Entrepreneurship for everyone

Entrepreneurship for everyone

Entrepreneurship for everyone: introducing EntreCompEdu, a new professional development framework for teachers to support entrepreneurial education.

Do you recall your reaction when you heard of the first deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic? In the United States, this prompted Matt and Noah Colvin to go out and buy thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer from cheap stores to hoard and then resell them online at much higher prices. They soon made ‘crazy money’. Following a public outcry, however, Amazon pulled their sales and the brothers donated their remaining 17000 bottles to charities. Even in the United States, the land of opportunity, there is a strong ethical and dimension to being entrepreneurial. This is particularly important to convey to young people who may associate entrepreneurship only with financial gain, rather than enriching people’s lives socially or culturally. Mandeep Rai, in her book The Values Compass, suggests that what defines Americans is their ability to pivot. They see that there is more to gain from change than there is to lose.

If our young people want to be successful in their lives, they need to learn how to be entrepreneurial. Their success depends largely on how well they can thrive in these uncertain times. Among other things, they need the confidence to take the initiative and make things happen, the creativity to consider alternatives, the ability to collaborate with others and the resilience to bounce back. In all of this, however, they also need to learn how to act ethically and responsibly. In these uncertain times, not everyone behaves in the manner of the Colvin brothers. According to the Financial Times, the next big thing is ‘moral money’ which describes ‘ethical, sustainable, and responsible investing’. The concept can be introduced to young people through real-life scenarios e.g. ‘my hairdresser is increasing her prices because of the pandemic, should I go elsewhere?’; ‘The local charity run was cancelled, should I still donate?’; ‘A wedding I was attending has been called off. Would it be ok to ask for my expensive gift back?’ Often, there are no straightforward answers to such dilemmas. But encouraging young people to apply ethical principles such as acting with empathy for others, with honesty and a willingness to try and put things right if unintentional harm is caused can go a long way.

Being entrepreneurial is widely recognised by the likes of the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as one of the most important competences that young people need to thrive now and in the future. In 2016, the European Commission launched EntreComp: The Entrepreneurship Competence Framework, which sets out the competences that everyone needs if they want to become entrepreneurial. For example, the ability to spot opportunities, develop creative ideas, stay focused and work with others. What was missing, however, was a specific framework that teachers could use to map their own progress in teaching entrepreneurial competences.

Hence EntreCompEdu was conceived as a complement to EntreComp in supporting educators so that they could teach these entrepreneurial competences effectively. Based on a review of what is known about good pedagogy, both in general and in the field of entrepreneurship, EntreCompEdu was built around six broad areas of competence:

  1. Professional knowledge and understanding of entrepreneurial education
  2. Planning and organizing entrepreneurial education
  3. Teaching and training for entrepreneurial education
  4. Assessment for entrepreneurial education
  5. Professional learning and development

The names of these areas of competences are likely to be more or less familiar with most teachers because they typically reflect the contents of teacher education programmes in the UK and across Europe. This is seen as an advantage so that teachers do not see entrepreneurship as something alien to their everyday practice. These broad areas are broken into smaller, more detailed competencies that teachers need to demonstrate.

The 17 competences within the EntreCompEdu Professional Competence Framework

5 Competence areas and 17 competences

1.Entrepreneurial knowledge and understanding
1.1 Knowing and understanding entrepreneurial education
1.2 Valuing entrepreneurial education for all
1.3 Understanding how students develop entrepreneurial competences

2. Planning and organizing creative learning environments
2.1 Setting entrepreneurial learning objectives that are ethical and sustainable
2.2 Making connections to support entrepreneurial education
2.3 Creating an empowering entrepreneurial learning environment

3. Teaching and training
3.1 Teaching to inspire and engage students
3.2 Creating value for others
3.3 Teaching through real-world contexts
3.4 Encouraging self-awareness and self-confidence to support learning
3.5 Promoting productive working with others

4. Assessment
4.1 Checking and reporting on students’ progress in entrepreneurial learning
4.2 Sharing feedback on entrepreneurial learning
4.3 Celebrating progress and achievement

5. Professional Learning and Development
5.1 Evaluating impact of entrepreneurial education
5.2 Research-informed and evidence-based practice
5.3 Building and sustaining entrepreneurial networks Table.
Table. The EntreCompEdu Framework

Underpinning EntreCompEdu is a set of six pedagogical principles to guide educators in their practice.

  1. Think creatively
    This principle involves facilitating creative thinking throughout the learning process. In practice, this means encouraging learners to ask, ‘What if…?’ questions, wonder about possibilities, ‘to look twice’ and be adaptable to different ideas and solutions. Teaching observational techniques, such as slow looking, can help learners spot opportunities that they might easily miss.
  1. Look to the real-world for inspiration
    Seeking out real-world opportunities to add value is essential for learners to develop and apply their entrepreneurial competences. Despite the horrendous consequences of coronavirus, the pandemic has sparked a rise in creativity with many weird and wonderful suggestions to help us keep a safe distance from others. These include virtual holidays to remote islands, virtual concerts, hats with foam ‘pool noodles’ worn by café customers in Germany, and eye-catching graphics to help people move in the right direction. When learners explore authentic problems in their school, immediate locality or wider world, they are likely to work harder and engage in deeper thinking than when they learn through textbooks.
  1. Promote collaboration with a purpose
    Learners need opportunities to collaborate with a clear purpose both in and beyond the classroom. Historically, most of the innovations that eventually find their way in our lives stem not from a single genius figure, but through networks who thrash out possibilities, redesign elements and add modifications. The success of the likes of Apple, YouTube, eBay and Toyota is based on the creative power of collaboration.
  1. Create something of value for others
    Being entrepreneurial is about adding value in people’s lives. This does not have to be about making money. It could involve lessons in adding social value, such as arranging a schedule to check on the welfare of older ones or setting up an inter-generational project, where skills between students and grandparents are shared online. Or the value might take cultural forms, such as creating a heritage walk in the community or a virtual arts gallery.
  1. Stimulate reflection, flexible thinking and learning from experience
    Being entrepreneurial also involves ongoing reflecting over what’s worked well and needs developing or improving. For example, upon reflection, perhaps the unique value of a product or service needs to be communicated more clearly or through a different medium. Taking a new direction can be fearful for some learners. And so, teachers might offer incremental challenges. Learners who dread making a class presentation might begin with presenting to a small group. Teachers can also model reflection by thinking aloud and being open about their own learning experiences.
  1. Make entrepreneurial learning visible
    In recent years much has been said by the likes of John Hattie and others about ensuring that learners know what to do and how to do it. In entrepreneurial education, this means making learning goals clear while being open to unexpected responses. It also involves fostering dialogue with and among learners so that they are not playing some form of guess-what’s-in-the-head-of-the-teacher game.

Understanding and signing up to these six principles is one thing. But putting them into practice is another. Hence EntreCompEdu is supported by a suite of training modules that include lots of practical ideas and tips for teachers to try out. At present, these are being piloted by groups of teachers across Europe.

The vision of EntreCompEdu is to inform and transform teaching in the field of entrepreneurial education. It aims to offer every educator in primary and secondary schools and vocational settings a reference point for support in these uncertain times. One thing for certain as schools adjust the ‘new normal’ is that fostering an entrepreneurial mindset has never been more important.


Dr Russell Grigg is an education inspector for the Ministry of Education in the United Arab Emirates. He has published extensively in education, including co-authoring Teaching Creative and Critical Thinking Skills in School (Sage, 2019). He is the lead writer of EntreCompEdu and the associated training materials. He tweets @russellgrigg

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