- Given the importance ascribed to developing the entrepreneurial mindset amongst all students, whatever career pathway they choose, the OECD and the European Commission support higher education institutions and (local) policy makers to design and deliver entrepreneurial education through their programmes. They provide guidelines, multi-stakeholder self-assessment tools, policy recommendations and reviews to a wide array of actors.
- Evaluation of students’ progress and assessments of programme efficacy are very complex subjects for policy makers and practitioners. International and intergovernmental organisations welcome research community initiatives to shed light on this and figure out the best indicators and methodologies.
- Teachers, being at the forefront of entrepreneurship education, should be supported by their institutions through life-long learning and peer learning. Incentives could be put in place in education institutions along with a wide array of material adapted to the diverse profiles of the teachers.
1Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin is Senior Analyst and Project Manager at OECD. He is currently responsible for three CERI projects: “Fostering and Assessing Students’ Creativity and Critical Thinking in Education and Higher Education”; “Smart Data and Digital Technology in Education: Learning Analytics, AI and beyond”; “Measuring Innovation in Education”. Peter Baur is Senior Expert at DG Education, Youth, Sport and Culture, European Commission. Over the last few years he has been working on the development of European higher education policies, with particular focus on the promotion and development of university-business cooperation, entrepreneurship and innovation. Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin and Peter Baur answered our questions about entrepreneurship education. In an effort to tighten the link between policy makers and the research community, we present a genuine discussion between people with very different agendas. Through this dialogue, we can get a glimpse of the issues related to supporting entrepreneurship education and the thoughts of the people working on it at different levels. Please note that the expressed opinions are those of individuals and not necessarily those of their respective home institutions.
2Entreprendre & Innover: Why does the European Commission or the OECD want to boost entrepreneurship?
3Peter Bauer: The European Commission has been promoting entrepreneurship for many years. Please be aware though that I will mainly speak about activities I am involved in. I can’t speak about all the activities and initiatives undertaken by different services in the Commission. On our side, we started some years ago to work on this topic. We had discussions in the University Business Forum (note: a bi-annual event taking place in Brussels, gathering representatives from higher education, business, policy makers and other relevant stakeholders). It was about how to make the graduates, the students, more entrepreneurial. We realized that whenever we discussed entrepreneurship, there was a very narrow understanding of it. It was just about start-ups. The idea came up to develop a guiding framework, which would help to understand that entrepreneurship is something much bigger than just creating start-ups. [The goal for us] was really to promote the development of the entrepreneurial mindset, culture, attitudes and the entrepreneurial skills. This is why we developed and promote HEInnovate, a framework to support higher education institutions and systems to develop their entrepreneurial and innovative potential. Recently in a conference, somebody summed it up very well: “we should aim to get 100% “entrepreneurial graduates”, some of them will become “graduate entrepreneurs”. But the focus should be on the entrepreneurial graduates and this is what we try to promote.
4Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin: The fact is that we need entrepreneurs to drive the growth of OECD economies. So, there have been specific programs on entrepreneurship. And probably, in the case of education, we have the same approach as that described by Peter. The idea is to grow, to get everyone to be entrepreneurial, to be able to contribute to the economy and have a vision of the economy and so have the right attitudes, whether they are leading a business or just part of an organization. I would say that we’re trying to focus on specific aspects of it in higher education as part of a competency-based approach to Education. We are not just focusing on the content and knowledge, but on skills such as imagining, enquiring and then doing, rather than just giving perfect answers to predefined problems. More particularly, we focus on critical and creative thinking. The idea is that entrepreneurship education is something which is good for people’s well-being. So, it’s not just about innovation and the economy but also something that human beings like to do basically.
5E&I: What concrete actions did you carry out to promote entrepreneurial competencies?
6P. B.: One of our main initiatives is HEInnovate. On one side, we try to support the individual higher education institutions to develop their entrepreneurial potential. HEInnovate provides them with a framework supporting self-assessment and self-development. They can understand where they stand in their journey towards an entrepreneurial and innovative organisation, with a holistic approach covering eight different dimensions (note: see www.HEInnovate.eu for the full list of dimensions). The tool is very flexible and can be used in very different contexts. You can just focus on one or two dimensions or can work on all of them. You can involve many different stakeholders to get their views on your organization. The framework allows you to start a focused discussion in your organization, and to identify its strengths and weaknesses. In parallel, we do assessments led by the OECD on the system level via HEInnovate country reviews. In the future, we would like to explore how we can better support higher education institutions and corresponding educational systems to take actions. Because, what we are seeing is that some of [the higher education institutions], after completing the self-assessments, manage very well. They define an action plan, implement it, follow-up and adjust if necessary. But some others need more assistance, very often due to a lack of resources or empowerment. This is what we are focusing on at the moment, how we can develop relevant support in that area: following the assessment, how to set the priorities, to define the actions to be undertaken, and also support their implementation. In addition, via the Erasmus+ programme we support many projects involving higher education institutions and other stakeholders (Knowledge Alliances and Strategic Partnerships) that aim to develop entrepreneurial competences.
