Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Entrepreneurship Education as Learning to Form Identities — Cross-Cultural Perspective

By Iiris Aaltio and Qian Wang

Submitted: April 3rd 2014Reviewed: August 28th 2014Published: March 25th 2015

DOI: 10.5772/59061

Downloaded: 1959

1. Introduction

In this study we focus on entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurs’ professional identity and related cross-cultural issues [1]. Today’s global business requires professional identities that are flexible and broad-mind, and this is why teaching should recognize these challenges. There is a need for new skills such as generalist skills, social skills and abilities for creating and sustaining new, complex trust-based business networks. We believe entrepreneurship education can promote such abilities. The entrepreneurs-to-be also need ethical rules and codes as they build values and ethical understanding, all rooted in identity. Recently, researchers such as Rae [4] have stressed the need for entrepreneurship education with a strong emphasis on sustainability and responsibility.

The research of entrepreneurship education is related to current policy, and should be understood in this context [5]. Recent advances in theory building in cross-cultural management hold to a dynamic vision of culture and communication [3]. In our study, culture is approached in generic terms, even if interpreted in the context of a national culture. Entrepreneurship must have dynamic characteristics in order to adapt to political and economic changes. For an individual within a specific national culture, his/her behavior and values are affected not only by the national culture, but also organizational culture (if a member of an organization), group culture (if a member of a group) and global culture [12]. The influence of the different levels of culture depends on the context and the individual. Communication is usually seen to be at the center of culture. Differing communication rules, for instance, in the West and East also have an impact on networks. Although important, it seems that this kind of dynamic approach is still quite rare in entrepreneurship training and research.

The identities of business actors need to evolve from the current circumstances and ways of working: who am I as an entrepreneur, with whom do I work and network, and from whom do I get my insights for the future. The identity that business professionals develop is of importance to their entrepreneurship, and it transforms in the cultural context that they connect to and the social groups in society that they professionally relate to. Education creates a kind of mind-set in the course of the lifelong schooling process. Although young people might receive a good academic education they lack preparation for working life and its competitive environment. Job insecurity has increased and unemployment rates among young people remain high. Entrepreneurship education has been criticized as being overly practice-orientated and affording too little space for recognizing opportunities and development abilities in students, which would be necessary for the promotion of creativity [2]. As noted by Kyrö [6], the learning paradigm in universities is not supportive of entrepreneurship, since the traditional and the entrepreneurial mind-set require different educational approaches. Small business provides an excellent employment opportunity for young people, but requires new skills and identities to be learnt that are not offered in earlier school education. Entrepreneurship education that equips students with the abilities needed in this complex interaction between competitive environments and business is required.

The entrepreneurial processes in establishing new enterprises require different kinds of skills than those needed when working in existing stable circumstances. There are many questions to be solved; such as, when should people start learning about running an enterprise and what should the content of such courses be? In general, it is the combination of knowledge, skills and various personal qualities that is important. The socialization of our personality is influenced by the ambient culture, group and social relations within a given society and is dependent on individual experiences. People mostly maintain the values they have acquired by the age of 20, and those adopted at an early age have a stronger influence than those adopted later in life [8]. Skills such as those for communication are equally important; that is, the ability to communicate novel ideas and to listen and respect other people’s opinions. Such skills can also be developed later through education in entrepreneurship programs. The described tendencies apply to the business environment and management education worldwide, even if there are also country-specific ways of coping with these issues.

Nowadays there has evolved several new approaches to being enterprising, such as social entrepreneurship, and this all means learning new ways to be entrepreneurs. This assumes a new perspective on entrepreneurship, challenging its basic assumptions. Social entrepreneurship deals with broad social, cultural, and environmental goals, and is commonly associated with the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors; therefore, it also challenges the conventional business-oriented entrepreneurial identity.

In this paper we explore how research on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education worldwide has taken account of the new requirements for flexible entrepreneurial identities, and what are the essential elements of recent high-quality research and what can be learnt from this for the future.

2. Problems of the study and its field of application

This study is about entrepreneurial identity and how it can be taught, adding here a cross-cultural perspective. We believe there are both universal and country-specific nuances to working as an entrepreneur. National cultures are in a continual process of flux, people living in them are bi-or multicultural, bi-or multilingual and live and move across national boundaries. Many people training to become entrepreneurs are born multinational with more than one national identity. Our question is how entrepreneurial studies are coping with this multinational perspective, and what kind of research is needed in the future. Data used in this study consists of earlier studies including research into identity, entrepreneurship education and cross-cultural issues.

Entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education involves building a personal entrepreneurial identity. Overall, identity and self refers to a person’s own idea of who she or he is [1]. Identity stands at the intersection of self-perception and the perception of others, and it is a relational concept and situated in the cultural context. Individual identity is also created by society, by language, values and institutions, thus making it a socially constructed concept. As noted by Czarniawska [9], human beings are social constructors, and organizations are social constructions. The professional identity of managers has to do with the cultural context she or he connects to and with the social groups in society that she or he professionally relates to. This creates a kind of mind-set in the course of lifelong schooling. Economic society develops more and more closely with the rest of the society, and management and entrepreneurship education should equip students with the abilities necessary for this interaction

According to Hogg and Terry [10], social identity is an integrated perspective on the relationship between self-concept and group behavior. Tajfel [7] defines social identity as the individual’s knowledge that she or he belongs to certain social groups together with some emotional and value significance coming from this group membership. Social identity is linked with organizational and individual concepts, and therefore, plays an essential role in actions and behavior. Hall [11] underlines the paradigms of identity research that emphasize it either as the stable content of one’s personality and mind, or as a continuous process one is going through. Seen as the latter, identity is conscious in terms of the manner in which the individual understands and deals with his or her ‘self’.

