Original publication: March 2015
Authors: Professor Elizabeth Chell [Part 1] and University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Laura Rosendahl Huber [Part 2]
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2FiZgUa
Available languages:

Part 1

Youth Education & Entrepreneurship

Download the Study

Youth unemployment rates are particularly high across Member States (MSs). The EU believes that through education and training in transversal and entrepreneurial skills young people will be better equipped to compete for jobs, become self-employed and contribute to the innovative and competitive capability of an employer organisation. The development of transversal skills requires new creative ways of teaching and learning, and the inclusion of real world experience that is practical not theoretical. This paper describes entrepreneurship as a process going beyond the identification and teaching of competences, showing where knowledge acquisition, attitudes and intentions development, are fundamental to the process of entrepreneurship and the expression of entrepreneurial behaviour and outcomes.


The aim of this paper is:
To shed light on how far Member States have gone (in terms of strategies) in promoting entrepreneurship and how strongly it is embedded both in school curricula and in teachers’ training/attitudes.

This paper focuses on the development of entrepreneurial learning for young people aged approximately 13-19 years and attending secondary education schools or colleges. It seeks to address three questions:

  • Is entrepreneurship treated as a key competence at school?
  • How open are schools to “incursion” from the “business world”?
  • Have there been any “revolutions” in the education/training system? If so, how far have those fundamental changes gone?

The methodology adopted comprised the identification and analysis of secondary sources of bibliographic information.

Entrepreneurship in Secondary Education in Member States

At a practical level, the EC’s definition of entrepreneurship is: “an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action” through the development of entrepreneurial and transversal skills which can be applied in both self-employment and other employment contexts, with a view to enhancing an individual’s ability to contribute to social and commercial activity and wider society.

The extent to which teachers engage in developing transversal skills, in particular an entrepreneurial mindset and competences, varies across countries due to the differences in continuing professional development and teacher education in entrepreneurship. This is compounded by the different systems of education at secondary level. Some competences are easier for young people (aged 13-16 years) to grasp (for example, leadership and team-working), whereas others, for example, risk-taking, are particularly difficult for them.

The sole focus on competences and entrepreneurial skills development is an issue. Entrepreneurship itself is highly complex and situation specific. Situations are defined as opportunities or threats which person identifies and interprets. Further questions concern attitude toward the opportunity or threat and knowing how to rise to the challenge posed. This intentional process is not only governed by self-belief, but also by peer pressure and the attitude of authority figures such as, for young people, parents and teachers. Gender is also important as, for example, girls and boys respond differently to perceived risk. This process is further complicated by the role of domain knowledge. For adults this may manifest itself as a profound knowledge of a specific subject and/or market. Domain knowledge is likely to include technical skills – know how – which is learnt through experience and by doing. Formal education alone is not the means by which such knowledge is imparted. Informal methods should help engage the student and result in more highly motivated individuals. The teacher should therefore understand the process in its entirety and be able to apply innovative teaching methods to develop such understanding in her students.

Whilst there are examples of good practice in several MSs, teacher education and training to deliver entrepreneurial outcomes is not widely distributed across schools and MSs. Creating and running a start-up business is one of the more commonplace activities, but it is rarely underpinned by classes in business finance or economics, marketing or sales. Rather than thinking solely in terms of entrepreneurial transversal skills development for entrepreneurship, practical classes should be accompanied by relevant knowledge taught to the student in modular form, which is then accessible, on a need-to-know basis.

A further important dimension of the entrepreneurial process is feedback. There are multiple steps to the entrepreneurial process, decisions that have to be taken at different points which shape the vision, create a meaningful dialogue about opportunity formation and how it may be achieved. This steering and manoeuvring involves reflection about what one is doing and whether it is perceived to be the right thing, involving the right moves. Experience is thus exposure to successful and unsuccessful steps taken in the production of meaningful, legitimate and approved business outcomes. This does not appear to be addressed in the classroom formally or informally nor through vocational education and training.