7S. V-L.: The OECD is not as operational an organization as the European Commission is. What we did is the analysis of the kinds of skills that are important for entrepreneurship and how that works. Basically, we’ve done a lot of work to identify the kind of skills related to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship teachers. But now we have a more recent project which is co-founded by the European Commission to foster creativity and critical thinking. We’ve been working for the past four five years in primary and secondary education in eleven countries and now we’ve just started to work in higher education. We have about 25 institutions from about 15 countries at this stage. We’re trying to articulate a common language on what it actually means to develop these skills and to develop different types of pedagogical approaches and assessments. Basically, the idea of the project is that institutions generally want their students to grow, to change, to develop, to acquire different types of competences, like innovative competences, but they don’t know how to do it. So, we’re trying to bring people together, to think about what this looks like.
8The second thing we do as part of this project is preparing possible evaluations of the effects of these initiatives. We are developing instruments to conduct validation studies. The purpose is to then test the pedagogies and resources that we developed, and see if they lead to the effects that we’ve been hoping for. This initiative is much more concrete. We really work on the ground, with schools, with higher education institutions, to develop tools, which will be very tangible.
9P. B.: Related to the last point, mentioned by Stéphan, we have recently launched a project, which is closely related to HEInnovate. With funding from the European Parliament, we initiated a pilot project to develop a tool supporting the assessment of the impact of entrepreneurship education programs on students. The evaluation of entrepreneurship education is a major challenge. How to support and educate entrepreneurship teachers in assessing what the students learnt, in particular, concerning the acquisition of entrepreneurial competences. The tool is very much based on EntreComp, the competence reference framework, developed by the European Commission . The goal is to develop an adaptable and flexible tool, which can be easily used by educators and professors, helping them to collect feedback from the students to better understand if their course achieved its pedagogical objectives, i.e. if the course helped the students to develop certain entrepreneurial competences. The pilot is running until end of 2019; the tool is integrated into and accessible via HEInnovate.
10E&I: What types of indicators are coming up from the different programs in terms of both research and entrepreneurship education?
11P. B.: This is a complex question and so far, we have not found a satisfactory response. This is also demonstrated by the HEInnovate country reviews. Countries and higher education institutions struggle to define relevant indicators to measure the impact of entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial education. What we do know is that the existing indicators are not satisfactory. Very often they are quantitative in nature and count the number of start-us, patents, … but neglect qualitative aspects. This is probably one of the reasons why entrepreneurship is very often associated with start-ups. Therefore, it is important that we find relevant qualitative indicators that are measured over a long time period. For example, for the long-term, indicators should allow measuring the impact of entrepreneurial competences on the professional career of graduates; and for the short term, having indicators that enable us to understand to what extent certain study programmes support students to acquire entrepreneurial competences. We hope that the tool referred to above will help on this issue.
12S. V-L.: We have been trying to develop two different types of instruments. We have an assessment tool for the teachers to evaluate the student work directly. It’s basically like a qualification framework. The assessment rubrics provide a progression level and can actually be used for scoring or grading as well. Then we have a second part which is more about evaluating the impact of the implemented pedagogies. We have developed and tested instruments and a research protocol to that effect. Usually through a mix of questionnaires, sometimes including some personality traits, we measure change between pre and post-test levels, compared to those of a control group. We also have a few standardized assessments in the case of primary school achievement and creativity. We’re still working on the higher education instruments and protocol, because we don’t have any ready-made assessments that we could use for that. We are probably going to use the assessment rubrics to measure students’ progression. Also, we could use questionnaires which would include things around the students’ degree of self-efficacy and these kinds of objective measures which can tell us something about how students are progressing.
13E&I: When we talk about the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education, what are the main factors impacting that effectiveness?
14P. B.: Again, a good but difficult question. I am not sure that I am the right person to ask.
15The HEInnovate framework identifies a number of dimensions that impact the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education on the institutional level (leadership; organizational capacity; entrepreneurial teaching and learning; preparing and supporting entrepreneurs; digital transformation and capability; knowledge exchange and collaboration; internationalisation; measuring impact). All these dimensions contribute to the effectiveness of entrepreneurship education, their relative weight varies probably in relation to the specific individual higher education institution. On an individual level, we hope that the above-mentioned tool will help the educators to better understand what kind of entrepreneurship/entrepreneurial programmes or learning experiences support the development of entrepreneurial competences and to what extent.
