Entrepreneurship education: Unused potential so far

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.com PLC.

Three out of four European teachers do not feel encouraged to bring innovation into the classroom. [Shutterstock]

In September 2015, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on promoting youth entrepreneurship. Nearly two years later, MEP Michaela Šojdrova is disappointed with the lack of progress made by the European Commission.

Michaela Šojdrova is a Czech MEP representing the European People’s Party. She is also a member of the European Parliament’s culture and education committee, as well as being a substitute on its employment committee.

Did you know that three out of four European teachers do not feel encouraged to bring innovation into the classroom? Or that four in 10 companies across Europe have difficulty finding staff with the skills they need, and that students who have had an entrepreneurial experience at school are 50% more likely to start their own business?

At a time when a key priority of the European Union and the member states is to deliver on the Jobs, Growth and Innovation agenda, Entrepreneurship Education is part of the solution.

A sense of initiative and entrepreneurship can be broadly defined as the capacity to turn ideas into action, ideas that generate value for someone other than oneself. Its a transversal key competence, which every citizen needs for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment in the knowledge society.

The high percentage of unemployed young people on the one hand and the lack of skilled and experienced workers on the other are the main reasons for reform of educational systems.

Nevertheless, the entrepreneurship education policy has been a part of EU priority for quite a long time. It can be found in many documents, for example in Lifelong Learning Europe 2020, Small Business Act or the most recent document – New Skill Agenda.

The main goal of the entrepreneurship education is to promote skills that are actually useful (not only) for entrepreneurship – financial and ICT literacy and skills, creative thinking, problem-solving and an innovative mind-set, self-confidence, adaptability, team-building, project management, risk assessment as well as specific business skills and knowledge.

On 8 September 2015, the Parliament adopted a resolution on “Promoting youth entrepreneurship through education and training”. I was in the position of rapporteur on this text and I was very pleased because of wide support across the political groups.

However, the more I was excited about the support, the more I am surprised that after almost two years, the Commission hasn’t done much that could actually help to implement the entrepreneurship educational system into the member states educational system. So what is the Commission waiting for?

The implementation of this policy could possibly improve the efficiency of the whole economy, bring more qualified and skilled workers to the small and medium-sized enterprises, decrease the skills mismatch as well as unemployment and enhance the self-responsibility and self-employment at the same time.

Two years ago, in order to help the implementation of entrepreneurship education, the European Entrepreneurship NETwork (EE-HUB) was launched. The group contains more than 40 experts from more than 20 different countries, which engages in outreach and awareness activities across several work streams, for example national strategies, partnership with business or support for teachers. It is funded from the EU COSME programme, but it is not enough as the EU effort.

Nevertheless, the initiative is not only on the Commission’s side, the member states could also start with implementation of this policy. Only eleven member states have made it an explicit priority so far.

In the Czech Republic, we have successfully initiated the project called “Entrepreneurship Education for University Students” which is funded from ERASMUS+ budget. The project holder is the Tomas Bata University and the project partners are JA Europe, JA Czech and Foundation for Entrepreneurship Education in Denmark.

The aim is to prepare innovative methodology for entrepreneurship education using already existing tools and using experience of JA network. The innovation is to connect university and companies for real market experience. The target groups are students and teachers at universities.

The outcomes of the project will be used by them: methodology and assessment tool and by students for their employability (experience, certificate).

This is just one concrete example of actual implementation of the generally approved EU policy. We need more, much more.