global Consideration From Practice to Policy Around the World
This article is the executive summary of the 2015 WISE Research Report "Entrepreneurship Education".
Find out more about the 2015 WISE Research series.
Entrepreneurship, traditionally defined as starting a new business, is increasingly recognized and touted as a way to drive the development and sustainability of economies around the world. Previous and ongoing research has advanced entrepreneurship education as essential for influencing attitudes, aspirations and intentions of individuals striving to launch new ventures. This report broadens the definition and impact of entrepreneurship education. We do not limit our definition of entrepreneurship to starting a business, but rather use starting a business as a vehicle to develop an entrepreneurial mindset while also developing a robust set of twenty-first century life skills that can be used to start and grow new things of all kinds. As a result we define entrepreneurship education as a method whereby students (of all types) practice creating, finding, and acting on opportunities.
Over the past three decades, entrepreneurship education has grown dramatically, from 600 colleges and universities offering courses in 1986 to more than 5,000 courses at 2,600 schools today. In spite of this growth, insufficient attention has been given to the importance of policies and programs, and minimal guidance has been offered on how to support this type of education and on what policies are needed. This report is intended to help fill that gap through its three principal objectives.
- Showcase best and forward-looking practices and new ideas in entrepreneurship education
- Provide recommendations and implications to inform practitioners and policy makers
- Identify provocative questions that will drive further research
The report draws from four countries, with varied approaches to entrepreneurship education, within which to compare best practices – United States, China, Finland, and Qatar. The United States has had the longest history in teaching entrepreneurship. China represents an emerging powerhouse of education and commerce. Finland has long been known for its innovation in education at all levels. And Qatar represents a region dominated by the oil industry yet looking to entrepreneurship to diversify its economic activity. Each country developed three short exemplar cases, one for each segment of education: K-12/Secondary, College/University, and Vocational/Training programs.
Generally, entrepreneurship education consists of a nested set of activities (curriculum, co- curricular activities, and research efforts), and decisions regarding such activities include everything from learning objectives, topics, selection of materials, pedagogy, learner type and delivery mechanisms. Research regarding the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education has grown over time and expanded beyond measuring new business formation to assessing the increase in positive perceptions of entrepreneurship and intentionality towards being entrepreneurial. Emerging findings suggest that there is indeed a positive relationship between entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial behaviors, yet the research is inconclusive and more work is needed.
The analysis of the twelve cases reveals an array of best practices and related implications for practice, policy, and research. Critical themes include: multiplicity of objectives, variety of curricular content, role of faculty, diversity of learners, importance of place, methods of leveraging resources, and pedagogic innovations. The report discusses these themes through specific case examples and concludes with a series of recommendations for policy makers, practitioners and academic researchers.
- Develop Teachers: Establish program standards, training programs and assessment tools that encourage teachers to acquire and employ skills and behaviors that enable them to function as facilitators and guides to learning – rather than as traditional classroom instructors.
- Expand Ranks of Learners: Make entrepreneurship education compulsory for all learners in primary, secondary and perhaps even tertiary levels, because of its effectiveness at instilling “twenty-first century“ skills, in addition to venture creation skills.
- Facilitate Sharing of Content and Pedagogy: Create a clearinghouse of leading-edge curricula and pedagogic methodologies. Much good work has been done in this field over the past decade, and many institutions are willing to share their curricula and teaching methodologies.
- Overhaul Pedagogy and Place: Revamp instructional standards and classroom paradigms to promote team-based, action-oriented learning in spaces designed to enhance collaboration and creativity that includes real world interactions with entrepreneurship practitioners and with target markets for new products and services.
- Expand Access to Resources: Increase funding for entrepreneurship education and develop and promote innovative mechanisms to leverage partnerships with corporations, NGOs, global institutions, foundations, as well as with individuals.
Recommended research trajectories to advance entrepreneurship education.
- We need to define and assess an array of learning outcomes to better understand the impact of entrepreneurship education. This requires creating and experimenting with various metrics beyond starting a new venture and also includes a consideration of different types of entrepreneurial learners, and assessing impacts across multiple institutions and countries.
- Though we recommend compulsory entrepreneurship education at the primary/secondary level, we strongly urge researchers to not only look across schools where this is taking place but to research stakeholders within the ecosystem. Primary and secondary teachers, as well as parents and administrators, need to have a better understanding of what entrepreneurship is and can be in their education systems.
- Great examples and best practices abound—as evidenced in this report. The larger issue to address now is scalability of programming. Entrepreneurship education requires a hands-on, active, and experiential approach. These approaches are hard to scale when large numbers of students are involved. How might we scale innovative educational programs? When and how might technology be helpful? What is the effect of technology clusters on entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship ecosystems?