The study of entrepreneurship at all stages of education has been the subject of debate in the international sphere for many years. For some time now the European Union has been recommending its member States to carry out specific actions in order to foster an enterprising spirit among students. Currently some very important documents and recommendations for action are available, and they call on public authorities, business associations, schools, NGOs and other interested parties to promote entrepreneurship in education.
Although numerous studies have shown that business skills can be cultivated as early as the first stages of schooling and that there is a strong relation between an adequate educational offering in entrepreneurship and greater business activity, the truth is that the educational training in entrepreneurship offered is still poor in all countries, especially at the pre-university level [1-6]
The aim of this chapter is to present concrete experiences of the practical application of entrepreneurship education in Spain and also to contribute to the dissemination and exchange of best practices in that country. In doing so we hope to offer a complete panorama of the current situation in Spain and help to design future actions. We also hope this serves as a stimulus to highlight all of these experiences.
1.1. International framework: OECD and EU
At the European level, entrepreneurship education has mainly been approached from international agencies such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU), of which Spain is a member.
The OECD groups 30 States committed to promoting democracy and a market economy. It came into being in 1961 as the successor of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC). The OECD compiles statistics and comparative economic data; it investigates social change and developmental patterns in areas such as commerce, the environment, agriculture and other sectors. In this way its member States can compare experiences and seek effective solutions to problems that are common to all. In the fields of education and employment, the OECD is not only working hard to ensure equal access to education but also fighting against social exclusion and unemployment.
Among the milestones in fostering an enterprising spirit we would highlight the Bologna Conference and the Istanbul Conference. On June 14-15, 2000, the 1st Ministerial Conference was held in Bologna to discuss “Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs in the Global Economy: Strategies and Policies,” thus giving rise to the so-called Bologna Process on SME policies and entrepreneurship. The result of that conference was the Bologna Charter on SME Policies in 2000 , which proposed a consistent approach to SME policies. The Charter recommends that SME policies should take into account that the capability of these companies to manage innovation can be improved by: the dissemination of a culture of innovation, and the dissemination of technological and market information (e.g. by creating links between companies and educational systems).
The OECD Ministerial Conference held in Istanbul on June 3-5, 2004 to discuss “Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovative SMEs in a Global Economy” examined how to promote entrepreneurship as a force for innovation, as well as the effects of globalization on SMEs and their ability to compete globally. The Ministerial Declaration from the Istanbul Conference regarding the promotion of innovative and internationally competitive SMEs reaffirms the need to support the development of the best public policies, including education, in order to foster the creation and rapid growth of innovative SMEs. It specifically proposes the development of a culture that favours entrepreneurship and recognizes successful businesses as well as the integration of entrepreneurship at all levels of the formal education system to facilitate this development. Formal education should be complemented with “learn by doing” activities and other practical workshops; this objective thus demands special attention to teacher training programs.
In regard to the European Union (EU), it should be pointed out that the treatment of entrepreneurship education in the European context has its origins in several different authorities. First, the European Commission, through the Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry (DG Enterprise and Industry), which is in charge of promoting the agenda of entrepreneurial initiative, including in education, by means of political cooperation outside the structure of binding Community legislative instruments. This matter has also been addressed by the DG of Education and Culture and in the DG for Regional and Urban Policy. Entrepreneurship education has thus been subject to consideration in the different agencies of the Council of Europe, and in the mandatory European Council meetings every semester.
The reasons why entrepreneurship education has been approached from such different angles in the EU are obvious. The DG of Education and Culture seeks to have comparable qualifications in order to foster the free circulation of persons and workers. The DG for Enterprise and Industry seeks to promote a business mentality and enrich the productive fabric of Europe. Both of these touch on regional cohesion policies, addressed to eliminating the differences in economic development of the member States and their regions.
