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Teachers hold the key to entrepreneurial learning

Thematic Area: ; School and teacher development
Year/Date: 14/07/2011

Teachers participate in the entrepreneurial learning symposium

Teachers must come on board if the entrepreneurial learning agenda is to move forward according to participants at the first day of the Symposium on promoting entrepreneurship in teacher training organised by the European Training Foundation in Istanbul on 13 July. The question of how to do this occupied the minds of policymakers and teacher training specialists alike as they worked hard to come up with a set of policy principles which could guide the process in Turkey, the western Balkans and the southern Mediterranean. “How can we get teachers in our busy schools ready for the entrepreneurial agenda without overstretching scarce resources?” asked Anthony Gribben, head of enterprise and entrepreneurship at the ETF, kicking off the meeting.

What became clear as the day wore on was that there are several reasons why teacher training should take priority. First and foremost this is because teachers are the most important agents of change in education systems and if we want them to be active proponents of education for entrepreneurship, they will need encouragement and support in order to do so. Lamis Al-Alami, Minister of Education and Higher Education in the occupied Palestinian territories pointed out that there is a lot of entrepreneurial learning activity taking place in the non-formal sector, but the question is how do we get it mainstreamed. Involving the business sector is essential, through initiatives such as teacher placements in companies and stints of teaching by business people, and should lead to new relationships between schools and companies. “Education systems cannot be seen as beggars always asking for money,” said Rósa Gunnarsdóttir, an adviser at the Icelandic Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, “we want to work with business on an equal footing and we are interested in their cooperation not their money.”

It also became clear that advocates of entrepreneurial learning may have to work hard to dispel myths and misunderstandings about what it actually means and who it can benefit. Delegates from the Western Balkans described how during the war years for many the figure of the entrepreneur became associated with shady dealings while others stated that teachers, and certainly teachers` unions, could equate the idea with teaching children how to be capitalists. “But as the people in this room all know we are not talking about bringing the market into the classroom, we are talking about something which is much more inclusive and which can help everyone to be more competitive,” said Gribben.

Concentrating on the benefits for everyone of becoming more entrepreneurial could be the best way forward, delegates suggested. “Teaching entrepreneurship is giving people a tool for life,” said Michael Oren, vice president of the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, “even if the teacher or the student will not become an entrepreneur in future, they get a lot of tools for life – it builds confidence, encourages problem-solving and spotting opportunities.”

The conference agenda included a range of inspiring examples of education for entrepreneurship in action in pre-accession and Mediterranean countries as well as Iceland. Participants will spend the next day and a half of the conference discussing more specific proposals on how teacher training can help teachers deliver entrepreneurial learning.

Public comments

  • Prof. Andy Penaluna - 18/07/2011 17:51:50

    This is excellent news. Here in Wales we have just piloted our PGCE / PCET Initial Teacher Training course and the feedback has to be seen to be believed! This agenda is so important, please do keep us up to date Antony.

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