Representatives of the Education Sector and Businessmen: School of the 21st Century Should Train Entrepreneurship Skills in Children

Within the educational system, the words “entrepreneurship” and “entrepreneurial attitude” have long been neglected, since the speech allegedly was about a neoliberal concept,” as stated at the first national Festival of Entrepreneurship in Education, held in the settlement of Brdo pri Kranju, by the Acting Minister of Education, Science and Sports Maja Makovec Brenčič. According to her, entrepreneurial attitude is one of the key goals of education, which, in other words, is called self-initiative, ingenuity and openness. Entrepreneurial attitude is a competence of personal development, as added by the Acting Minister.

The Ministry is endeavouring to incorporate entrepreneurship competences organically in the vertical system of education as a whole, and thus to equip students with the knowledge and skills that they can use after graduation. The Ministry included eight core competences into the curriculum, including entrepreneurship. The Ministry touched on the problem of training entrepreneurship skills in secondary schoolchildren five years ago,” noted the YouthStart – spodbujanje podjetnosti za mlade project manager and the Head of the above-mentioned festival Maja Krušič Šega. She stressed a change in thinking, not only in the Slovenian educational system, but in the whole society.

In Slovenian society, a constructive dialogue is being established between the sphere of education and external actors. The system of training entrepreneurship skills included 2,410 school principals and 15,000 pupils. Some secondary schools have been successfully cooperating with the economic sector for several years, and some have just become acquainted with the specifics of training entrepreneurship skills and entrepreneurial attitude. The Educational Centre of Slovenske Konice is on first-name terms with the economy as well. The centre has been working with enterprises and introducing entrepreneurial skills in the academic process for more than one year,” said Maja Krušič Šega.

Six years ago, with the help of the Spirit Agency, we began to conduct workshops for young people on the basics of entrepreneurship. Two years later, the Ministry of Education officially began to develop relevant training projects, in the implementation of which we participated actively,” said teacher Viljem Pavlovič, the head of the initiative group of participants of the YouthStart – izzivi podjetnosti za mlade project in the Educational Centre of Slovenske Konjice – Zreče. Starting this year, their initiative group will also work on a five-year project to introduce teaching of entrepreneurship basics in gymnasiums. Viljem Pavlovič notes the fruitful interaction with the actors of the economic sector. Thus, their educational institution has been cooperating with Unior, a manufacturer of hand tools, and with other local enterprises, for example, GKN Drive Line, Kostroj strojegradnja, SwatyComet, Marovt, Isokon and others. A number of small enterprises also cooperate with the Educational Centre of Slovenske Konjice – Zreče. “Enterprises provide us with infrastructure support. Thanks to the Ministry of Economy, Development and Technology, and being supported by the European Cohesion Programme, as well as in cooperation with local businesses, last year we launched the U-lab (a work and study lab),” Pavlovič explains. Much to everyone’s delight, students began to work actively in the work and study laboratory, both at the Slovenske Konjice Gymnasium and at the Zreče Secondary Vocational School.

An opportunity to gain new knowledge and cooperation with the economic sector was also offered by Ramax Engineering. The company’s attention was attracted to the achievement of students, using the 3D-technology printed image of a test product — a fuel pump housing, as explained by Viljem Pavlovič. They also deal with programming and testing of final products using CNC technology, a collaborative robot and machine vision. “Benefits are apparent for both the industry and students,” he notes. Thus, students acquire professional skills, get acquainted with the new technology, the specifics of product development, and increase their financial literacy. For several years, students from Würzburg (Germany) have been also coming to this centre for a two-week practice. “Although they have high-quality equipment at their disposal, we appeared to be one step ahead, having launched our work and study laboratory,” emphasizes Viljem Pavlovič.

Alenka Šverc (Anton Martin Slomšk Centre, Maribor) notes that her school is working on developing digital skills in students, as well as entrepreneurship and self-initiative qualities. “We live in the world of technology, but we do not use all its potential in teaching. Therefore, we strive to train teachers in the sense that they, when appropriate, use modern achievements in the course of training. A good example is the Fakebook application, with which students can learn history. For example, to find out what music Nikola Tesla or other scientists listened to, what difficulties they had to face in a certain period, with whom they were friends. This is an innovative method of interdisciplinary spheres research, which allows developing competences in students,” emphasizes Alenka Šverc. She is convinced that teacher has always been and always will be the main initiator of changes in the sphere of education.

When should teachers start teaching the basics of entrepreneurship in school? There is no unambiguous answer to this question, but the principals of some basic schools note that it is necessary to start as early as possible. The basic school named after Ivan Grohar (Škofja Loka) took part in the Pogum project, based on its more than successful past year experience, tells the school principal Marko Primožič. “This project was of major interest for teachers due to the good results demonstrated by students. Therefore, we decided to continue our participation in this project,” says the head of the educational institution.

What can pupils of basic schools learn by mastering the skills of entrepreneurship? “First of all, the values that are hidden in the phrase “entrepreneurial attitude” are the responsibility, cooperation, an ability to make independent decisions… If children perceive these values, they will be successful people,” emphasizes a teacher of the Bistrica basic school (Tržič), Marija Bohinjec. As she notes, a teacher must carefully read the goals set out in the curriculum to teach the basics of entrepreneurship to children, as entrepreneurship is indicated in connection with all school subjects. In addition, teachers should change the current style of teaching and work, as added by Marko Primožič.

Basic schools do not directly cooperate with the economic sector, as secondary vocational schools and educational centres do, but they interact with gymnasiums, as, for example, the Basic School of Škofja Loka does. The situation in the Lava Basic School (Celje) is different. For over ten years, the school has been developing cooperation with entrepreneurs, since the local Chamber of Commerce and Industry expressed the corresponding interest. The school’s pupils practice at enterprises, learning what it means to be an expert in a certain field. It is important to have a direct acquaintance with the profession and the professional environment.

Jože Torkar, the manager of energy projects at Petrol, also confirms the importance of early education. “Over the past seven years, we have changed significantly. We are part of the society that seeks to reduce dependence on hydrocarbons. It was only yesterday that we were known as an oil trader, but today many people turn to us as a company that can help in reducing energy consumption, reducing the concentration of carbon dioxide, rational use of renewable energy sources, and sustainable mobility,” he explains. And they pass such ideas to the youth. Is there a basis for cooperation between the economic and education sectors? “There are a lot of such opportunities. By meeting, communicating and cooperating, we can improve the situation together. There is an ocean of ideas,” emphasizes Jože Torkar. It should be noted that Petrol cooperates with 180 educational institutions, such as basic schools, kindergartens, gymnasiums, and colleges. “We want to encourage young people to work in the field of natural science. We believe that competences in natural sciences create real added value in society,” Torkar says. He also adds that this does not mean that there is no place for the humanities. However, there are not enough experts in natural sciences.