Learn. Lead. Innovate.

Learn. Lead. Innovate

keskiviikko 5. kesäkuuta 2013

Guest post by entrepreneurship network coordinator Heli Vuorela

How to inspire entrepreneurship and active citizenship in high schools?

Heli Vuorela's picture

Education of entrepreneurship takes different forms in different upper secondary schools in Finland. It is one of the six cross-curricular themes in the Finnish core curriculum for upper secondary schools. Each school practices this theme in its own way.

As stated in the Finnish National Core Curriculum for upper secondary schools, 2003: "The objective of the cross-curricular ’active citizenship and entrepreneurship’ theme is to educate students to become contributing, responsible and critical citizens. This means participation in and influence on different areas of society from political, economic and social activities to cultural life. The levels of participation are local, national, European and global.”

In 2009 a network of 23 upper secondary schools from all parts of Finland started a project to develop and promote education of entrepreneurship. The network was called entrepreneurship network (In Finnish Yrittäjyyslukioverkosto) and the project was funded by the Finnish National Board of Education. During the following four years these high schools have shared and spread their best practices of education of entrepreneurship.

The key points of education of entrepreneurship according to these 23 schools in the network are ‘intrapreneurship’, responsibility, activity and initiative. Not only is education of entrepreneurship one subject among the others, but it also means an enterprising attitude in studying and in teaching. An enterprising person – student or teacher – is willing to try new things, maybe make mistakes, but eventually learn a lot.

For a teacher an enterprising attitude means a whole new pedagogical approach. Students are given more responsibility and the teacher’s role becomes more coach-like. Old traditions of teaching are given less emphasis, and the teacher is willing to test new methods, collaborative working playing a big part in classrooms.

Team work is crucial in education of entrepreneurship. Students work in small groups with a project. They usually come up with their own project ideas, thus their motivation is better than in projects given by somebody outsider (like teacher).  In team work students have a possibility to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, and they can develop skills that they will need later on in working life, or their studies after upper secondary school.

In project learning students have to find knowledge and supply it in their project. They can’t wait for the teacher to ‘teach’ them, instead, they learn by doing. An essential part of education of entrepreneurship is co-operation with enterprises and working life. Students may work for companies with a project, or they may get a ‘godfather’ or ‘godmother’ of an experienced entrepreneur to guide and coach them in their project. Also teachers participate in on-the-work learning outside the school. These working days give teachers a broader view on today’s working life than a few-hour visits do.
In the later phase of the 4-year-long network project the social media became an important tool for all parts of the network. Students were encouraged to use social media in learning, teachers found the social media as one channel to reach their students and colleagues. Also the schools as organizations started to use social media in marketing and leading the school, and in informing students in everyday life. Facebook is now a major channel of communication within the network itself. Many of teachers use Twitter to connect with their colleagues abroad, and to follow discussions about education of entrepreneurship and education overall.

The project came to an end in May 2013. The practices and pedagogical methods we have learned will remain and continue to develop in coming years. Students who were part of the process will with certainty profit from their experiences in teams and projects in which they have participated.
In the final seminar in April 2013 the network gathered in Jyväskylä to sum up the achievements of the project. At that occasion we were warmly welcomed to ECF to learn about ECF’s steps toward international business of education. We learned a lot, and we want to welcome all the teachers from all over the world to visit our upper secondary schools  with enterprising students and teachers!

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