16S. V-L.: I would say that a major difficulty about this question is whether we’re talking about entrepreneurship education as a way of acquiring the technical knowledge required to be an entrepreneur or if we are talking about entrepreneurial education, which is more of an attitude that can work across the board.
17I think that in the case of entrepreneurship education, what contributes to effectiveness is obviously the course design and its contents, what the different pillars are. What is actually learnt. I think for the entrepreneurial mindset, is very much a case of the pedagogies used and probably having more action-based pedagogies, perhaps working a lot with experiential types of learning, but above all, being intentional and giving the space to practice these skills. This can also be outside of school, not just in the formal education programs, for example because you can work in a kind of club, an association, whatever organization. Also, I think that if you want to talk about effectiveness you have to be clear about what the outcomes are. So, what are the outcomes? The skills that people will acquire and the including the technical ones that actually help to launch or develop a company. But it’s interesting if you think of how evaluation criteria have evolved. I haven’t read any recent evaluations of entrepreneurship education, but a few years back I remember a few studies that showed that it didn’t have the expected impact and would discourage a lot of people to become actual entrepreneurs.
18Would it be considered ineffective if entrepreneurship education helped some people to become entrepreneurs and led some other people to do something different? This is an interesting, and at least to me, an open question: what does effectiveness actually mean in this particular case, beyond the acquisition of skills?
19E&I: How do you tackle the question of competencies in relation to teachers who teach entrepreneurship? What main competencies do you think they should have and how can they become competent entrepreneurship teachers?
20S. V-L.: Well, I certainly think that they should be supported. There is a real need to change teachers’ education programs, so that teachers are themselves are exposed to the kinds of pedagogies that we would like them to develop in their work. For a teacher, being entrepreneurial means being more autonomous in designing his or her own courses, taking initiatives and not just following textbooks. That’s one of the dimensions, but there are also some ways for the teachers to develop techniques and enrich the portfolio of teaching techniques that they have. Many teachers need to get out of their comfort zone. But they need to be provided with professional development. Also, it’s important to for them to be part of a community of practice, to benefit from peer learning. We believe that it’s important to give them a lot of scaffoldings to find resources so that they can better understand entrepreneurship education, so that they can see what it means on the ground.
21P. B.: I share Stéphan’s comments. It is important that teachers are supported in this endeavour, first during their initial education, but also throughout their career. Another element that should be considered is to facilitate the involvement of other actors that can support the teachers in this task. We try to support Member States and higher education institutions in their efforts to support educators.
22For us, teachers are clearly considered as key actors for education. All our policy documents underline the crucial role of teachers and the importance of providing them with appropriate education and training. Earlier this year, in September, the Commission organized the 2nd Education Summit; one of the main topics concerned the teacher’s professions, the challenges teachers face, what kind of initiatives exist in Member States to support them. Besides supporting such exchanges of good practices, peer-learning activities, analysis and developing policy papers, the European Commission also provides support to teachers via its programmes.
23E&I: There are many different profiles of people teaching entrepreneurships both in higher education and in the primary and secondary levels. In your opinion, what would be the ideal profile of an entrepreneurship teacher who would have the highest impact?
24P. B.: I am not sure that this is the way to go. Contexts are different. I think different approaches are necessary and exist. I don’t believe that one person can do it alone. For example, some higher education institutions have established entrepreneurship centres, which provide opportunities for entrepreneurial learning to all students of the institution. They also provide support to individual professors that want to make their teaching approaches more entrepreneurial. In some places such centres provide services to several higher education institutions. There are higher education institutions that have not established such a centre, but have created a sort of central support service, headed by a professor of entrepreneurship This support service works with all other faculties within the higher education institution. It provides specific support to them but also manages a platform and animates a community of practice. The support service will also feed the latest research results on entrepreneurship back to the different faculties.
25Another point Stéphan made about inter-disciplinary programs, I think it’s really important to expose all students to certain interdisciplinary activities. Providing opportunities to students to work with students from other disciplines is highly valuable today, as most problems they will face in their professional life will require the cooperation of people with different backgrounds.
26E&I: When a teacher is passionate both about teaching and entrepreneurship, this may have a positive impact on students and more globally on the effectiveness of the programme. Does this make them more legitimate to teach entrepreneurship?