The concepts of opinion, memory and self-awareness are important in understanding how individuals achieve a modern identity that is independent of other people’s reactions. Self-narratives occupy a central place in such a process. A university education provides students with special knowledge, skills and behaviors, but it is also a way of shaping and reshaping their individual identities. The processes by which identities are promoted are relevant, and so are the adopted pedagogical solutions. In addition, there are special needs arising from the business context.

Social capital, based on social networks and trust-based relationships, is something that develops in society. This capital is meaningful for any society and is also country-specific, built using the history and social memory of the society. This forms a bridge between entrepreneurship at the individual and societal level, showing its multi-level importance.

3. Research design

The methodology used in this study is a literature based analysis. A review is built and based on peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Primarily according to two databases (described later in the text), we analyze the current state of entrepreneurship education research, its topics, methods and applications. After the analysis and findings we end up with conclusions and further recommendations for entrepreneurship education and research.

4. Method

This study involves a literature review conducted based on scholarly peer-reviewed journals. The principal theme is to explore relevant content in discourses concerning how entrepreneurship education contributes to entrepreneurial professional identity in the current changing business environment. Primarily based on two databases – “EBSCOhost” and “ProQuest” – the following keywords were used in searches: “identity”, “entrepreneurship education” and “cross culture/cross-culture”. The publication date was limited to the 10 years from 2004 to 2014. Only papers with full text are selected, and the language was limited to English. Therefore, after removing duplicates, 29 articles (11 from “EBSCOhost” and 18 from “ProQuest”) were downloaded for further assessment by reading each abstract. However, the quality of these varies considerably, and the main topics in most of them do not quite match entrepreneurship education. Only four to some extent qualified to be advanced in the subsequent analysis process, which is inadequate for ameliorating a literature review. The selection criteria were therefore modified by redefining the keywords respectively for each database in order to achieve an appropriate number of articles. Meanwhile, in-depth scrutinization is needed to control the substance in the sample articles. Ultimately, 28 papers were targeted after continuous trials on determining the boundaries of keywords and publication titles (by which, the search mode can be seen in Table 1). In addition, before importing the 28-article sample into the ATLAS.ti software tool, further clarification of the main findings in each paper was necessary to facilitate code-generation and articulation in the software-adoption process (see Table 2).

KeywordsDatabaseFirst-round resultSecond-round result
“entrepreneurship education” and “entrepreneurship” (for enhancing relativity) and “identity”EBSCOhost365 papers20 papers
(Criteria: all of them should be selected from scholarly peer-reviewed journals, with full text, in English and published from 2004 to 2014.)(After examining each article’s title, abstract and keywords to find relevant themes regarding the further keyword – cross-cultural analysis.)
“entrepreneurship education” and “identity” and “cross culture”ProQuest2913 papers8 papers
(Criteria: same as above.)(By reading through each abstract and keywords, subject-related authenticity and accuracy are improved.)
259 papers
(By limiting papers in relevant publication titles for 17 journals)

Table 1.

Search results per database

The list of articles is presented as follows in Table 2.

‒ Holmgren C, From J, Olofsson A, Karlsson H, Snyder K, Sundtröm U. Entrepreneurship Education: Salvation or Damnation? International Journal of Entrepreneurship 2004; 8:55-71. [13]
‒ Rae D. Entrepreneurial Learning: a Practical Model from the Creative Industries. Education & Training 2004; 46(8/9):492-500. [14]
‒ DeTienne DR, Chandler GN. Opportunity Identification and Its Role in the Entrepreneurial Classroom: A Pedagogical Approach and Empirical Test. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2004; 3(3):242-257. [15]
‒ Frederking LC. A Cross-National Study of Culture, Organization and Entrepreneurship in Three Neighborhoods. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 2004; 16(3):197-215. [16]
‒ Honig B. Entrepreneurship Education: Toward a Model of Contingency-Based Business Planning. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2004; 3(3):258-273. [17]
‒ Curran-Kelly C. Stranger in a Strange Land: using International Student Experiences to Teach Adaptation in Global Marketing. Marketing Education Review 2005; 15(2):55-58. [18]
‒ Katz JA. Fully Mature but Not Fully Legitimate: A Different Perspective on the State of Entrepreneurship Education. J Small Bus Manage 2008; 46(4):550-566. [19]
‒ Vigoda-Gadot E, Grimland. Values and Career Choice at the Beginning of the MBA Educational Process. Career Development International 2008; 13(4):333-345. [20]
‒ Carey C, Smith K, Martin LM. Cross-university Enterprise Education Collaboration as a Community of Practice. Education & Training 2009; 51(8/9):696-706. [21]
‒ Goh JWP. Globalization’s Culture Consequences of MBA Education across Australia and Singapore: Sophistry or Truth? Higher Education 2009; 58(2): 131-155. [22]
‒ Grek S, Lawn M. A Short History of Europeanizing Education: the New Political Work of Calculating the Future. European Education 2009; 41(1): 32-54. [23]
‒ Hytti U, Stenholm P, Heinonen J, Seikkula-Leino J. Perceived Learning Outcomes in Entrepreneurship Education: the Impact of Student Motivation and Team Behavior. Education & Training 2010; 52(8/9):587-606. [24]
‒ Bager T. The Camp Model for Entrepreneurship Teaching. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 2011; 7(2):279-296. [25]
‒ Giacomin O, Janssen F, Pruett M, Shinnar RS, Llopis F, Toney B. Entrepreneurial Intentions, Motivations and Barriers: Differences among American, Asian and European students. International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal 2011; 7(2):219-238. [26]
‒ Harmeling SS. Re-storying an Entrepreneurial Identity: Education, Experience and Self-narrative. Education & Training 2011; 53(8/9):741-749. [27]
‒ Hjorth D. On Provocation, Education and Entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 2011; 23(1):49-63. [28]
‒ Van Reine PP, Dankbaar B. A Virtuous Circle? Co-evolution of Regional and Corporate Cultures. European Planning Studies 2011; 19(11):1865-1883. [29]
‒ Dodd SD, Hynes BC. The Impact of Regional Entrepreneurial Contexts upon Enterprise Education. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 2012; 24(9):741-766. [30]
‒ Gordon I, Hamilton E, Jack S. A Study of a University-led Entrepreneurship Education Program for Small Business Owner/Managers. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 2012; 24(9):767-805. [31]
‒ Howorth C, Smith SM, Parkinson C. Social Learning and Social Entrepreneurship Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2012; 11(3):371-389. [32]
‒ Kwong CCY, Thompson P, Cheung CW-, Manzoor H. The Role of Environment in Fostering Conductive Entrepreneurial Learning: Teaching the ‘Art’ of Entrepreneurship in Boot Camps. Journal of General Management 2012; 38(1):45-71. [33]
‒ Miller TL, Wesley II CL, Williams DE. Educating the Minds of Caring Hearts: Comparing the Views of Practitioners and Educators on the Importance of Social Entrepreneurship Competencies. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2011; 11(3): 349-370. [34]
‒ Mutsuddi I. Kickstarting Entrepreneurship Cells in Business Schools: Roadmap and Challenges. Global Management Review 2012; 6(4):61-76. [35]
‒ Pache A, Chowdhury I. Social Entrepreneurs as Institutionally Embedded Entrepreneurs: Toward a New Model of Social Entrepreneurship Education. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2012 ; 11(3):494-510. [36]
‒ Smith IH, Woodworth WP. Developing Social Entrepreneurs and Social Innovators: A Social Identity and Self-Efficacy Approach. Academy of Management Learning & Education 2012; 11(3):390-407. [37]
‒ Walter SG, Dohse D. Why Mode and Regional Context Matter for Entrepreneurship Education. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development 2012; 24(9):807-835. [38]
‒ Hytti U, Heinonen J. Heroic and Humane entrepreneurs: Identity Work in Entrepreneurship Education. Education + Training 2013; 55(8):886-898. [39]
‒ Bae TJ, Qian S, Miao C, Fiet JO. The Relationship between Entrepreneurship Education and Entrepreneurial Intentions: a Meta-Analytic Review. Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 2014; 38 (2): 217-254. [40]

