Entrepreneurship Must be Embedded at all Levels of Education System – SERA

Entrepreneurship Must be Embedded at all Levels of Education System – SERA

Ireland’s education system must be reformed to ensure entrepreneurial skills and an understanding of entrepreneurship are fostered in students of all ages.  That’s according to the South-East Regional Authority (SERA), which today (29.04.11) held the inaugural awards ceremony for its ‘Generation Next’ entrepreneurship competition in Waterford City. 

At the awards ceremony, the outcomes of a number of research studies conducted by SERA as part of its involvement in an EU part-funded ‘Youth Entrepreneurship Strategies’ (YES) project were showcased.  These included reports on third-level students’ attitudes to entrepreneurship and a mapping of entrepreneurship teaching at all levels of the education system. 

Speaking at the event, Cllr. John Cummins, Cathaoirleach of SERA, said the research shows there is a strong desire for entrepreneurship education amongst students in Ireland and that the Government must take immediate steps to address deficits in the teaching of the subject. 

“In the past, the teaching of entrepreneurship has been linked to business-related modules and has been more prominent at second and third levels,” he said.  “What we would like to see is the embedding of entrepreneurship and the fostering of entrepreneurial skills across all subjects and all levels of the education system. 

“Our work on the YES project has demonstrated that students of all ages are very keen to develop entrepreneurial skills.  However, they are being hampered because Ireland doesn’t have a national Entrepreneurship Education Strategy and there has been a lack of high-level policy commitments to both entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurship itself in the past.  As a result, Ireland scores badly – in comparison to our European neighbours – when it comes to students’ engagement with entrepreneurship education.  At third level, for example, only 12 per cent of students engage with entrepreneurship education, compared with 16 per cent in the UK and an EU-wide average of 24 per cent.

“The new Government is well placed to address these deficits.  The Minister for Education and Skills indicated earlier this week that he aims to roll out a remodelled Junior Cert next September: this presents a perfect opportunity to embed entrepreneurship education across the second-level curriculum.  But there is also a need for more supports at third level and primary level too.”

The mapping research launched by SERA today found there is no specific entrepreneurship education subject in the primary-school syllabus.  It also highlighted the lack of a national framework for entrepreneurship education institutionally, which would support education and practice among staff and students at all levels and across all disciplines.  The research found relatively little evidence of organisational and institutional commitment – particularly in the higher education sector – to encouraging or developing entrepreneurship teaching or learning practice.  

In a separate research project, a survey conducted amongst third-level students showed a strong desire for more entrepreneurial teaching, particularly in the form of dedicated entrepreneurial classes.  Six hundred students across Ireland’s 28 third-level institutions were surveyed, and key findings included:

• Two-thirds of students feel the education system does not do enough to encourage entrepreneurship.
• 60 per cent of students have had some entrepreneurial teaching as part of their third-level education, but there is a strong desire for more entrepreneurial education, particularly in the form of a dedicated class or module in entrepreneurship. 
• One in four students believe they will become self-employed within the next 10 years, and almost half of those who have had entrepreneurial teaching believe they are more likely to start their own business due to the teaching.   
• Students see independency and financial gain as the main drivers of entrepreneurship.  The main barriers identified are lack of commercialised ideas, finances or business competences; not being willing to take financial risk; and the current economic climate. 
• The most mentioned suggestions for the improvement of entrepreneurial teaching are more experience from the ‘real world’; more hours / classes; and specific information on how to start businesses in particular fields of study. 

‘Generation Next’ Competition
In addition to the launch of the research reports, the winners of the inaugural ‘Generation Next’ competition were unveiled at today’s awards ceremony.  ‘Generation Next’ was developed by SERA through its involvement in the YES project and is aimed at introducing entrepreneurship to primary-school children.  It is supported by the nationwide network of County and City Enterprise Boards. 

For the competition, third-level students were invited to submit ideas – under either a ‘Lesson Plan’ category or a ‘Teaching Aid / Tool’ category – on how to introduce entrepreneurship as a subject in primary-school classrooms.  At today’s ceremony, 25-year-old Cian Ó Lorcáin won the ‘Lesson Plan’ category.  His suggested lesson centres on using an updated version of the ancient Aesop’s Fable of ‘The Miser’ to encourage children to think about saving, spending and investing money.  Mr. Ó Lorcáin is a student of Communications at NUI Galway and is originally from Listowel, Co. Kerry.

Natalie Power from Castlebridge, Co. Wexford, and Carol Tompkins from Tinahely, Co. Wicklow – both of whom are 20 years old and studying Business at Waterford IT – won the ‘Teaching Aid / Tool’ category.  Their entry, ‘Kidz Buzzness’, is a toolbox for use in the classroom, packed full of fun ‘tools’ – including toy money – and instructions for pupils on setting up and running their own classroom-based ‘enterprises’.  In addition to winning the ‘Teaching Aid / Tool’ category, this entry was also awarded the ‘Grand Prix’ prize for best overall entry.  The girls were presented with their ‘Grand Prix’ prize by leading entrepreneur Sean Gallagher – of ‘Dragon’s Den’ fame – who is the Ambassador for the ‘Generation Next’ competition.

Speaking at the event, Mr. Gallagher said: “I’ve been working with SERA on the ‘Generation Next’ competition since the start of this year and I think it’s a great initiative.  We all know that more is needed to encourage students at all levels to develop their entrepreneurial skills.  What’s great about this competition is that the end result is focused on introducing practical tools and lesson plans into primary schools, but the competition also engages third-level students in developing these ideas and getting them thinking about enterprise and entrepreneurship education.  I was really impressed with the winning entries and I hope to see them being used in primary schools throughout Ireland in the coming years.”

SERA will work with the network of County and City Enterprise Boards and other stakeholders over the coming months to take forward the winning entries in ‘Generation Next’, with a view to having them implemented within the primary-level sector.  Further information about the competition is available at www.generationnext.ie. 


Contact: Dermot Ryan / Martina Quinn, DHR Communications, Tel: 086-6002306 / 087-6522033

The South-East Regional Authority is a partner in the EU INTERREG IVC part-funded project ‘Youth Entrepreneurship Strategies’ (YES) project, involving eight regions from eight EU member states. The project runs from January 2010 to December 2012 and SERA is collaborating with the Network of County and City Enterprise Boards in the project’s implementation in Ireland.   The overall objective of the YES project is to improve policies at national, regional and / or local level regarding the integration of entrepreneurial teaching into the education system. 

Further information about SERA is available at: sera.ie.  Further information about the YES project is available at: www.young-entrepreneurs.eu.

Tue, 10 May 2011 18:00:00 BST