Posted: Thu 11th Jul 2013
We asked Enterprise Nation readers the question: Should enterprise education be introduced to the National Curriculum?Â writes Simon (left).Â 90 per cent of more than 200 voters said 'Yes'. Clearly - among businesses, at least, there's a strong appetite to see business skills and entrepreneurship become a part of every child's education - or at least a developed option that could perhaps be run as an optional GCSE or A-level.
But how practical is it to make enterprise a National Curriculum subject? Is there any evidence that learning about enterprise at school actually increases the desire among young people to start their own business; or that it encourages them to take a more entrepreneurial attitude into the world of employment?
At present, enterprise education is recommended, rather than required. Successive governments have promoted the idea of teaching business skills to young people and the increasing number of schools being turned into specialist academies opens the door for greater involvement of business in education. On top of this, there are a large number of organisations that work with schools on enterprise initiatives, such as enterprise days and extra-curricular activities for pupils. However, Enterprise Education remains a largely voluntary activity, the practice of which is dependent on the choices made by individual schools and their commitment to carrying it out. The 2010 publication A Guide to Enterprise Education (PDF) from the now defunct Department for Children, Schools and Families outlines how schools can integrate enterprise into the existing curriculum across subjects and deals with issues of teacher training, developing an enterprise culture within the school, and so on. Critically, the report states that:
"If Enterprise is delivered as a standalone subject or a separate activity, it will be more time consuming and less effective than if it is integrated into the existing curriculum... Their [Enterprise Co-ordinators'] approach has been to encourage colleagues across their school to integrate Enterprise into their own lesson plans and approaches."
The report provokes a number of questions about the delivery of Enterprise Education:
Would a standalone enterprise curriculum actually be more effective than introducing enterprise angles to existing subjects within the curriculum as it stands?
In the latter case, how do you ensure teachers have the knowledge and confidence to introduce ideas of enterprise into their subject area?
How are teachers even going to find the time to introduce a fresh set of ideas to their subject?
We might also ask: What would you teach under the heading or Enterprise Education anyway, and is there enough to say or do to cover a two-year curriculum?
Of course, there's another enormous question:
Does Enterprise Education actually increase pupils' employability or their desire to start their own business? Can it unlock the innate entrepreneurialism within our young people?
A June 2013 report from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills, Enterprise Education Impact on Higher Education and Further Education (PDF), suggests that the effect of the existing delivery of Enterprise Education is variable:
"While the evidence suggests that enterprise and entrepreneurship education generally has positive benefits that should be expected to lead to some students starting new businesses and making contributions to the growth of existing businesses, for example, the evidence does not conclusively show the attribution of this to enterprise and entrepreneurship education in either FE or HE."
It's a bit garbled, but the report seems to be saying that the evidence suggests that students who receive some form of enterprise education do pick up useful business skills, do acquire a more entrepreneurial outlook and are more likely to think about starting their own business. The evidence relating to whether they will actually do so, however, is mixed: some studies suggest there's no distinct relationship between enterprise education and subsequent entrepreneurialism; other studies suggest there is such a relationship. But it's all a bit inconclusive and the report's authors are reluctant to stick their neck out. We know at Enterprise Nation that current owners of start-ups and micro-businesses are hungry for knowledge that would help them run their business more effectively. There's no doubt that enterprise education would have had considerable value for these people and might even have prompted them to become self-employed at an earlier stage. Whether it should be a National Curriculum subject is another matter, though - and there's plenty of debate to be had there about what exactly to teach and how best to deliver it. Please feel free to leave your thoughts below! What can you do to get involved in enterprise education? Laura Hampton of Hallam Internet has today written about one example of a business-owner supporting enterprise education at a summer school, and the benefits of doing so. The 2010 Guide linked to above contains a number of other suggestions for what businesses can do if they build a relationship with local schools. So if you're interested in supporting the next generation of small business-owners, it's well worth contacting your local schools to find out what they do in terms of teaching enterprise. There are also a number of external delivery organisations you could approach. In fact, there are loads of people already doing this, often in very inventive ways. Here are a few that work with businesses:
Education Business Partnerships - find your local EBP on the IEBE website