Are We There Yet? Stagnation in Entrepreneurship Teaching Practice 10 Years On

By Cardow, Andrew; Kirkley, William W. | Curriculum Matters, Annual 2011 | Go to article overview

Are We There Yet? Stagnation in Entrepreneurship Teaching Practice 10 Years On


Cardow, Andrew, Kirkley, William W., Curriculum Matters


Introduction

If the popular press is to be believed, New Zealanders possess a strong entrepreneurial orientation (Riley, 1995). New Zealanders are told and encouraged to buy into the paradigm. For example, the book by John Hopkins, Blokes and Sheds (1998), later made into a television series, celebrates the popular notion of the innovative nature that resides in the average New Zealander. There is also research evidence for this idea. On at least two occasions the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an international survey of entrepreneurial activity within the participating country, has placed New Zealand highly in total entrepreneurial activity (Reynolds, Camp, Bygrave, Autio, & Hay, 2001, 2004).

A precise definition is problematic, though, with entrepreneurship commonly seen as involving a business start-up by an individual. In contrast, Shane and Venkataraman (2000, p. 218) describe entrepreneurship as "a process of opportunity discovery, evaluation and exploitation". This takes entrepreneurship out of the business relationship and makes it more a way of thinking rather than a way of starting a business. This definition has much in common with the accepted idea of the entrepreneurial orientation, which Lumpkin and Dess (1996) describe as having elements of innovation, creativity, risk and proactivity. Presumably this is the meaning intended in The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), which has as one of its vision statements that students will be "enterprising and entrepreneurial" (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 8).

Basic schooling is important as an avenue for cementing popular ideals. This research project looks at how preservice secondary school teacher trainees view the construct of entrepreneurship and finds that they appear to be uncertain about how to apply the concept. Our research was inspired by an earlier study in this area. In 1997 the New Zealand educational practitioner's journal set: Research Information for Teachers published a paper entitled "Inadequate perceptions of the educator's role" (Cardow, 1997). The paper reported on research conducted with preservice economics teachers and their instructors within New Zealand Colleges of Education. The three conclusions reached were as follows:

* Colleges of Education saw their goal as "turning students into teachers", with the implication that the skills of creativity and innovation in business are "not what [teacher training] Colleges are set up to do" (p. 4).

* Instructors of preservice teachers envisaged those involved in entrepreneurship as being someone with "The ability to make a profit while being innovative and taking a risk" (p. 3), a narrow perception which has not materially changed in the intervening period.

* Preservice teachers and their instructors interpreted entrepreneurship as "stepping outside normal bounds of making things happen" (p. 3).

Our research adds to the previous study by providing, in essence, a "snapshot" of preservice teacher training from 1997 to 2008. We report on the changes to the New Zealand curriculum aimed at including entrepreneurship. The research also uncovers the perceptions preservice teachers have regarding the implementation of entrepreneurship in their classrooms. We conclude that, despite the positive intentions of the Ministry of Education, 10 years on nothing much has changed.

Background

In 1987 the New Zealand public service, including the education sector, was subject to wide neoliberal reforms. In the postprimary sector these reforms were collectively known as "Tomorrow's Schools". Essentially, governance issues were devolved to individual school boards of trustees. The objective was to provide autonomy through independent management of secondary schools. The philosophy of the government of the day was to encourage entrepreneurship within high school management. The research outlined below critiques the situation 10 years after those reforms and during the tenure of another neoliberal Labour Government.

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