27P. B.: I think passion might be a good ingredient. I do not believe that it is sufficient, but it surely helps. If a teacher has a real passion for what he/she is doing and he/she is able to transmit it to the students, I think he/she will have an impact. Another important point is how teachers see or understand “entrepreneurship”. Too many still have a narrow understanding of “entrepreneurship” and associate it with “creating or running a company”. Therefore, it is so important to get away from this narrow understanding and to make clear that it is about culture and mindset, about equipping the students with competences and skills that will help them in their professional and private life.
28S. V-L.: Well, perhaps one interesting model to consider is a program we’ve been working with on creativity and critical thinking: Creative Partnerships. This method is a way to make teachers work with creative agents. Teachers would thus actually revisit their ways of teaching and learning. And you could pretty well imagine that something like that could also work for entrepreneurship or things that are close to it. Creativity or creative thinking is part of the entrepreneurial mindset. But you should think about things, which are more focused on business activities or business-like activities. You could see how the collaboration between teachers and people who are on the business side could help as a support system. Obviously, in higher education this is one of the ways for good entrepreneurship programs to work. I think the collaboration between the two is one of the things that make teaching effective in this kind of settings.
29E&I: By bringing entrepreneurship into education, teachers could actually feel even more burdened. How can you implement entrepreneurship education without it being considered as a further responsibility for the teachers without additional resources?
30S. V-L.: When you take the kind of approaches that we promote as a part of our work on students’ creativity and critical thinking, which is very related to an entrepreneurial mindset, this is where the focus should be. What is asked is not to change the content of your subject but to just focus more intentionally on the different types of competences that you want to develop in your students. This is a way to make it more acceptable and to make it possible for a lot of different teachers within a lot of different types of subjects and matters. It doesn’t have to be too disruptive. Now, to be fair, if you’re a teacher who’s never taken that approach, it’ll take you a little bit of time. There is a little bit of additional work you must do: redesigning your old courses.
31What’s interesting is that you can do it along a continuum. You can move the needle a little bit. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your education system. In principle, you don’t need more money to do that; you just need to take time to make the necessary changes. Obviously, in practice, at the beginning, before it becomes more routine, it requires a bit more time and some training (and thus more resources). Also, you need to be reassured that you’re going in the right direction compared to what you used to do, that you’re comfortable about the change. This kind of gradual approach is one that really makes the shift possible and does not require very expensive training.
32P. B.: Not very much to add. I think one of the best ways to get teachers on board is to demonstrate the value of this kind of educational approach. It is not about changing the content of a course, but the way in which it is delivered. Entrepreneurial teaching and learning should not be an add-on but a way to better engage the students in the process of learning. It is about learning about a subject in a different way. But to make this happen, you need support structures and you need the right incentives. Without incentives you might mobilise some champions (“the convinced”) but you will not reach and involve the majority. A comment or complaint that we hear very often is related to incentives. Careers and professional development of academics depend on the publication of papers in recognized journals, not in developing the entrepreneurial culture, mindset and attitudes of their students. This does not help to get more academics actively engaged in these activities.
33S. V-L.: Yeah, I think you’re totally right about the incentives. That’s a very strong point. In higher education, what I have often observed is that institutional support is one of the things that is very important. We need to get away from the image of academics, each in their own corner trying to change things, but it really works when you have a real institutional quality and willingness to develop this kind of initiatives, which changes the incentives for everyone.
34E&I: What is your opinion about research in entrepreneurship education? How can research inform policy?
35P. B.: Research in entrepreneurship education is crucial. It is important to understand what entrepreneurship education really is, what are the best mechanisms and formats to deliver it, how to support the teachers and the students. Such research should help to understand the short and long-term impacts. On the short-term, what is the “immediate” impact of entrepreneurship education on a student? What kind of competences he/she develops? Which approaches are better than others for stimulating the development of certain competences? … And in the long-term: what is the impact of entrepreneurship education on the professional and private life of a graduate. Did it help coping better with change and challenges, finding a good job…
36It is very important is that the research results feed back into the teaching and learning.
37S. V-L.: In addition to what Peter said, I think that having a good mapping of the different approaches of entrepreneurship education would be something interesting. What are the main categories, styles of actual entrepreneurship education? It would be very helpful to document this. If there are some impact evaluations of these things, that would be interesting as well. In terms of objectives, what can we expect? What are the differences between preparing for skills and dispositions and preparing for specific business knowledge?
38One of the things that many higher education institutions have are structures that will support students to start projects, enterprises etc. It would be very interesting to see where these new developments lead to.
39Another thing is to link entrepreneurship education to informal education. It would be very interesting to see whether informal activities outside of the curriculum have any effect on these skills. It also changes the way we think about how and what we teach, because perhaps, some aspects of entrepreneurship or entrepreneurial education are developed out of the formal curriculum.