Table 2.

List of articles included in the analysis

Study findings

The literature was examined under a thematic content analysis using ATLAS.ti in which discourses related to keywords such as “entrepreneurship education”, “identity” and “cross culture” were summarized into 11 codes. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding, they are categorized into 2 code groups (Seen Table 3). Relevant direct quotations with discussions will be exemplified in the following section. Systematic thinking patterns and iterative articulating capabilities are needed during this qualitative process of the analysis.

Code groupCode
Entrepreneurship educationEntrepreneurship education in general
Identity reflected in entrepreneurship educationfrom entrepreneurial identity as a general point of view;
entrepreneurship education as a promising identity workspace;
Cultural factors reflected in entrepreneurship educationgeneral point of view;
national perspective;
regional perspective;
global perspective
Future researchTheory;
Other themes
Suggestions for improving entrepreneurship educationEntrepreneurial knowledge & Skills;
Contextual factors;
Pedagogical perspective;
Entrepreneurship education for SMEs
Europeanizationfor achieving a European model of culture and identity;
Europeanizing education;
Social entrepreneurship educationSocial entrepreneurship education in general
Identity reflected in social entrepreneurship educationfrom social entrepreneurs’ points of view;
from students’ points of view
Environmental factor (national context) reflected in social entrepreneurship education
Suggestions for improving social entrepreneurship education

Table 3.

Code groups and codes including descriptions of subject matter

We now present each of the codes and discuss central issues within it. Reference is made to the article in hand during the presentation.

Code: Entrepreneurship education in general

Researchers attempt to conduct an in-depth analysis of entrepreneurship education (e.g. its definition, course contents, teaching and learning objectives), although there is a lack of significant research on entrepreneurship education programs and their connections to the entrepreneurship point of view. [17, 27] Both the amount and quality of entrepreneurship study needs to be improved providing that “…importance of entrepreneurship as an important study in colleges of business and engineering schools…university education had a significant role in student careers in entrepreneurial pursuits and kickstarting new ventures after their graduation…” [35]. Therefore, not only from a theory-based but also an empirical perspective, entrepreneurship education strengthens student entrepreneurial-related knowledge and skills. The relevant programs and curricula required should be developed with two inherent factors, namely the transmission of information/value from teachers to students and the influence of peers [25]. Besides the knowledge and information flow, entrepreneurship education is defined as a process which increases the cognitive knowledge base in entrepreneurship and practically develops entrepreneurial or enterprising skills in students or pupils through discovering new opportunities and mastering venture creation processes [24, 25]. To transfer the knowledge and to facilitate its progress form the central goals for the school; learners are taught firstly by taking an academic look at entrepreneurship, secondly by enhancing opportunity-identification and exploration abilities, and finally by putting these capabilities into practice. In other words, the aim is to further students’ intentions and motivation to be entrepreneurs or embark on an entrepreneurial occupation, meaning “the desirability (the desire to launch an entrepreneurial career)…and the feasibility (possessing the necessary skills and knowledge to create and manage a company) of entrepreneurship” [26].

In reference [38], reflective and active modes of teaching are demonstrated, which can be introduced as two meaningful divisions in entrepreneurship education.

