Why student entrepreneurship is vital for the sustainable growth of our societies

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Rather than blaming “lack of resources”, i.e. time and money, for failures in our educational systems, we need to recognise young people as resources for their personal and collaborative learning – and for the sustainable growth of our societies.

Entrepreneurship is necessary for societies to grow sustainably. Politicians, education researchers and business leaders have called for changes in education at all levels, towards more entrepreneurial and authentic learning environments. The economic connotations of entrepreneurship have, however, exposed educators to ethical dilemmas, which may have hampered the emergence of such environments. Fortunately, entrepreneurship’s social connotations are growing steadily stronger, along with the recognition that it can help solve societal conflicts.

Together with other researchers, I am curious to find out what characteristics “innovative teachers”, i.e. entrepreneurial teachers, have in common. One aspect which stands out is their recognition of each student’s strengths and interests as the main resource in his/her learning. These teachers are also exceptionally skilled at using this information to create trusting relations with the students and to design each student’s learning. This design often includes approaches which make students sense a true value in working with the school assignment. Students get motivated to learn new skills and develop existing competences while creating value for external recipients, which they do in authentic, real-life school assignments.

These mechanisms for effective learning are the same regardless of the learner’s age or level, so they should also be used for teachers’ professional growth – preferably in collaborative settings. Then teachers can offer all students pedagogic entrepreneurship in their learning environments, equipping them for their future professional and personal life and for active participation in democratic societies.

Helena Sagar, PhD in Science Education and Pedagogic Entrepreneurship, holds an innovative position in the Kungsbacka municipality. Her role includes ensuring that school development is informed by research, conducting formal practice-based research, and teaching science and technology at lower-secondary school level.