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Supporting the entrepreneurial revolution in Tunisia

Entrepreneurship education is vital to create opportunities for young people. Most countries in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean have burgeoning youth populations and low jobs growth. Creating one’s own business is an important outlet for young people with ideas and energy and limited prospects of formal employment. And even if it does not lead to a start-up, entrepreneurial learning equips young people with soft skills and transversal competences, such as creativity, working with others, spotting opportunities and taking the initiative, that stand them in good stead in challenging labour markets. The importance of entrepreneurship education is one conclusion of a (soon to be published) recent ETF study on the situation of young people in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, entitled Youth in Transition: Profiles and characteristics to untap youth potential in the SEMED region.

Among the countries of the region, Tunisia is in the forefront of developing an entrepreneurial culture among young people as part of its national entrepreneurship strategy. Supported by the European Union and other international donors, this strategy aims at embedding entrepreneurship at all levels of education, supporting young entrepreneurs through access to financing, support services and public contacts, and reducing administrative hurdles for start-ups.

The European Training Foundation has been playing its part by supporting the Tunisian government in making entrepreneurial competences an integral part of vocational education and training in the country. Long-term cooperation on this between the ETF and the Tunisian Ministry for Vocational Training and Employment and latterly the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Occupational Integration started in 2015 following the assessment of the implementation of the Small Business Act for Europe in Tunisia, which recommended an action plan to develop entrepreneurial skills at all levels of education and training.

Annual Forums on the development of the entrepreneurial spirit have served to discuss and disseminate the results of this ambitious project, which include the adoption of a national charter for the development of the entrepreneurial spirit at all levels of education; the creation of teaching materials based on the European reference framework for entrepreneurial competences (EntreComp); the nationwide rollout of an entrepreneurial learning programme, backed by teacher training and coaching and sharing of good practices; and the development of an assessment framework inspired by EntreComp to measure students’ acquisition of entrepreneurial skills.

Embedding entrepreneurship in vocational training is a key element in the country’s reform agenda for the VET system, and this goes beyond mere changes to the curriculum. The sixth edition of the national Forum on the development of the entrepreneurial spirit, held online on November 18, 2020, looked at the potential of entrepreneurship to transform vocational training centres themselves.

“We’re talking about a global entrepreneurial approach,” said Riadh Chaoued, Chief of Staff of the Tunisian Ministry of Youth, Sport and Occupational Integration, “an approach embracing the entire training centre and involving its internal and external stakeholders. We’re talking about a proactive and dynamic centre with real leadership that identifies and seizes opportunities in its environment; a centre that motivates its staff and encourages them to take initiatives, to innovate and create value.”

Bringing key actors and stakeholders in vocational training together with government representatives, and local, international and ETF experts, the Forum discussed the development of a quality label to embed the concept of the enterprising training centre, with a view to building a network of such centres in Tunisia. The Forum considered a conceptual framework for the enterprising training centre and a self-assessment tool to support training centres in measuring their progress towards this model.

“Over six years of intensive cooperation with our Tunisian partners, we have moved from seeing the entrepreneurial mindset as something that vocational schools should teach to seeing it as something that should be part of their DNA”, said ETF expert and project leader Mariavittoria Garlappi. “Vocational schools have to respond to the needs of the communities and businesses they serve, and an enterprising outlook is vital to succeed in this.”

This agenda will be taken forward as part of the ETF Network for Excellence, a new initiative aimed at promoting excellence in vocational education and training. This will include a focus on enterprising VET centres that will bring the Tunisian experience, and the tools developed in the context of this project to an international audience.  


Photo by Naomi Koelemans on Unsplash

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