“…reflective modes, where the learner acquires knowledge through reflective observation, and active modes, where the learner acquires knowledge through active experimentation, differently impact on self-employment intentions…reflective modes involve a more passive role of the students and the teacher initiates the learning process…active modes, the student is more active and initiates the learning process him/herself….” [38]

Code: Identity reflected in entrepreneurship education

From entrepreneurial identity as a general point of view

Identity can be manifested and simultaneously externalized through entrepreneurship education. [14, 27, 39] On the basis of people’s social interactions [14], their identities are cultivated from experience, education, and networks of social relationships [14]. Meanwhile, an enterprise is seen as an appropriate venue for a person to develop his/her identity. [14, 27]

“…entrepreneurial process has an effect on the identity of the creative actor leading to the development of…one’s “possible selves…” [27]

Identity embodies a process of self-identifying, which may include dynamics and changes throughout a specific period. The main aim is to elaborate identity work, which refers to the way people position themselves in discourse, how they attach themselves to certain issues, use and combine texts and materials to articulate and give meanings for themselves and their actions [39] which is further explained in reference [39]:

“Within a training program the participants have the opportunity to explore their relationship with the new venture creation and entrepreneurial career, in short reflecting their own identity with regard to entrepreneurship.” [39]

“…language contributes to providing both self-confidence and identity resources for creating, strengthening and maintaining an identity…individuals engage in identity matching with notable people they compare themselves against…” [39]

Entrepreneurship education as a promising identity workspace

In this section, entrepreneurship education is figured as a typical locus for developing identities from both a general social viewpoint and in the context of a business school. Generally, entrepreneurship education is “a part of the societal production of an order of meaning that transforms to pedagogic communication and practice in educational settings…about a moral creation of order, relations and identity...” [13] In particular, entrepreneurial identity will to some extent be conceptualized in school through learning and in society through network building. [30] Both of these processes are linked to educational goals – “storing particular potential entrepreneurial futures and the result of this joint interaction of actors has a variety of economic, educational and social impacts” and implying “discourse about entrepreneurship to which local pupils have been exposed all their lives…a framework for them to perform these identities...” [30] Therefore, educational entrepreneurship settings serve as an intersection, joining students and other relevant participants in order to learn from one another and obtain certain useful entrepreneurial experience.

“…entrepreneurship education specifically would seem to be a particularly promising identity workspace with its unique ability to connect the individual, with his or her particular interests, knowledge, experience and social networks with the marketplace in which he or she seeks to gain acceptance, implement plans, perform commercial transactions, interact with stakeholders and develop a project, business or organization….” [27]

Code: Cultural factors reflected in entrepreneurship education

General point of view

Entrepreneurship education will reflect features from different cultural backgrounds, and at the same time is influenced by culture. In reference [40], culture is depicted as a contributor that moderates the relationship between entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial intentions. A definition has been introduced where culture is defined as the values, beliefs and assumptions learned in early childhood that distinguish one group of people from another. Furthermore, there are four cultural dimensions (incl. “power distance, in-group collectivism, gender egalitarianism/societal gender inequality, and uncertainty avoidance/perception of uncertainty” [40]) which will exert a certain impact on students’ entrepreneurial minds and future behaviors. For example,

“…differences of social hierarchy between teacher and student due to power distance culture can influence how students accept and incorporate…variations on peer relationship in accordance with the level of in-group collectivism also can affect the effects of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial intentions…two social dimensions (about gender and uncertainty) that may shape a student’s views of entrepreneurship…also determine a student’s entrepreneurial intentions before and after enrolling in entrepreneurship courses…influence a person’s expectations about his or her choice of self-employment…” [40]

In the following section, cultural factors will be illustrated based on three perspectives – from a micro to a macro way of understanding – national, regional and global perspectives.

National perspective

Entrepreneurship education involves bridging knowledge and skills with a formation of certain beliefs, values and attitudes [13, 26], and to set the objective of letting students choose entrepreneurship as an attractive and real alternative [13]. This process has also been presented in a nation’s culture as:

“…a long-term strategy, an investment in the nation's future, aimed at effecting a significant cultural change….by fostering the right kind of individuals; individuals with the specific traits who form a kind of inner resource that can be profitable on the market…” [13]

Students’ attitudes towards entrepreneurship can be distinctively elaborated in entrepreneurship education across different nations [24, 26, 40]:

“…national…culture may have an impact on the attractiveness of entrepreneurship education and the participants’ motivation to study entrepreneurship…” [24]

“Entrepreneurship education should vary nation by nation…across national cultures [26, 40]…there are significant differences among the American, Asian and European students…in entrepreneurial intentions and dispositions as well as motivations and perceived barriers to business startup…” [26]

“A high in-group collectivistic culture, a low gender egalitarianism, and a low uncertainty avoidance culture reinforced the effects of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial intentions….” [40]

Still, an entrepreneurial culture can be thus nurtured through a national culture, and entrepreneurship education may be even more important in nations where the entrepreneurial culture is under-developed compared to countries where the entrepreneurial culture is well established [26].

Regional perspective

The regional context including the regional infrastructure [26]), as a more broadened factor, will have various impacts on entrepreneurship education, and in terms of educational objectives, outcomes, and resources on cultures in school entrepreneurship programs [30]). [26, 30] Therefore, this factor has been named “regionality” [30], and will shape local narratives of entrepreneurial identities and careers [30] into different features and diverse structures throughout regions.

There are two categories classifying regions, namely levels of development [30] and degree of entrepreneurial activity [38], which may vary divergently in accordance with entrepreneurship education.