Table 1 provides a synthesis of the main milestones in the European debate about the introduction of entrepreneurship education, from the year 2000 with the launching of the Lisbon strategy until the present. More information can be found regarding some of the milestones and documents included in the Table as well as how entrepreneurship education is treated in the EU by consulting the corresponding section of the SME portal of the European Commission .
|Document/ Event||Date||Area of Community Competence|
|Special Meeting of the European Council in Lisbon||Lisbon, June 2000||European Council|
|European Charter for Small Enterprises||Santa Maria da Feira, June 2000||EU General Affairs Council|
|European Forum. Training for Entrepreneurship||Nice, October, 2000||DG Enterprise and Industry (European Commission)|
|Communiqué “Education and Training”||2003||European Commission|
|Communiqué “Promoting an enterprising mind-set through education and training”||2006||European Commission|
|Conference “Entrepreneurship Education in Europe: Fostering Entrepreneurial Mindsets through Education and Learning” (Oslo Agenda)||Oslo, 2006||European Commission|
|Recommendation on key competences for permanent learning||2006||European Parliament and European Council|
|“Small Business Act” for Europe (SBA)||June 2008||European Commission|
|High level panels with representatives from the DGs|
of Education and Industry/Economics
of the Member States
|March to October 2009||European Commission and Member States|
| ||November, 2009||European Commission|
|November, 2011||European Commission|
| ||Marchb, 2012||European Commission|
Summary of the principal milestones in the European debate on entrepreneurship education (2000-2012)
The debate in Europe began with the Special Meeting of the European Council in Lisbon, 2000  to examine the development of entrepreneurship education in the EU agenda. The European Council meeting held on 23-24 March 2000 adopted the goal of making the EU’s knowledge-based economy the most competitive and dynamic in the world, capable of sustainable economic growth, with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion, by 2010. As a means to achieving this objective it was agreed, among other things, that it was necessary to create the best possible environment for small businesses and entrepreneurship. The European Charter for Small Enterprises, also known as the Feira Charter , was subsequently adopted by the Council of General Affairs in Lisbon on 13 June 2000, and was approved at the European Council Meeting at Santa María da Feira, held on 19-20 June of that same year. The Charter recommends that member State governments should concentrate their strategic efforts around ten lines of action of capital importance for the context in which small businesses operate.
Among these lines of action, the most outstanding, in the first place, is education and learning for entrepreneurship, since in order to cultivate an enterprising spirit from an early age it is necessary to offer studies relating to the business sphere, mainly at the secondary and university levels, and foster both the business initiatives of young people and educational programmes addressed to small businesses.
In addition, the DG Enterprise and Industry of the European Commission, in conjunction with EU member States, organized the Niva Sophia Antipolis Forum in Training for Entrepreneurship in October 2000 , which brought together 350 representatives from a wide range of educational agencies and institutions and local development initiatives, national representatives and representatives from the business world and business organizations. Debates were structured around three workshops:
From school to university: what teaching and learning strategies, what action should be taken to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit in young people?
How can vocational training promote entrepreneurial initiative?
New management practices and the development of “intrapreneurship”.
As a result of these workshop debates a report was written highlighting the following as educational goals, especially at the lower level (primary and secondary):
Fostering pupils’ and students’ problem-solving capabilities. This should improve their ability to plan, make decisions and communicate, as well as making them more willing to take on responsibilities, i.e. the typical aspects of management competencies.
Pupils and students should become ever more able to cooperate, network, take on new roles, etc. In other words, the aspects typical of social competencies should be fostered.
Pupils and students should develop self-confidence and a motivation to act, learn to think critically and independently, and in particular, acquire the will and the ability to learn autonomously, that is, personal competencies.
Pupils and students should acquire a thirst for creativity, proactivity, and personal initiative, as well as be prepared to face risks when their ideas are put into practice, that is, what are known as typical enterprising qualities.
Moreover, the IV Multiannual Programme Fostering Enterprise and Entrepreneurship 2001-2005, approved by Council Decision of 20 December 2000 , considers a compilation of reports of best practices following the methodology known as “best procedure”. This methodology consists of applying the Open Method of Coordination (OMC) –stipulated in the Lisbon Strategy as the work methodology - for the specific context of SME support policies .
Among the activities of the Multiannual Programme in question, the European Commission has published three reports on the introduction of entrepreneurship into non-university education, based on the aforementioned methodology of the exchange of best practices. Experts from all of the member States have contributed to identifying the best practices for these reports. The contact point in Spain for the designation of experts is the DGPYME (DG for SMEs), which has named the experts proposed by the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science in all these groups.
