Enterprise Education Wrongly Understood?

Shout out to Gareth Sear for putting me onto this from TeacherNet:

Enterprise education consists of enterprise capability supported by better financial capability and economic and business understanding. Young people need opportunities to be enterprising through applying their knowledge, skills and attributes — to ‘make their mark’

Learners are expected to take personal responsibility for their own actions through an enterprise process that involves four stages.

  • Stage 1 — tackling a problem or need: students generate ideas through discussion to reach a common understanding of what is required to resolve the problem or meet the need.
  • Stage 2 — planning the project or activity: breaking down tasks, organising resources, deploying team members and allocating responsibilities.
  • Stage 3 — implementing the plan: solving problems, monitoring progress.
  • Stage 4 — evaluating the processes: reviewing activities and final outcomes, reflecting on lessons learned and assessing the skills, attitudes, qualities and understanding acquired.

Enterprise education consists of enterprise capability? Very enlightening!

Young people need opportunities to be enterprising? Young people are enterprising. Really enterprising. They have to be.

Even the ones who are quiet, shy and withdrawn are being enterprising. This is their ‘best plan’ for how to get by in life. Our job is to help them find a better, more powerful one that will help them fulfil their potential. Or to at least recognise the possibility.

Once again this all pervading direct linking of enterprise education with ‘financial capability, economic and business understanding’. Why?

Why not link it to sociological understanding? Or to psychology?

Why not link it to the Romantic poets and their descriptions of the transformational power of imagination and vision?

Why not link it to History and the power of some individuals to shape the course of civilisation? Hitler, Gandhi, Mandela as case studies in enterprise.

Why link it to money?

Why take such a utilitarian approach to enterprise?

In pursuing a narrow definition we are likely to turn students off rather than on. And certainly we will turn off other teaching staff who will continue to see enterprise education as just an extension of business studies, another example of the corruption of education by capitalism.

Learners are expected to take personal responsibility it says. Enterprise is the ultimate lesson in taking responsibility. It is only when we are enterprising – really living our lives in tune with our convictions that we have to take responsibility. All the time we operate in more bureaucratic modes we can duck responsibility by blaming others. “Sorry guv’ just following orders”.

There is nothing very enterprising about reaching a common understanding – although it is a valuable skill. It is holding a different understanding and having the courage to live by it that characterises enterprise.  Seth Godin has just written on this.

And then the soulless linear process of develop an idea, develop a plan, implement it and then learn from it. The enterprising process is all about ups and downs; it is about emotions and resilience more than it is about ‘problem solving’ and ‘deploying team members’.

It is no wonder that we are struggling to embed enterprise in the curriculum.


  1. Hi Mike,

    A great blog I tripped across after writing my own piece on enterprise education. I agree that there is too much of a focus on the business element of enterprise days and as a skills set many students are subsequently missing out. I have suggested that more cross curricular links like you mentioned need to be developed but how would you suggest the removal of the sterotype this topic now has?

    • Best way for me is to keep telling stories about being enterprising and why that matters – without any reference to business. I use Benjamin Zander’s story of one buttock playing a lot! (Google it!)

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