While some programmes manage to build participants’ skills and set them up for successful entrepreneurship, other schemes only have short-term effects that vanish rapidly over time.
What’s the rationale behind this?
It’s been repeatedly argued that childhood and adolescence might be an optimal time to acquire basic knowledge about entrepreneurship, to foster positive attitudes towards it and to shape the mindset of future entrepreneurs:
- It coincides with a critical stage of brain development in terms of shaping behaviours like risk-taking, self-control, reflective reasoning, communication and other skills that are at the core of transformational entrepreneurship. Children and youths have more malleable minds than adults.
- Early childhood experiences with entrepreneurship education may equip children with specific competencies and skills that might help them to take better advantage of later investments in entrepreneurship education.
- It precedes the school to labour market transition and youths are usually more responsive to new economic opportunities, so it’s a good time to influence career aspirations and choices.
On top of that, educational initiatives are also seen as a tool for closing the exposure to entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions gaps between students with different experiential backgrounds.
School and university students
Outcomes of interest
Business knowledge, entrepreneurial skills, attitudes towards entrepreneurship, business starts
Does it work? Here’s what we know so far…
BUSINESS KNOWLEDGE AND SKILLS
- Entrepreneurship education can help primary and secondary school students to develop non-cognitive entrepreneurial skills like creativity, self-efficacy and proactivity.
- Programmes that combine theoretical training with specific and well-defined practical activities, such as defining a business plan or pitching ideas, can help participants to develop business knowledge and hard skills.
- However, non-practical approaches like edutainment or exposure to testimonials do not seem to help build these hard skills.
ATTITUDES AND INTENTIONS
- It’s unclear whether engaging in entrepreneurship education at school can help build positive attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurship.
- If anything, experiential courses might hinder attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurship, whereas being exposed to success stories of real-world entrepreneurs might help.
- Offering entrepreneurship education to students that are about to enter the labour market can make them more likely to try self-employment after they graduate.
- However, only the programmes that manage to build the participants’ solid business knowledge and entrepreneurial skills have sustained impacts on self-employment over time.
- Unsuccessful experiences in setting up businesses right after the programme can backfire, with a negative effect on attitudes and intentions towards entrepreneurship.
OTHER ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTIONS
- Engaging in entrepreneurship education can also make participants more likely to try out other entrepreneurial activities like starting a community project.
- Skills and knowledge obtained through entrepreneurship education programmes don’t seem to have a direct pay-off in terms of employability.
- Furthermore, self-employment can sometimes substitute wage-employment to reduce the latter and leave overall employment levels unaffected.
- In settings where labour market opportunities for young people are few and precarious, entrepreneurship education can help to boost youth income through self-employment.
- Entrepreneurship education can have wider societal benefits through the additional jobs and community projects created by participants.
- Programmes that focus on developing skills and personality traits closely associated with transformative entrepreneurship (like confidence, ambition and self-efficacy) can help participants to create more transformative and profitable ventures that grow beyond an individual’s subsistence needs.
- When a new entrepreneurship curriculum is introduced, intensive teacher training might help teachers to align their teaching practices with the new content and approach.
- However, if students’ evaluation is not adapted to the new curriculum, having a better trained teacher might not translate into better results, not even for entrepreneurship-specific exams.
Ideas worth trying
- If you’re aiming to influence young people’s career choices, try targeting students in their last year of education who are about to enter the labour market.
- If you’re aiming to build business knowledge and hard skills, try combining theoretical training with well-defined practical activities like defining a business plan or pitching ideas.
- If you’re willing to use non-traditional and non-interactive educational activities, like edutainment or testimonial videos, try complementing these with formal in-class training to discuss the content presented and consolidate business concepts.
- If you’re aiming to spur the creation of business that go beyond subsistence level, try focusing on developing skills that, according to scientific evidence, correlate the most with transformative entrepreneurship – like confidence, ambition or self-efficacy.
What to avoid
- Avoid using entrepreneurship education to make participants more employable. The evidence suggests that wage-employment is either unaffected or reduced by it.
- Avoid nudging youths to rush into starting their own businesses before they have the resources and skills needed to succeed. Failed premature attempts can hinder positive attitudes and intentions towards self-employment.
- Avoid investing significant resources into teacher training without changing the incentives for teachers and their students in terms of how they’re evaluated.