The contents of these reports can be summarized as follows:
The first report was published in 2002 under the title “Final Report of the Expert Group on Education and Learning for Entrepreneurship”  and deals with key aspects in fostering an enterprising spirit in Primary and Secondary Education: teacher training in entrepreneurship; cooperation between schools and universities, on the one hand, and between schools and businesses, on the other, addressed to promoting an entrepreneurial spirit; university chairs in entrepreneurship and the activities they organize. In addition, they came to a common agreement on the definition of entrepreneurship or “enterprising spirit” that contains two elements:
A broad concept of education in enterprising attitudes and capabilities, which includes the development of certain personal qualities and does not focus directly on enterprise creation,
A specific concept of education addressing enterprise creation.
The recommendations of the expert group included organizing a “European Day of Entrepreneurship Education” and the creation of permanent networks of experts on this matter; an enhancement of efforts to compile quantitative data, including the adoption of national action plans; better offers of specific training for teachers; greater promotion of existing international programmes based on learning through practice ; the creation of a national or regional framework for entrepreneurship education and the realization of political commitments.
Subsequently, in 2004 , based on the recommendations of the abovementioned report, a new document was published by the expert group on entrepreneurship education in primary and secondary education, in which they identified the national and regional policies capable of fostering concrete advances in entrepreneurship education in primary and secondary schools. In addition to analysing the national curriculum, the report compiled data and recommended putting support measures into effect at both the national and European level, and pointed out the importance of establishing stable links with the Administration, especially the Ministries of Education and Economy/Industry. The group’s report also calls on regional and local authorities, as well as business associations.
The third report, entitled “Final Report of the Expert Group on Mini-Companies in Secondary Education”, published in 2005 , focused on mini-companies as an effective methodology for disseminating an entrepreneurial mind-set. This project made an inventory of student business programmes in secondary schools, based on information contributed by the member States. It also adopted the term “mini-company” or “student company” as a “pedagogical tool based on practical experience by means of running a complete enterprise project, and on interaction with the external environment (i.e. the business world or the local community)” either with real cases or virtual simulations.
The expert group identified certain factors for the effectiveness and success of these student enterprises, such as contact with the local business community, the adaptability of these programmes to different types of education and students’enthusiasm or motivation. They also recommended that these mini-companies (also known as student companies) should be present in educational systems. More specifically, public authorities were recommended to:
develop a general strategy for teaching entrepreneurship in schools;
establish permanent cooperation among the different ministries, business associations, NGOs, educational institutions and municipalities in order to foster activities based on the student company methodology;
approve and actively promote student companies in schools and among heads and teachers;
guarantee the elimination of legal and administrative barriers to the creation and implementation of mini-companies.
The European Commission’s Communiqué of 11 November 2003, Education and Training 2010 , recognizes the efforts made by the member States to adapt educational and training systems to the knowledge society and economy, but urges them to increase the rhythm of the reforms and to adopt a global, consistent and concerted strategy.
In 2006, The European Commission’s Communiqué of 13 February entitled “Promoting an enterprising mind-set through education and training””  supports the member States in developing a more systematic strategy for entrepreneurship education.
The continuation of this Communiqué gave rise to the Conference held in Oslo on 26-27 October 2006 regarding “Entrepreneurship Education in Europe: Fostering Entrepreneurial Mind-sets through Education and Learning” , convened by the Commission together with the Norwegian government, and the result of which was the Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe. This is the next milestone after the Feira Charter in the development of entrepreneurship education in the EU.
During the Conference, representatives of the different national, regional and local governments, business associations, teachers and students, NGOs and the Commission itself exchanged examples of best practices and proposals were launched to advance in this matter at all levels of education, from Primary School to University.
The conclusions of the Conference advocated better integration of the programmes and activities within the curricula, while maintaining flexibility as to their contents and participants. Entrepreneurship can be integrated into the curricula as a horizontal element in all study contexts or as an independent subject. In any case the Conference conclusions recommend introducing new pedagogical methods in all subjects.
