Entrepreneurial Education to increase students’ motivation

Short summary

Nowadays, information can be found anywhere. All our learners have internet access and use the internet for their studies. Because of this access to information, the role of teachers is changing from a knowledge provider to a competences coach, at least, in theory. In daily practice, our pedagogic approach has not significantly changed over the past decades.  Most of our teachers still transfer knowledge that is readily available on the internet. This has led to disengaged learners.

 The association ‘Scholen voor Ondernemend Leren’ have developed and implemented an entrepreneurial pedagogical approach that enables students to at least partially control their learning paths. Entrepreneurial education is not about starting a new business but instead is about making students more creative, opportunity oriented, proactive and innovative, adhering to a wide definition of entrepreneurship relevant to all walks in life.

 This innovative pedagogic approach consists of open-ended projects and includes options for students to influence their learning paths. In our schools, all students are enabled to develop their entrepreneurial and creativity competences. They can specialize in the areas they are interested in and negotiate the time they spend in their regular classes with their teachers.   

 As a direct result, we noticed that the students became much more involved with their studies and show ownership and commitment within the classroom and during the time they spent on projects.

This increased commitment and ownership has resulted in decreased truancy.  This is in line with the research done by Surlemont (Surlemont, 2007) that showed a significant increase of students’ perceived relevancy, engagement and motivation when being exposed to an entrepreneurial pedagogical approach. 

Other research perceives entrepreneurial education as a mean to achieve more interest, joy, engagement and creativity among students (Johannisson, 2010,Lackéus, 2013). A few scholars have recently put forward the potential of entrepreneurial education to spur increased relevancy of subjects taught among learners, increasing motivation and school engagement and alleviating problems of student boredom and dropout (Deuchar, 2007,Surlemont, 2007,Mahieu, 2006,Nakkula et al., 2004)

 More information about our pedagogical approach can be found on: http://www.ondernemendleren.org/

Context of good practice

The entrepreneurial pedagogical approach has been implemented in 17 large secondary schools. Most schools employ over 120 teachers and have at least 1500 students of ages from 12 to 18.

Some schools are located in large cities, others are based in more rural parts of the Netherlands. 

The reasons for the individual schools to implement entrepreneurial education are:

  • To implement a pedagogical approach to develop 21st century skills
  • To increase the motivation and commitment of students

The decreased truancy and dropout rates are welcome side effects. And perhaps for new members of our association it has become the main reason.      

 In general, unemployment rate in the Netherlands is quite low, although some rural parts are dealing with high unemployment rates among young people of lower social classes. There are no real disadvantaged areas in the Netherlands, just regions with low (or no) economic growth.

Main characteristics of the challenge, description of the target group

Nowadays, information can be found anywhere, as a result, teachers have become less relevant if they primarily focus on knowledge transfer. This has led to disengaged learners that felt bored during regular classes. Our challenge was to inspire and challenge students.

Success factors and processes

In the Netherlands, school have a high level of autonomy, as a result, school themselves decide whether to implement a special pedagogical approach or not. At the same time teachers are responsible for the academic achievement of their students and are reluctant to change their classroom practices. In order to successfully implement entrepreneurial education, schools need a whole school approach. The school needs to rethink its identity (what kind of school do we want to become) and choose a strategy that suits their objectives. We have experience reluctant teachers in almost every member school. However, even the most reluctant teachers will adopt the entrepreneurial approach in due time because students prefer the entrepreneurial approach.

The primary target audience are the principals. In the Netherlands, most innovations are led by the pedagogical manager of a school. Most of the time, the principal performs this role. The association engages each school on an individual basis.

After the school has decided to implement entrepreneurial education, the principal sets up a core team to establish the program of change, and the association drafts a short implementation plan.

The second major target audience are the teachers. In each school 2 or 3 change agents are assigned. Their role is to inspire other teachers to innovate their pedagogical approach. The association organized teacher days for teachers to learn from other schools about their good practices.

 The final and most important target audience is the students. They show commitment and enable change with in their schools. Implementation of entrepreneurial education starts in the first grade (12-13 year old). 

 During their first year (age 12/13) all students of all our schools start working on a charity challenge. This project has no clear guidelines but a lot of challenges. Students are asked to choose a charity that they would support, then they work in small groups to define a project including activities to make it more visible and/or successful and finally they execute the activities.

During the project, the students are coached by the teachers and local entrepreneurs. The project is concluded with a presentation of the results of the different groups at a special (charity) night at school to their parents, to the staff of the school and local business people (stakeholders).   

 The association now offers projects for all classes and ages. It is the intention of our schools that all students will participate in at least one project in every year.

 Activity for teachers who guide the students in the above described projects:

Next to the projects, teachers are encouraged to implement a Flipping Classroom approach and cross subject projects. Learners are encouraged to negotiate their learning path with their teachers. 

In order to use the program, mindset change was necessary. Teachers and principals need to be open minded and interested in lifelong learning. They themselves should develop their entrepreneurial competences and work on their ability to deal with uncertainty.   

 To reach this change, teachers participated in special trainings on how to introduce Entrepreneurial Education (developed by ESHA) and studied new techniques that they shared internally too. 

 As it is an overall program, it’s advised to plan 6 months for work on the identity and the strategy of the school. The teachers are being trained by coaches on the job. During the second year, the projects can be implemented. The best way to implement entrepreneurial learning is to start doing it as soon as possible. Each teacher will need to develop an  approach that suits his / her personality. This can only be tested and improved in a real life classroom situation. It does not have to be perfect as long as the persons involved, willing to learn and share their experiences.   


Impact of measures taken

The school becomes a learning community where teachers serve as learning coaches and learners own parts of their learning paths.  Learners are engaged and can influence their learning paths.

Lessons learned

The risks are related to resistance to change. Some people just do not want to change. In some cases, these teachers were replaced by others. 

Resources needed

Costs and HR of the teachers’ trainings – about 5.000 Euros /10 day-long training / teacher

Any other information


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Target group of good practice:

School leaders & Teacher educators


The Netherlands


Mr. Koos Neuvel


‘Scholen voor Ondernemend Leren’

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