There are a number of critical constraints, not least of which is resources within the school and external teacher training and CPD. It is very easy to write wish lists of what teachers should be doing in the classroom, but without the necessary resources, the basic training and the support within the school and at national level, the achievement of entrepreneurial competence in students is likely to be unmet. Three approaches are being pursued to address this issue in the MSs. There are:

  • some good examples of teacher training and CPD which may be drawn upon and scaled up;
  • examples of non-formal and informal education that are intended to supplement formal teaching in ‘traditional’ subjects;
  • VET and apprenticeships. However, whilst such approaches give students hands on experience, there is as yet little evidence that such schemes promote direct cooperation between schools and companies or the development of entrepreneurial skills.

Assessment suggests that there is still a great deal of work to be done in MSs to develop entrepreneurial capability in young people in order to equip them for the world of work and in life skills. There is still no depth in understanding entrepreneurship and more needs to be done to develop and train staff as well as students.


Over all the key recommendations are:
1. To teach students entrepreneurship as a main stream subject, with particular emphasis on the entrepreneurial process in all MSs; younger secondary pupils would do this through practical exercises exemplified by YE, while teaching entrepreneurship to older students would be project-based. This means that teaching staff should be trained in entrepreneurship.

2. Further, modules in basic finance, economics (cross-cutting geography, trade and globalisation) and business environments (linked to ICT and the use of the internet in business) should be included in the curricular of all schools across all MSs to underpin and facilitate students’ understanding of the entrepreneurial process, the development of entrepreneurial competences, transversal skills and an innovative mindset;

3. To increase contact between schools, business, industry and commerce by: (a) include a work placement as part of the training of teachers and prior to entering the classroom; (b) including more industrial liaison as a prerequisite of teacher education through hands on projects within the community; (c) developing the teaching qualifications to include a compulsory entrepreneurship/business certificate as a minimum;

4. To introduce a new position in all secondary schools and colleges of industrial liaison and careers advisory officer across all MSs. Such an appointee would work across the school, to provide project support, external contacts and links to facilitate the development of authentic scenarios for skills development, business gaming and start ups, and within company intrapreneurial skills. Further the appointee would help students consider their career options, and the choices that would enable them to pursue their preferred pathway.

5. To monitor how gender disparities in respect of entrepreneurial learning in all disciplines are addressed at secondary school and college levels across all MSs. This means including practical ways of teaching subjects to minimise gender and maximise equality in the training and development of teachers.

6. To establish more links to assure tertiary – secondary education liaison, at a regional as well as local level to further enhance teacher CPD in entrepreneurship and innovation in all MSs;

7. To create more schools with particular subject specialisms to enable students to find their career pathways; to consider further the differentiation of upper secondary schools (years 11-13) into academically and vocationally oriented colleges across all MSs.

8. VET should also be further developed to address work skills’ requirements, through workplaces of VET teachers and training in entrepreneurship, as part of their CPD.

9. For the EU to provide funds (perhaps through ERASMUS+) for trainee teachers to spend a gap year in industry as part of their certification; to provide grants for extant teaching professionals to spend time in industry and develop their understanding of industry’s needs and training, education and employment issues. Also, the EC to monitor and collect research evidence on the impact of the above recommended measures.

Presentation “The Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship”:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part 2


Given the key role entrepreneurial activity has in fostering economic growth and innovation, the evaluation of measures that may stimulate successful entrepreneurship is of the highest interest to both academics and practitioners alike. Since entrepreneurship education programmes are used worldwide as a policy tool, testing their effectiveness is important to provide solid grounds for future policy decisions. The aim of this paper is to give an overview of the limitations of previous impact evaluation studies as well as to discuss the solutions that have been applied.

This paper presents evidence that impact evaluation studies using less rigorous methodological approaches might give an overly optimistic assessment of the impact entrepreneurship education programmes have (both in terms of short-term and long-term results). One of the solutions to this problem is the use of randomised field experiments. The evaluation studies that have been performed using this experimental research design, in which the participants are randomly assigned to the treatment and the control group, have mostly found modest effects as well as contradictory results (see Table A1 for an overview). This seems to suggest that the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education programmes to promote entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and intentions is not as clear-cut as is commonly believed.

