– Some municipalities have a very positive attitude about entrepreneurship. They have a high degree of enterprise, and entrepreneurship in school is not seen as something controversial. Under such circumstances, entrepreneurship in schools becomes a way to produce more entrepreneurs and for young people to create their own images of what they can do in the future, says Ida Lindh, PhD students in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Luleå University of Technology, and continues:
– Meanwhile, there are municipalities with a more negative attitude towards entrepreneurship. They do not have as high a proportion of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in schools is a controversial issue, largely because of the lack of knowledge. In such municipalities, entrepreneurship is seen as a way to save and preserve existing businesses by creating more employable young people who can be guided into the local labor market, says Ida Lindh.
Unique study examines policies
Since year 2000 policy document from the OECD, the EU, the Swedish government and the Swedish National Agency for Education have directed that entrepreneurship should permeate all levels of education, from preschool to upper secondary school. Then it is up to local authorities how to work with it in practice.
Ida Lindh and Sara Thorgren, Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Luleå University of Technology, have conducted a unique study that examines these policies – how they have changed over time and how they are interpreted and implemented in different municipalities around Sweden.
– We have investigated four municipalities: two with high levels of entrepreneurial activities in urban and rural areas and two with low levels of entrepreneurial activities in urban and rural areas. Our research shows that the policy documents are interpreted very differently depending on the entrepreneurial culture and tradition in the municipality. It makes it a big difference in how schools work with entrepreneurship, which also clearly leads to different results, says Sara Thorgren.
The development might be kept back
The purpose of the policy documents is to increase the entrepreneurial culture in Europe. The researchers believe that this goal will not be achieved if today’s situation doesn’t change, and they call for a clearer policy.
– The wide variation in the interpretation of the purpose of entrepreneurship in schools could lead to great inequalities of the students, which in turn is likely to reinforce the differences that already exist in terms of entrepreneurship between municipalities. One reason for this is the strong emphasis on collaboration with local businesses, says Ida Lindh.
– The study shows that in municipalities with low entrepreneurial activity, entrepreneurship in schools preserve what exists, and students are nurtured for employment in a traditional business structure. Municipalities that already have a high degree of entrepreneurship, instead have the ambition for young people to create enterprises. If using entrepreneurship in schools as a way to reinforce what you already have, it does not lead to the change wished for, says Ida Lindh.