Level of development:

“Pupils and teachers in more developed regions also perceive much more regulatory support, from the state and other public bodies, than those in under-developed areas. Similarly, cognitive institutions – local knowledge stocks – appear to be lower in less developed regions, raising questions about the requisite intensity of enterprise education, to tackle these deficits head-on.” [30]

Degree of entrepreneurial activity:

“A high degree of entrepreneurial activity within a region (as measured by the number of start-ups per inhabitant) enhances the impact of entrepreneurship education on students’ self-employment intentions…optimal design of entrepreneurship education depends on regional circumstances…” [38]

Meanwhile, the degree of entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial activity contribute to mutually influential conditions:

“Entrepreneurship education offers should have a stronger impact on perceived behavioral control in regions with high degrees of entrepreneurial activity. Such activity also reflects and further adds to a region’s entrepreneurial culture…a high degree of entrepreneurial activity indicates that pro-entrepreneurship attitudes prevail in a region. Students are more likely to form positive attitudes towards entrepreneurship in regions where positive information is readily accessible.” [38]

Global perspective

Recently, globalization is considered a megatrend, which signifies the growing interdependence of nations in terms of manifold facets, including economic, cultural, political and intellectual institutions. [22] At the same time, this brings about changes in social, political and cultural spheres – “namely homogenization, polarization, and hybridization” respectively. [22] Convergence is the long-term objective; however, divergence symbolizes an indispensable constituent. Hence, it is also highlighted as in [22]:

“A hybridization thesis of globalization seems more plausible. That is, people from different cultures borrow and incorporate elements from a variety of sources within particular cultural practices creating hybrid forms.” [22]

Furthermore, the process of globalizing also leads entrepreneurship education with such changes through both visible and invisible factors (visible elements of the culture such as language, dress, ethnic differences, etc….invisible elements such as values, attitudes, traditions, etc…to sensitize the students to differences in cultures... [18]).

Both convergence and divergence also remain in the development of education surrounded by the knowledge society. They are not contradictory poles, but rather coexist in certain respects. Internationalization will provide more opportunities for students to attain multidimensional knowledge and skills; interaction among different cultures can solidify particular practical questions and issues.

“…the effects (homogenizing, diversifying and unifying while diving) may not be all the same for every society…the ‘convergence’ of higher education, such as the MBA program, tend to share the view that globalization opens up more desirable opportunities for the transfer of management theories, policies and practices across cultural contexts...” [22]

“Higher education in developing countries has even begun to ‘integrate into the world community to meet with the global demands and even conform to the international practice’.” [22]

Code: Future research

There are five perspectives concerning the future analysis of entrepreneurship education including in terms of theory, culture, identity, context, and other perspectives. Some of the points are consistent with discussions as previously described. Direct quotations are listed and assigned to similar themes.


Practice-based theory:

“…an absence of effective and practice-based theory on which to base the development of learning programs…a conceptual gap and lack of clarity in terms of what entrepreneurship and enterprising learning are actually about, in learning and educational practice…a need for a holistic model of entrepreneurial learning which can be adapted to different situations, groups and levels of learning…” [14]

Culture-based theory:

“…a culture-based theory for the relationships and differences among groups and nations, as related to career development…” [20]

Entrepreneurial intention:

“…the entrepreneurship education–entrepreneurial intentions relationship…” [40]

Empirical literatures:

“Entrepreneurship education requires a body of empirical literature all its own.” [17]


Boundaries of entrepreneurship:

“…culture is a social/collective phenomenon, and not an individual. If an entrepreneurial culture emerges, will entrepreneurship disappear? This raises questions on what entrepreneurship really is about.” [13]


The definition and range of identity:

“… the potential effect of entrepreneurship education on identity transformation…an exploration of entrepreneurship education as identity workspace – it may bring urgency and relevance, and a desire to learn, to people and places where those attributes have until now been in short supply…” [27]


Social and regional contexts:

“…due attention to social embeddedness and context…the regional context…a complex interplay between university education and regional context in promoting entrepreneurship...” [38]

Organizational contexts:

“…broader benefits of entrepreneurship education…under-explored and an obsession with start-up activities as the main output of entrepreneurship education should perhaps be abandoned…further longitudinal studies examining how entrepreneurial careers develop within a variety of organizational contexts in the longer term…” [33]

Other themes:

Initial process of being an entrepreneur:

“…how the aspiring or nascent entrepreneurs learn the language and apply symbols or rituals that instigate them into the ‘entrepreneurial tribe’…” [39]

Necessity for establishing a procedure of assessments:

“…a lack of development in the field of innovative assessment practices, including self, peer and stakeholder assessments…” [24]

Code: Suggestions for improving entrepreneurship education

Entrepreneurial knowledge and Skills

Entrepreneurial knowledge and skills [40] should firstly be considered as essential for evaluating the effects of entrepreneurship education [40], as students’ entrepreneurial intentions [40] can be positively directed and enhanced during the learning process. For instance, the entrepreneurial skills entailed in the workplace can be seen in reference [33] – creative and innovative problem solving, independent thinking, opportunity recognition and exploitation, readiness for change, risk-taking and self-confidence.

At the same time, modes for advancing new learning experiments and experimenting are at the core of entrepreneurship education [24]. By familiarizing students with the narratives of how entrepreneurial actors have created new artifacts called New Ends, and then providing students with the kinds of tools referred to New Means, such as language, social skills, and behavioral models [27], will eventually progress a clear awareness of entrepreneurial experiences and learners will begin to see themselves as entrepreneurial actors in their own right, creating new “Re-storied” selves and new entrepreneurial identities. [27] A similar outcome can also be approached if students can be successfully endowed with an entrepreneurial culture and if their learning is experiential and problem based [13, 25]. Proper problem-based learning capabilities will allow students to behave and act according to themselves and real-world situations, and create new knowledge rather than consume established knowledge [25]. This is different from normal classroom-based learning [25].