Recent evidence on the effectiveness of an entrepreneurship education programme in primary education suggests that it might be fruitful to focus on the development of entrepreneurial skills at an early age. Moreover, the model of skill formation introduced by Nobel laureate James Heckman and his colleagues suggests that cognitive and noncognitive skills are developed during different stages in life, where the skills learned during one period in life (e.g. at primary school) augment the benefits of investments in these skills in subsequent periods (e.g. at high school or university). Early investments in skills may thus be particularly effective in the long run. If the model of skill formation also holds for the development of entrepreneurial skills, it could be that the effects of entrepreneurship programmes in tertiary education will become larger among people who participated in these programmes at a younger age. Furthermore, recent research in the field of labour economics shows that non-cognitive (entrepreneurial) skills are not only useful for those interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial career but also have a positive effect on labour market outcomes in general.


For future research
The results presented in this paper show that more research is needed to understand the impact of entrepreneurship education. Based on the overview of the findings presented in Table A1, the first recommendation of this paper is to compare the effectiveness of EE programmes at different educational levels (i.e. in primary, secondary and higher education). In this comparison it is important to also take the efficiency of the different education programmes into account in terms of time and money spent on the programme in relation to the achieved results. Secondly, in order to truly understand the impact of EE it is would be good to know if, and to what extent, participation in an EE programme crowds out the learning of other types of knowledge and skills (i.e. to measure the socalled opportunity costs of EE). Finally, although the measurement of long-term effects is difficult, it is valuable to understand if there are indeed positive spillovers from early investment in entrepreneurial skills as predicted by the general model of skill formation.

For future policy
This paper points to several limitations of previous impact evaluation studies. Most prominently, self-selection of individuals into entrepreneurship education programmes (or into school or tracks offering such programmes) potentially leads to an overestimation of the effectiveness of these programmes. If students with stronger pre-treatment interests in entrepreneurship education possess certain unobserved characteristics, such as ambition, motivation and perseverance, that are beneficial for future labour market outcomes, both in entrepreneurship as well as in paid employment, then it is impossible to distinguish what causes the successful outcomes. Moreover, another crucial feature to measure the effectiveness of EE programmes is to control for the initial values of the outcome variables as well as for other factors (beyond the EE programme) that might also affect these outcomes (i.e. by using a pre-post, treatment-control design). The first recommendation of this paper for future policy is that when reviewing programme evaluations it is important to be aware that these methodological difficulties exist and that they might lead to an overestimation of the programme’s effectiveness.

To address the methodological difficulties described above, randomised field experiments have become the “gold standard” of impact evaluation studies. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are often used in medical trials, but up until recently their application in economics was scarce. In RCTs a group of people is randomly divided into a control group and a treatment group. In the context of programme evaluation, the control group participates in the regular school curriculum and the treatment group participates in the EE programme. As a result of the random treatment assignment the students in each of the two groups are on average equal in terms of all observed and unobserved characteristics. This means that any differences that are observed in the average group outcomes (e.g. in terms of knowledge or skills) after the treatment period can be attributed directly to the treatment, i.e. are caused by the EE programme.

The use of this method requires that during the evaluation period the control group is excluded from participation in the EE programme. Unfortunately, to many policy makers, teachers and other parties involved it often seems unfair to exclude a certain group of students from a new and promising education programme. However, only by randomly assigning people to the treatment and to the control group, and by comparing the difference in outcomes between these groups after the treatment is it possible to measure the true effectiveness of the entrepreneurship education programme. Hence, the final recommendation of this paper is to apply more RCTs in the evaluation of (entrepreneurship) education policies. To go back to the comparison to medical trials: before a new medicine is introduced to the general public, all the responsible parties involved want to make sure that this medicine is actually effective in reaching the objective it is designed to achieve. Why not hold a similar standard for the introduction of a new entrepreneurship education programme?

Presentation “Cam entrepreneurship be taught?”:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/563_390

Please give us your feedback on this publication


Leave a Reply