The conclusions also underscored the need to create a common European platform for projects in operation and teaching materials that will contribute to the dissemination of information and facilitate comparative analyses. Teacher mobility in this sense should be supported throughout Europe. In addition, they consider that the participation of individuals with business experience must be a basic element in entrepreneurship education, and that cooperation between the public and private sectors should be increased, involving companies as part of their corporate social responsibility. This participation on the part of companies should be recognized with some kind of prize awarded at the European level.
At national level the creation of guide groups is recommended, complemented by a European observatory in which all interested parties are represented (public administrations, companies, schools, students, etc.). The role of the observatory would be to determine the objectives of entrepreneurship education, taking into consideration its different elements.
The European Commission, again according to these conclusions, should take the initiative when assessing programmes and activities to ensure that the outcomes can be compared. In particular, it should support research into the impact of activities based on student mini-companies and specific business projects.
All of this was included in the Oslo Agenda for Entrepreneurship Education in Europe 2006, which is a proposal to take a step forward in fostering entrepreneurship in education through systematic and effective actions. The agenda contains a rich menu of educational options addressed to those in charge at different levels of action so that they can choose the most suitable options for them from among those proposed and adapt them to their specific situation.
These proposals were drawn up around six spheres of action: the framework of political development, support for schools, support for teachers and educators, entrepreneurship activities in schools and higher education, building networks and opening up education to the outside world, and communication activities .
The Recommendation of the European Parliament and Council of 18 December 2006, regarding the key competencies for permanent education  follows the Oslo Agenda chronologically.
According to this Recommendation, the key competencies for life-long learning comprise a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are necessary for personal development, social integration, active citizenship and employment. They are essential for the knowledge society as a whole, and guarantee greater flexibility in the labour market, allowing it to adapt to the constant changes taking place in a globalized world. Young people should acquire these competencies by the end of their compulsory education and training, such that they are capacitated for adult life and the working world.
The Recommendation defines eight key competencies , and describes the knowledge, skills and attitudes that each of them comprises. They are listed below:
Communication in one’s native language
Communication in foreign languages
Mathematical competencies and basic competencies in science and technology
Learning how to learn
Social and civic competencies
Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship
Cultural awareness and expression
All of these competencies are interdependent and all of them stress critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem-solving, risk-assessment, decision-making and the constructive management of emotions. Number seven, the sense of initiative and entrepreneurship, is defined as the ability to put ideas into action. It presupposes creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to attain objectives. The subject is aware of his or her work environment and is able to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.
Another outstanding milestone in the EU context is the Small Business Act (SBA) of June 2008 . In a Communiqué, the European Commission includes ten principles to guide the formulation and execution of policies for improving the legal and administrative framework of small and medium sized businesses in the EU and its member States. Its full title is “Think Small First – “A Small Business Act” for Europe: An initiative in favour of small enterprises”. The Communiqué recognizes that the role of SMEs in our society is becoming more and more important, as they create employment and are key protagonists in guaranteeing the prosperity of local and regional communities.
Among its ten principles it first highlights precisely the one that involves actions relating to entrepreneurship education: “Create an environment in which entrepreneurs and family businesses can thrive and entrepreneurship is rewarded”. In this sense the EU and member States wished to provide more support for future entrepreneurs, especially by stimulating entrepreneurial talent and interest, above all in women and young people.
After adoption of the SBA, The European Commission is making a new effort to improve the introduction of entrepreneurial initiative in the educational systems of all the member States. To do so, the DG Enterprise/Industry and the DG Education /Culture jointly organized a series of high level panels to bring together representatives from member States’ Ministries of Education and Industry. These panels met in 2009 by groups of countries.
Our review of the principal milestones, events and reports from the European Union in this matter concludes with the report and assessment of the pilot action by the four high-level panels held in 2009. The report commissioned by the European Commission and entitled “Towards Greater Cooperation and Coherence in Entrepreneurship Education from March 2010, includes the successful outcomes attained and the goals that still remain to be achieved in order to develop this subject matter in a uniform way throughout all EU territory.
As can be seen, the European debate regarding policies supporting SMEs and entrepreneurship is conceding well-deserved importance to education and training, and in the near future new European actions and programmes will be proposed to provide them with more momentum.