Moreover, training interventions (SEEC securing, expanding, exposing and challenging) and simulations (contingency-based business planning) [15, 17] can be utilized for students to gain high-quality learning experiences [17]. It is beneficial for them to possess an appropriate level of confidence and flexibility towards the changing external environment. In addition, other themes that cannot be ignored are developing trust, creating proactive collaboration, friendships and networks [21] as well as team-based learning in business courses to enhance learning and increase the necessary team-working skills of students [24].

Contextual factors

The environment contributes as a crucial influential factor in entrepreneurial education, as cultural factors reflected in entrepreneurship education have been highlighted in the previous section from various different perspectives.

“…we need to view entrepreneurship education systematically by identifying contextual factors (e.g. “the changes in the business world), inputs into the system, educational processes and finally outputs” [22, 24]

“…regarding the importance of taking national differences into consideration when developing entrepreneurship education programs…” [26]

“…taking account of local enterprise habitus is critical if effective enterprise education is to be carried out…” [30]

Pedagogical perspective

Generally, entrepreneurship as a discipline is mature [19], which means that entrepreneurship can be developed by embarking on a system of curricula and programs with the inclusion of different people, different ideas, and new mixes of rigor and insight [19]. A resource-based view is also necessary, which means that both human and social-network resources can be structured in a well-organized manner.

“…enhance faculty and student capabilities on an ongoing basis, and form networks with entrepreneurs, professional bodies, business organizations and statutory organizations…” [35]

The regional context and environmental changes will pose an indispensable reference supporting entrepreneurial learning in schools. [30, 38]

“…‘joint sense-making and identity-making work’…depicts idiosyncratic habitus-specific entrepreneurial identities, teaches localized entrepreneurial competences and makes manifest latent local resources...” [30]

Considering the process and teaching methods, a rather flexible course framework should be launched by embracing the enhancement of both managerial and communication skills. [13, 24] A “cross-curricular” [13] design can be applied for motivating students to act based on “playing games or running companies” [13]. A camp model can be taken as a typical example, as emphasized in references [25, 33]. In particular, this suggests a creative way of teaching and learning. A new environment is identified and new group members are introduced.

“Students are taken away from their normal school environment to another location and mixed with students from other disciplines and/or schools and with external people, usually business leaders and experts.” [25]

Conventional pedagogy has been changed from a transferring process based on existing knowledge to a problem-solving format regarding real-life circumstances. The students’ own ideas about being entrepreneurs or establishing business plans are placed at the central point. This will not be judged using normal academic criteria. They will achieve their learning goals not only from knowledge exchange via teachers or instructors, but also from experience exchange by themselves as practitioners.

“The camp environment facilitates communication between students, instructors, and entrepreneurs… students to develop their own initiatives utilizing their personal strengths and weaknesses, developing a business plan that is most appropriate for them, and forming their own personal image as an entrepreneur…” [33]

Simultaneously, another way has also been noticed that combines academic learning schemes and future-oriented entrepreneurial skills.

“…arranging internships in start-ups for well-performing entrepreneurship students…through face-to-face contact with the founders and their employees…” [38]

Undoubtedly, the pedagogical process of entrepreneurship is a mutually beneficial approach to education. The role of the students is the focus; their future career is the objective and it realizes entrepreneurial knowledge and skills in practice. To learn from their manner of learning can also provide useful catalogues for educators so as to consider how to improve education itself.

“…a certain responsibility for preventing the process from closing, preventing the institutional operations of discourse from governing towards the singularity of the real, preventing the tendency to pour the cement of dominant theoretical positions into the fissure and cover it up belongs to her/him in particular. The pedagogue needs to learn how the students handle this process...” [28]

Code: Entrepreneurship education for SMEs

The SME owners, who are noticeably considered to be learning from their experiences [31], also require interaction and engagement of collaboration with the HEI (Higher Education Institution). Both sides (HEI and SME) need to collaborate and create a dialogue in order to stay competitive [31]. A smooth and frequent knowledge flow between them will create a bridge linking universities and businesses, in other words, a connection between theories and practices; this bilateral interaction will eventually provide beneficial support for organizational growth in SMEs. Meanwhile, SMEs are able to supply universities with necessary funding opportunities. Hence, they are mutually indispensable in stimulating and sustaining [31] each other, which definitely demands an emphasis on entrepreneurship education of and for SMEs.

Code: Europeanization

To achieve a European model of culture and identity

Europeanization refers to a kind of cultural strategy [23] aiming to achieve a common identity [23] through multilateral associations among national or regional states in Europe. Such a European identity, symbolized as an exceptional source of development, progress and culture [23]), can be further enhanced by integrating education into this system, which will intensify the progress concerning cultural collaboration and ultimately the creation of a new language of identity [23].

Europeanizing education

Education in the European arena is increasingly regarded as important as a factor for stimulating a Europeanizing model of culture and identity. The gradual construction of an open and dynamic European educational area is the goal of cooperation through Erasmus and other exchange programs [23], will furnish this Europeanizing process with various emergent opportunities for establishing an “imagined community” [23]. However, it is also seen that the development of intensive cross-area sociocultural membership may somehow be in conflict with the far-reaching process of globalization. A wide area-based transfer of knowledge might be in some way constrained by specific cultural variables [22].

Furthermore, the knowledge economy [31] is becoming vital in the contemporary world, and this also demands an appropriate adaptation from education in Europe. Competences and skills that are used flexibly, including those in the fields of information technology, foreign languages, technological culture, and entrepreneurship and social skills, are needed for attaining lifelong learning goals [23]. One of the most significant demands is to optimize educational policies through strengthening “international comparability…cross-institutional collaboration…documentation and statistics for the recognition of qualifications…and for key organizations” [23]. Therefore, the globalizing factor cannot be neglected in Europeanizing education; Europeanization is an organic part of globalization and globalization is the background framework for Europeanization.

