Education expert: Linking schools with businesses is win-win

We need to increase the interaction between the education and the business community. We know both sides want to increase the cooperation, but it seems like there is a need for a “broker” in the middle, says Caroline Jenner.

Caroline Jenner is CEO of JA-YE Europe, Europe’s largest provider of entrepreneurship education programmes.

JA-YE Europe just launched the new European Entrepreneurship Education NETwork. What are you trying to do?

The main purpose of the network is to increase the uptake of entrepreneurship education in schools all over Europe. The EE-HUB will be an advisory body to politicians, ministries and EU institutions. The EE Hub will have a common cause to work collectively to increase the exchange of information and experience as well as improve the coherence of, and synergies between the many initiatives in the field. Quite simply, Europe needs to mobilize much more constructive and impactful collaboration between relevant actors than it does today. We have much more on paper than we have on the ground.

The 4 main partners (JA Europe, SEECEL, EUROCHAMBRES, EUproVET), 50 expert advisors from ministries, from research, from entrepreneurial universities, from education, from business and from teacher training and 13 MEP Ambassadors are already behind this initiative. EE-HUB received support from the European Commission (the COSME Programme) and private sector partners CISCO, EY, INTEL, Microsoft and VISA.

How governments can play a key role and bring about the required change in entrepreneurship education?

Not only governments, but politicians in general should and must be an enabler. They can promote, lead and be frontrunners. We all know that unless time is carved out of the school day and funding allocated for teacher training, entrepreneurship education will not progress. However, as any reforms in the schools systems, funding is needed. 9 representatives from the ministries are already involved in the EE-HUB and they will be working together to understand what makes some national strategies so much more successful than others. The governments can also play a key role in involving more actors. They can include private sector and NGOs in planning and implementing of entrepreneurship education. We can see some of the most successful country implementations have a broad ownership base to the topic.

How do we move entrepreneurship education from being an extra-curricular ‘add-on’ to an integral part of the curriculum?

The more entrepreneurship in a school, the more embedded in the curriculum. Teachers are the main factor. They “learn as they walk”. The more they know about entrepreneurship, the more they are able to integrate. Teacher training and exchange of knowledge is the key element. Today, entrepreneurship education is embedded in the curriculum in many countries. The issue is to scale up the number of students who are benefiting from this. For example, it might be embedded only in an economics curriculum or only in certain kinds of schools. Our expectation is that it needs to be an option for any student in any school in any subject. More than 10 years ago, entrepreneurship was approved as a key competence for all.

How do we move from traditional teaching methods to greater use of experiential learning?

Teachers need to have the opportunity to participate in continuous professional development training in this area. In surveys, teachers are asking for more training in creativity, for example. They have to start with entrepreneurial learning methods that are easy to implement and/or where they have good support from practitioner networks or experienced peers. When they see the good results, they will progress to more tools and more methods. To give you an example, the Entrepreneurial School Guide offers both new and experienced teachers 125 tools and methods to help them improve as entrepreneurial educators.

In our experience, entrepreneurship education changes the way teachers teach and because it motivates their students it motivates them as teachers too. Surveys continues show that teachers will recommend this to their colleagues even though it is one of the most challenging methods. However, the system forces teachers to “teach-to-the-test” so if we don’t also address assessment methods for entrepreneurship education, we will never reach significant scale in schools. This is why EE-HUB has one whole work stream focused on assessment instruments.

We need to increase the interaction between the education and the business community. We know both sides want to increase the cooperation, but it seems like there is need for a “broker” in the middle. JA organisations can be that broker. Research shows that increased interaction with the business community impacts young people’s perception of their future opportunities AND it changes the culture of education institutions. It’s a question of culture not context. Engaging stakeholders is the backbone of a sustainable policy or strategy for entrepreneurship education and key to its success. Stakeholders can become indispensable partners contributing to the implementation of strategies on the ground. We need to do more of that, and the EE-HUB will be looking at best practices in the field of increased cooperation with the business community.

Who is responsible for making training curricula more relevant to the real world? And how to do it?

Every national government is responsible for following up on its entrepreneurship education objectives. Nevertheless, students, parents, businesses and NGOs certainly have a say. The schools and the governments need to be pushed; schools encouraged and awarded. We need to create a movement from inside, share best practise, support the frontrunners and ignore the one that does not want to move. They will eventually come. We should use all our energy on moving ahead, learning from each other, and give support to schools wanting to implement it. What is not happening enough is consultation with other ministries or the business community and with actors in the community, practitioners in order to capture the most relevant real world example and scenarios on a constant basis. It’s simply not possible to develop curriculum and not update it for 3-4 years. The pace of change is too fast.