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Entrepreneurship education on the increase in Europe

Teaching schoolchildren the skills to turn creative ideas into entrepreneurial action is on the rise, with the most comprehensive entrepreneurship education in place in Nordic countries and Estonia. However, the subject is not entrenched in the curriculum

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A survey of 38 education systems across Europe shows that eleven had specific strategies on entrepreneurship education in place in 2014/15, while 18 included entrepreneurship in broader plans and nine systems had no relevant national strategies.

The European Commission-funded Eurydice study, ‘Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe’ found the most comprehensive plans for entrepreneurial teaching in schools are in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Estonia. However, no education system in the survey has robust funding streams in place for this kind of teaching.

The report also finds more entrepreneur school competitions are springing up. In Austria, for example, the objective of ‘Next Generation’ is that students in vocational education develop ideas with business coaches. At the 'Festivals of Ideas', students and teachers are invited to learn about other students’ ideas.

In the UK, there are a number of initiatives which provide pupils with entrepreneurial experience. They include 'Tycoons in Schools' and the 'Tenner Challenge' where students try to make a business idea happen with £10 investment.

Some countries have advanced schemes for training teachers in entrepreneurship. In Estonia, teachers get to shadow industry figures. In Denmark, the 'Network for Entrepreneurship in Schools and Education' was created to facilitate the exchange of best practice.

Northern Ireland and Scotland came out with Europe’s first entrepreneurship education strategies in 2003. Lithuania, Wales and Norway followed in 2004.

In countries including Belgium, Wales, Montenegro and Norway, there have since been two or more consecutive government strategies.

Croatia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey have received EU funding for entrepreneurship education.

Attitudes to entrepreneurs remain uneven

The report cites 2012 survey data showing 23 per cent of EU citizens have taken part in a course or activity at school relating to entrepreneurship.

The same survey illustrated mixed perceptions of entrepreneurs. In Denmark and Austria, for example, fewer respondents agreed with the statement that 'entrepreneurs take advantage of other people's work' (20 per cent and 33 per cent respectively), whereas elsewhere the percentage agreeing was much higher, at 91 per cent in Poland, 80 per cent in Latvia and 80 per cent in Slovakia.

The appeal of entrepreneurship as a career choice is in some way linked to the economic development of a country and the availability of jobs, according to the report. The highest percentage of respondents who say they are willing to become entrepreneurs hail from Lithuania and Romania.

By contrast, the lowest values are recorded in Germany  and Greece, at 11 per cent. The country with the lowest percentage of young people who have started a business is Ireland, at only 2 per cent.

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