Code: Social entrepreneurship education in general

Empirical research into social entrepreneurship (SE) education, especially the competencies required, remains scarce. Alongside the rising demand for social entrepreneurship coursework [34], two groups of perspectives emerge that contain trait-oriented or personal attribute views and behavioral competencies [34]. In fact, competencies concerning not only a person’s knowledge and capabilities, but also disposition are considered necessary for organizational performance by social entrepreneurship stakeholders, including social enterprise owners, founders, managers and funders [34]). Social entrepreneurship education is therefore defined as a hybrid set of knowledge and skills grounded in and a reflection of personal and organizational values, ethics, and attitudes [34]. Meanwhile, in a literal sense, social entrepreneurship is inherently associated with the assessment of stakeholders and other practitioners as well as factors within the external context. Social entrepreneurship education in this way can be understood as a process through which aspiring social entrepreneurs become ‘trilingual’ students [36] mastering such behavioral skills of bridging competing social-welfare, commercial and public-sector rationales [36].

“…they are taught to become fluent in the three different languages and conventions of the worlds in which they garner resources, to be at ease with the cultures of these different worlds, and to be able to interact with members of these worlds in a culturally sensitive way…” [36]

To ensure that students are able to transfer their competencies to the workplace effectively for the task or job at hand is also in line with educators’ targets [34].

Code: Identity reflected in social entrepreneurship education

From social entrepreneurs’ points of view

When social entrepreneurs identify themselves as learners in a learning community, the business and social environment will be naturally combined in regard to their intentions and status in society.

“…concept of communities of practice…highlights the importance of developing social entrepreneurs' identities as learners…helpful in dealing with the tension inherent in their identity as social entrepreneurs....” [32]

Learning itself is integrated with social events, as learning for a social entrepreneur is more likely to be associated with communities of practice related to their social aims and values [32]. Indeed, social image and value are highlighted and they might find it difficult to adjust to certain business school programs provided that teaching is primarily based on pure business planning and wealth-accumulation.

From the students’ points of view

In designing the social entrepreneurship curriculum in a school, students should be offered certain opportunities upon recognition of identity work. [36, 37] The ultimate learning objective is to assimilate the learners into the social world in which they will be actively involved as a member. Hence, identity work has been delineated as a set of active processes that serve to construct, strengthen, and revise one's conception of and commitment to a particular identity (whether in the personal or professional realm) [36]. The first step is to motivate students to develop desires consistent with that social identity and to make a positive contribution to society.” [37]

“…a social identity and self-efficacy approach to social entrepreneurship education…helping them identify with the social entrepreneurship community and develop beliefs that they have the tools, abilities, and resources necessary to begin making a contribution...” [37]

After their social consciousness is affirmatively initiated, the reasonable formulation of a plan can be engaged. However, it is anticipated that students should use their practical capabilities – to find the right way to solve real-world problems instead of learning a vague idea for theorizing business proposals. Therefore, besides building on the emotional, concrete environmental conditions need to be taken into account because social entrepreneurship is socially oriented and socially targeted.

“Going beyond course content and experiential learning, identity work interventions in the context of a social entrepreneurship program should be aimed at supporting students in understanding and shaping their future professional and personal identities as social entrepreneurs operating at the intersection of distinct worlds.” [36]

Code: Environmental factor (national context) reflected in social entrepreneurship education

National contextual factors cannot fully determine the design or launching of social entrepreneurship education. Nevertheless, “the degree to which the social entrepreneurship sector is dependent upon three institutional logics (incl. ‘social-welfare, commercial and public-sector logics’)” [36] deviates in some countries. As exemplified,

“…in some contexts, the influence of the state may be very strong, as in Scandinavian countries…it is much weaker, as in many emerging economies…” [36]

In addition, other logics such as the “community logic or religious logics” [36] may also exert a significant influence on students’ social-venture plans based on their profiles and environmental elements. Hence, educators should modify social entrepreneurship coursework and programs to be consistent with “the socialization into a given logic depending on the degree to which the sector is dependent upon this logic for social or material support” [36].

Code: Suggestions for improving social entrepreneurship education

Social entrepreneurship programs should be built on certain principles among students nurturing familiarity, positive relations, and trust [32], and targeted at nourishing their psychological safety and committed learning identities [32]. In this sense, positive social outcomes and fluent communication with public-sector stakeholders will ultimately be fabricated instead of a detachment from social value and social-network creation. [32, 34]

In order to increase the effectiveness of teaching, one of the fundamentals is to recognize needs from the marketplace and try to improve student skills that will be applied within their career path. (“…being more responsive to stakeholders, particularly practitioners…” [34]; “…incorporate multiple logic-building skills – ‘social-welfare, commercial and public-sector logics’ – to those that mainly focus on providing social-venture and social opportunity-specific knowledge...” [36])

During the learning process, students should learn how to be able to forge a clear sense of self-efficacy and the confidence necessary to combat the growing pervasiveness of the world's social ills [37]. The remaining task for educators is to establish a framework comprising of identity-and value-stimulating schemes aimed at aiding students in defining the social category, identifying prototypical members and their characteristics, and encouraging active engagement through modeling vicarious learning using social persuasion and providing mastery experiences [37].

5. Conclusions

In this study we asked how research on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship education world-wide is taking account of the new requirements for flexible entrepreneurial identities in a cross-cultural environment of entrepreneurship, what are the essential elements of recent high-quality research and what can be learnt from it for the future. Entrepreneurship research is wide-ranging but an empirical search indicated that research that also explores identity, cross-cultural issues and education is rare. We now sum up the findings and discuss their limitations as well as future research possibilities.

