Enterprise education in post-primary schools: An exploration of the antecedent and contextual factors that impact on successful provision
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Enterprise education is universally lauded as a means to enabling an enterprising capacity in young citizens who benefit the local and national economy while also being one of the eight European Union key competences. Enterprise’s primacy is articulated in a myriad of European Commission and national reports and embedded in post-primary business related curricula and specifications. However, the teaching and provision of these enterprise programmes in post-primary schools remains ad hoc and sporadic while measuring the success of enterprise education remains problematic due to the nature of the content, knowledge on its effective provision as well as the lack of specific certification at post-primary. Much of the associated research literature focuses on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ enterprise should be taught, but a paucity remains in what shapes the ideal context for the provision of enterprise education and what particular factors predispose a teacher, a school or community in its successful implementation within the curriculum. This study seeks to identify and analyse the primary factors, be they antecedent or contextual which facilitates this success in selected schools. The literature in enterprise presents two dichotomous perspectives, entrepreneurship and enterprise education, which are quite distinct yet oft intermingled in both rhetoric and practice. This dichotomy presents a particular conundrum within the overarching problem which this research study investigates; how best can enterprise education be supported and integrated in the post-primary schools system in Ireland. This research study employs purposive sampling and qualitative research methods in five selected post-primary schools who had a reputation for success regarding enterprise education provision. The research study is framed in a case study methodological approach. Thirty semi-structured interviews were conducted with key personnel within the schools to capture the essence of their individual enterprise narrative. Using Lichtman’s three ‘C’ approach to data analysis key concepts emerged which formed the basis for discussion and analysis. Antecedent and contextual factors facilitating the promotion and integration of enterprise education emanating from the emergent concepts are categorised into four pillar areas of action. These pillars of action provide an overview of the primary structural supports required to inform a national framework of strategic policy and development for enterprise education. They offer an opportunity for enterprise education to be universally experienced and become endemic within the Irish post-primary educational system.