Thomas Cooney is philosophical about entrepreneurship education and its benefits. The professor of entrepreneurship at TU Dublin, Ireland’s first Technological University, was a keynote speaker and a judge at the inaugural TESA Summit in Dublin earlier this month.
The Entrepreneurial School Awards (TESA) were launched by Junior Achievement Ireland (JAI) in January of this year as a way of publicly recognising and rewarding schools across the country for their commitment to entrepreneurship education.
In his keynote address, Cooney’s advice to the schools in attendance was nothing short of inspirational.
“Entrepreneurship education has many benefits to students on an individual level,” he said. “It teaches life skills such as identifying and evaluating opportunities, using available resources to develop an idea, developing a team of people with different abilities, staying positive when faced with challenges, applying creative thinking to solving problems and learning from failure as well as success.
“Research in Denmark has shown that students who take entrepreneurship education are better attenders at school, interact better with their peers and their teachers, and perform better across their various subjects. Research from the Netherlands has found that students who study entrepreneurship significantly increase their confidence in skills such as risk tolerance, creativity and proactivity.
“Entrepreneurship education is not just about encouraging young people to start a business in their future life, it is about developing their cognitive and non-cognitive skillsets for the careers and lives that lie ahead.”
Cooney said the awards are a way of celebrating schools which actively embrace the ethos of entrepreneurial education and recognise the value it brings to learning. An evaluation panel led by Cooney and various professionals from educational and entrepreneurial backgrounds validated the applications across Gold, Silver and Bronze standards, and then had the difficult job of selecting five category winners and one overall winner.
Gold standards were awarded to schools which adopt a whole school approach with students and teachers from all age ranges. This means entrepreneurial education is embedded in the teaching curriculum across all classes. A proactive approach to community engagement with positive partnerships with a variety of local agencies and businesses is also vital.
“Regardless of whether a school received a Gold, Silver or Bronze standard, there is a clear desire to increase entrepreneurship education activities in schools and to enhance community engagement, with a particular focus on the local business sector,” said Cooney. “While many schools might have a single teacher willing to champion the cause of entrepreneurship education, Gold-standard schools are characterised by a team approach with a deep commitment to ensuring that a broad range of students are engaged in entrepreneurial activities through a variety of approaches. To achieve their goal, those leading entrepreneurship education in Gold schools behave entrepreneurially themselves, while their willingness to move beyond the boundaries of customary teaching activities enabled them to achieve great results.
“In awarding a Gold standard, the judges recognised schools that demonstrated that entrepreneurship was truly embedded across a wide variety of school endeavours and not just confined to a specific year. The panel recognises and congratulates all teachers and school management who have excelled in developing the entrepreneurial mindset and behaviour of all students in their care.
“The evidence provided by all TESA-certified schools shows the level of commitment and the volume of work being done to ensure every child in a TESA-certified school gets opportunities to explore new ways of learning and to acquire new skills which will serve them well into adulthood.”