Discussion on the main findings

Earlier research on identities and cross-cultural entrepreneurship has dealt extensively with pedagogical issues. Reading and analyzing the material from relevant journals we end up with a few special findings in order to strengthen the entrepreneurial identity for cross-cultural needs:

  • Enterprising skills and knowledge benefit from reflection, and highly active experimental modes of teaching are needed. The technical aids, simulation, games and programs could be developed in order to support reflection.

  • Identity work is of relevance and students should be guided along methods of learning where they learn from each other and by reflecting upon their own identity positioning. Peer support and mentoring can be useful tools for this kind of learning.

  • Cultural levels from national to local should be recognized in entrepreneurship education. Internationalization will provide new opportunities for the students and teaching should support learning. Students’ experiences and attitudes could be used in the education more systematically.

  • New learning tools should be developed in entrepreneurship education. Self-reflection, experimenting and practice-based learning as well as problem-based learning and taking advantage of experience are new ways of teaching. Students learn roles and identities and they process into specific skills. Narratives and self-narration are new pedagogically promising techniques that suit learning identity.

  • Europeanizing of entrepreneurship education has its benefits and challenges. International comparability is required and cross-institutional co-operation is of relevance worldwide. Western and Eastern cultural aspects can enrich reflection and mutual understanding and co-operation.

The findings of this research also indicated the broad existence of social entrepreneurship studies in relation to questions of identity and cross-cultural issues in entrepreneurship education. Overall, social entrepreneurship is the process of pursuing innovative solutions to social problems. More specifically, social entrepreneurs adopt a mission to create and sustain social value instead of pure business orientation. While business entrepreneurs typically measure performance in terms of profit and return, social entrepreneurs also take into account a positive return for society. Social entrepreneurship can also be practiced in an international context. Social entrepreneurs are also required to learn to construct their identity:

  • Raising social awareness is needed and one should commit to social issues, and build upon the emotional aspect of enterprise.

  • Social ventures have a different logic compared to classical entrepreneurship, this might include local, community or religious aspects. Specific environmental issues should be included in business plans and addressing real-world problems is of special importance. Students might find it difficult to adapt to the ordinary business school programs based on pure business planning.

  • Social entrepreneurship especially benefits from pedagogies and ways of teaching that take account of and are based on different ideas about entrepreneurial identity.

Overall, education is a way of shaping and reshaping individual identities, both personal and professional. The educational process itself by which identities are created is relevant, but equally relevant is its content. Bridging from earlier values, knowledge and experiences is important especially in the case of a transition society characterized by rapid change. Entrepreneurship education can be seen in this context either as a change agent toward a better future, or as a tool that supports the subjects themselves in transforming and adjusting to new cultural contexts, and building identities that meet the new economic circumstances. The practice of entrepreneurship is constructionist by nature, creating and recreating its own rules in each instance of use. In management education, the use of narratives and the stimulation of the tacit knowledge of the participants work better than recipe books in the creation of the identity of intending or existing entrepreneurs.

Identity building can take place through the collective sharing of experiences by students. When students in teams discuss their own experiences of business life and how it is changing, they bridge their previous experiences into the current context. Reflecting on these experiences in their own words will help them find their own way to face the realities of business life and adopt their own identity as a business professional. This creates a sense of freedom and personal control over one’s own activities.

Identity is an outcome of shared, interactional processes where individuals locate themselves within various societal structures and cultures. Entrepreneurship education can promote such competencies in students and enable them to transform their identities and find trusting relations and opportunities for business actions and new ventures. Opportunities may be found in new enterprises and partnerships. Entrepreneurship is about doing as well as copying and learning from experience.

Identity building as an educational aim includes the values, attitudes and capabilities of students that support their adaptation to changing requirements. Cooperation, inter-and intra-organizational communication, and customer-orientated product development are important considerations. It is also notable that identity building helps society to develop social capital, which means social networks and trust-based relationships as a means of gaining prosperity.

Future research and limitations of the study

Even if based on extensive literature analysis, we end up finding some limitations of the study approach. A longer time-range for the longitudinal data could picture the course of the identity research of entrepreneurship education probably somewhat differently. Also we are aware that using the defined criteria definitely has restricted the selected studies and left out some interesting work. Because our study approach is conceptual, also future research could take its main findings as a frame for an empirical study. Social entrepreneurship education still could benefit conceptual work concerning its basic nature, and studies could be more sensitive to its different contexts. Cross-cultural analysis could include many environments and study how regional and more international contexts effect the nature of social entrepreneurship education. A more systematic and holistic view of theoretical framework could be developed concerning practice-oriented model with ideas of entrepreneurial learning. Finally, the studies used in the analysis also did not include a lot of practical assessment and comprehensive evaluation system, which might be a good subject of study in future research.


ATLAS.ti: is defined as a computer software program, which has been largely applied in qualitative research (incl. content analysis in this paper) for exploring different types of materials especially without particular structures (e.g. “text, pictures, sound and video”). Researchers are able to categorizing each document based on codes which can be created partly in accordance with their interpretation and logic. By analyzing the relationship between the codes, theoretical ideas can be generalized in a transparent and visualized way.

Code: is meant as a text segment located, selected and marked by researchers based on the research objectives/questions of a paper; it can be identified directly as a quotation or defined by the researchers themselves with a new name in a streamlined version.

© 2015 The Author(s). Licensee IntechOpen. This chapter is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Iiris Aaltio and Qian Wang (March 25th 2015). Entrepreneurship Education as Learning to Form Identities — Cross-Cultural Perspective, Entrepreneurship Education and Training, Jose C. Sanchez-Garcia, IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/59061. Available from:

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