The Importance of Entrepreneurship Courses in Teacher Education Curriculum
Structural changes in the economy shifted Europe’s comparative advantage towards knowledge-based activities. These changes have led to opportunities for new entrepreneurial initiative, particularly in the area of services. Europe’s competitiveness, innovation and economic growth depend on being able to produce future leaders with the skills and attitudes to be entrepreneurial in their professional lives, whether by creating their own companies or innovating in larger organizations. Entrepreneurship education is the first and arguably the most important step for embedding an innovative culture in Europe (Wilson, 2008 ). If it is to make a success of the Lisbon strategy for growth and employment, Europe needs to stimulate the entrepreneurial mindsets of young people, encourage innovative business start-ups, and foster a culture that is friendlier to entrepreneurship and to the growth of small and medium-sized businesses (Group, 2008 ). The important role of education in promoting more entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors, starting even at primary school, is now widely recognized. Since education and especially universities play a vital role in the transformation of economies and societies, the specific role of higher education institutions (HEIs) in fostering entrepreneurship is considered to be an appropriate topic of investigation, discourse and dissemination (Mitra, 2008 ). Education can help the development of entrepreneurship (Mitra & Manimala, 2008). Promoting entrepreneurial skills and attitudes education in entrepreneurship provides benefits to society even beyond their application to new business ventures. In a broad sense, entrepreneurship should be considered as a general attitude that can be usefully applied in all working activities and in everyday life, such as creativity and innovation (Sarri et al. 2010). Everyone may at some stage need to become an entrepreneur, or to display entrepreneurial behavior or to have the opportunity of creating his/her own business regardless of background or location (EU Commission, 2004). Entrepreneurship teaching in HEIs has expanded in recent years, with an increasing number of institutions offering entrepreneurship courses and a greater number of students attending them, both in North America and Europe. There has also been innovation in the teaching methods used, which increasingly emphasize experiential activities, the use of cases, the development of business strategy and the use of interactive computer technologies. The purpose of this study is to reveal the importance of the entrepreneurship courses in a Department of Primary Education. More specifically, the study focuses on the attitudes of students in a Department of Primary Education with respect to the importance of entrepreneurship education in the university as well as to record students’ willingness to get involved in entrepreneurship activities (i.e. starting up a new business, or taking over an existing one). Moreover, the study examines the possible different aspects on entrepreneurship matters between students that attended entrepreneurship courses and the ones who didn’t during their studies. Furthermore, the study is trying to investigate students’ attitudes about the term of entrepreneurship and about the level of absorption of all the necessary competences to promote and spread the idea of entrepreneurship to the new generations as future teachers in primary schools.
For the purpose of the study a questionnaire is used to collect information from students of the Department of Primary Education of the University of Western Macedonia, about the importance of entrepreneurship. The data are collected during the spring semester of 2012. The questionnaire contained questions about students’ attitudes concerning entrepreneurship (if they understand it’s meaning or if they can imagine it), the importance of education for entrepreneurship (both in individual and non level), the expected benefits through their participation in the entrepreneurship courses, the competences that they can develop through these courses enabling them to increase their competitiveness and effectiveness in the labor market and their ability to apply their knew knowledge and skills as future teachers in the class, to create the right attitudes in individuals and to develop new knowledge and competences relevant for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship education scholars and practitioners in this matter face several assessment challenges. First, due to the lack of definition of the concept ‘entrepreneurship’ as well as the meaning it can take in different settings, sectors, countries and systems; (Lans & Gulikers, 2010). Competence-based assessments include characteristics that primarily focus on students’ ability to integrate knowledge, skills and attitudes into performing job relevant tasks or roles (Gulikers, Bastiaens, & Kirschner, 2004) (Mulder, 2001).
The important role of education in promoting more entrepreneurial attitudes and behaviors is now widely recognized (Group, 2008 ). Entrepreneurship should be viewed as a new basic competence, not just as a means to create more businesses - thus contributing to economic growth and to job creation - but also as a way to stimulate the development of personal qualities that will help fulfill the potential of the individual. Education can contribute to creating a more entrepreneurial culture, empowering the relationship between economic life and higher education and promoting entrepreneurial competences and attitudes. Universities can support the development of a general knowledge of entrepreneurial environments, promote entrepreneurial thinking (Hoffmann et. al., 2008) and raise students’ awareness of self-employment and entrepreneurship as options for their future career. Data collection is still in progress. However, it is expected from the study to reveal the importance of the entrepreneurship courses in the curriculum of Primary Education Departments. Students through these courses, have the opportunity to develop the necessary skills and competences for enhancing the entrepreneurship culture and attitude such as creativity, spirit of initiative, responsibility, capacity of confronting risks and independence.
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