Teaching Entrepreneurship in Secondary Schools

Where should entrepreneurship be introduced and taught in the high school curriculum? As could be expected, there are several courses and levels into which entrepreneurship can be integrated. While a full unit on entrepreneurship could be taught as a stand-alone, independent course of study, this is not the only approach, or necessarily the most effective. Even if a freestanding course is provided in the curriculum, its effectiveness will be enhanced if entrepreneurial insights are provided throughout the entire curriculum. If entrepreneurship education is isolated in a single course, apart from the whole curriculum, it may be missed by many students who then would not profit from their potential development as enterprising individuals.

Placing entrepreneurial concepts and the entrepreneur into
the standard economics course not only makes the course more reflective of the real world, but it also can help to
improve students' comprehension and enjoyment of the economics course.

Economics. The discussion above has outlined some of the key entrepreneurial concepts that should be integrated into the typical economics course. Illustrations of how these concepts might be taught are contained in the lesson plans in Part 2 of this Master Curriculum Guide. Placing entrepreneurial concepts and the entrepreneur into the standard economics course not only makes the course more reflective of the real world, but it also can help to improve students' comprehension and enjoyment of the economics course.

Business education. Perhaps the next most obvious place where entrepreneurship should be included is in the high school business education curriculum. In addition to the creative and enterprising attributes, the business education course will introduce the financial and human management skills that are necessary for the formation and survival of a new enterprise. The business education course should also have the students think of themselves as employers rather than employees in the market system. This view will enable the business student to identify with the important issues with which the entrepreneur must grapple as part of the development of a business plan. These issues include new products, process innovation, employee training and management, financing the enterprise, and assessment of the marketplace. The desired outcomes of the business education course should include the students' ability to deal with the unknown in an enterprising way.

Government. The action of government in creating and limiting the environment for entrepreneurship should be included in courses of high school government. Government regulations and taxes have an impact on the entrepreneurial environment. Regulation is a burden for all businesses, but more especially for small entrepreneurial ones that generally have less ability to bear the costs of compliance.

History courses are a natural place within the curriculum to discuss how entrepreneurs have helped determine the course of human events.

Comparative studies should be undertaken about the role of entrepreneurs under alternative political systems. Why has there been a movement toward the free market in command societies? To what extent is the existence of one kind of liberty essential for the presence of the other? Can government bureaucrats be entrepreneurial? These are just a few of the questions that might be posed in a government class with entrepreneurial content.

Psychology. A course in psychology is an excellent place for students to understand the psychological characteristics of the entrepreneur and to assess their own characteristics and capacities to be entrepreneurial. A psychology course that allows students to develop their own concepts of self-worth and inner control would be a welcome addition to the process of entrepreneurship education.

Sociology. The study of the sociology of entrepreneurship is in its infancy, but there are several ideas that are consistent with the thrust of entrepreneurship education. Students should realize that entrepreneurs shape and are shaped by the culture in which they live. Why do some ethnic groups seem to be more entrepreneurial than others? How does entrepreneurship permit minority groups to enter the economic and social mainstream? These are but two of the myriad questions that link entrepreneurship and sociology, and high school courses can now begin to explore them.

History. History courses are a natural place within the curriculum to discuss how entrepreneurs have helped determine the course of human events. History courses too often focus on politicians, rulers, and military leaders. History teachers can do a great deal to expand the horizons of their students by focusing on case studies of entrepreneurs who have contributed to the betterment of humankind. Case studies are particularly valuable if a variety of alternative stories are included that allow the students to relate to entrepreneurs of their same race and/or gender. Entrepreneurial history can help students understand that most progress is made in small steps. While the "mega" innovations are important, progress really happens as ideas are adapted and refined. The cumulative process of improving and changing old ideas in an incremental way to better satisfy consumer or producer needs is the form most entrepreneurial activity takes and in so doing makes history.   Science. Entrepreneurship can also be a thread woven into the fabric of science courses. Since technological advance often begins with scientific insight and continues because of entrepreneurial persistence, students should understand the relation between scientific discovery and entrepreneurship. Many of the great scientists were also entrepreneurs. They not only invented the product or technology but also brought it to the marketplace. Students should understand these relationships between the laboratory and the market.

Vocational/technical education. For many years, entrepreneurship has been an integral part of many vocational/technical programs. The majority of American high school students are enrolled in some vocational/ technical course or program. These offerings present an excellent opportunity for the spreading of entrepreneurship education over a significant number of students.

The focus of entrepreneurship education in the vocational/ technical curriculum has been narrow and limited to the teaching of skills needed to start and sustain a small business, but most vocational/technical programs contain at least a module on basic economics. In this module the links between the market and the entrepreneur need to be stressed. The curriculum should be broadened beyond skills training to include an understanding of how employees can be enterprising as well as units on the nurturing of entrepreneurial traits and characteristics.

CONCLUSION

Those who design secondary school curricula should make sure that entrepreneurship has its place in economics, business education, history, science, psychology, sociology, and vocational/technical education. Entrepreneurship is neither a separate nor an alien concept, but one that can enrich the students' understanding of a variety of subjects in the regular curriculum. Perhaps more important, the study of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship can demonstrate how enterprising behavior can have a positive impact on society. Entrepreneurs are good models for students to emulate.

Adopted and used with permission.
Master Curriculum Guide: Economics and Entrepreneurship
© 1991, National Council on Economic Education, New York, NY. 
All rights reserved.
For more information visit www.ncee.net
or call 1-800-338-1192.

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Case studies are particularly valuable if a variety of alternative stories are included that allow the students to relate to entrepreneurs of their same race and/or gender.

 

 

 

 

Students should realize that entrepreneurs shape and are shaped by the culture in which they live.

 

 

 

Entrepreneurship projects, are first and foremost, experiential education, they fill a vacuum that many people, many young people feel that they need.  And they're voting with their feet.  They're leaving school in droves, if you look at the dropout rate, and the principle reason for the dropout rate, according to research we and others have done, is that kids just don't like the regimentation for the school, and they're crying out for experiential learning opportunities.

-Andrew Hahn
The Heller School,
Brandeis University

 

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