Shifting the Paradigm: Entrepreneurial Learning in Schools

"To succeed in this ever-changing world, students need to be able to think like entrepreneurs: resourceful, flexible, creative, and global." - Yong Zhao 2012

For much of the last year or so, I've had the privilege of working on a pilot initiative, and its accompanying research project, exploring Entrepreneurial Learning in schools.

This project grew from a collaboration between the Mitchell Institute, the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, the New South Wales Secondary Principals’ Council (NSWSPC), Professor Yong Zhao and 21 government secondary schools in New South Wales and Victoria.  These partners and participants recognised that mastering literacy, numeracy and other knowledge areas are no longer enough to enable students to thrive in the dynamic and complex economies and societies of the 21st century. They were likewise concerned too many young people disengage from their schooling, which makes it much more difficult for them to realise their full potential.

These founding partners saw an opportunity to explore entrepreneurial learning as a response to these issues. 

Entrepreneurial Learning is an emerging way of responding to the growing need to enhance student capabilities to apply knowledge in sophisticated ways, to deepen student engagement and to cultivate the mindsets to position students for success.  It also provides an opportunity to personalise education, enabling students to pursue their interests and talents, bringing their education to life and allowing each to excel. It's been around for a while, but mostly in higher education and mostly overseas. But

Students were active partners in the 'Paradigm Shifters' initiative. They were given the opportunity to be in the ‘driving seat’, pursuing their strengths and passions, identifying and solving problems worth solving or of value to others, and developing real- world products. The schools and students came from all socio- economic backgrounds and a wide variety of geographical contexts, from inner-city to suburban, to regional to rural. They connected to learn from experts, and each other, through state-wide networks and workshops, which was found to accelerate school teams' learning and problem-solving.

I was lucky to conduct research interviews with students, teachers and principals from all the participating schools in Victoria. I was blown away by their strong enthusiasm and advocacy for this initiative. Some students mentioned that this project was clinching factor that led them to remain in school. Other students talked about developing confidence to finally be able to speak up in class, or now persisting with tricky maths problems, due to enhanced problem solving skills and greater persistence. The participating schools varied enormously in location, size, and in the students they involved - from the most "at risk" to student leaders with strong academic profiles, yet all found it an adaptable, feasible and encouraging way to deepen engagement and cultivate essential capabilities, in a way that built upon existing school programs and priorities.

This work has generated a number of insights and recommendations. Read all about it in the report, here.