From class project to successful business

How can secondary education stimulate entrepreneurship even better?

Many young people already show entrepreneurial behaviour from a young age. They are creative, actively seek ways to earn money, lead others, or dare to depart from the prevalent norms. By tapping into, strengthening and encouraging that entrepreneurial behaviour, secondary education can stimulate entrepreneurship even more effectively.

The research shows that two important factors hinder effective entrepreneurship education.

The school cannot do it alone

Stimulating the entrepreneurial sense is only one of the many things demanded of teachers and schools. Moreover, nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit is not the exclusive responsibility of education. The environment – and the parents first of all – play a large role in this as well.

What does entrepreneurship education actually mean?

There is a lack of clarity about the concept. It should sharpen the sense for entrepreneurship as well as instil the required competences. Some of these skills are already taken up in the cross-discipline attainment targets. Still, it is clear that entrepreneurship education could be more effective by daring to opt for stimulating entrepreneurial behaviour – and especially creative behaviour, leadership, creating value and non-conformist behaviour – within the school walls.

The entrepreneurial teacher

Just like parents, teachers can serve as role models in this – even without being entrepreneurs themselves – and thus strengthen their students’ belief in their own abilities. Those who believe that they are good in creative activities, leadership, creating value or non-conformist behaviour will more quickly be inclined to begin an entrepreneurial undertaking. Intrinsic motivation comes into play when students want to do activities spontaneously – out of genuine interest, without a view towards reward or punishment – and in the way that they so desire. The long-term effect is much stronger than that of extrinsic behaviour (driven, for example, by the rewards of money, power or prestige). Therefore, by stimulating entrepreneurial behaviour, one emphasises intrinsic goals: for example, through the entrepreneurial activity, you can give free rein to your creativity and decide for yourself what you will do and how you will organise your work.

Keep on dreaming

Finally, it is not only a matter of stimulating entrepreneurial behaviour. Many young people do not know what entrepreneurship entails. To get them interested in a life as an entrepreneur, there is need for a clearer image of entrepreneurship itself. Young people should see entrepreneurship as a future possible self – a role that they can take on later. This increases motivation and clarifies which competences the young person still needs to acquire. It also gives youngsters a lot of freedom in defining and re-defining who they want to be. Young people do not have to fulfil other people’s expectations, nor opt for security – we can also let them dream. 

Source: "Stimulating entrepreneurship in secondary education: a deepening of EFFECTO" by the Flanders DC Knowledge Centre at Vlerick Business School. Research by Jacob Vermeire, Wouter Van den Berghe, Jan Lepoutre and Miguel Meuleman.

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