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EACEA National Policies Platform


3. Employment & Entrepreneurship

3.8 Development of entrepreneurship competence

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/11/2020 - 18:35

On this page
  1. Policy Framework
  2. Formal learning
  3. Non-formal and informal learning
  4. Educators support in entrepreneurship education

Policy Framework

Entrepreneurship education is addressed within the Innovation Strategy for Northern Ireland 2014-2025. The Innovation Strategy expands and refines the priority within the 2012 Economic Strategy (which sets out goals over short, medium and longer term to 2030) to stimulate innovation, research and creativity. 

One of the objectives for the Innovation Strategy is to 'encourage our young people to be entrepreneurs'. The strategy states that entrepreneurship education at primary, secondary and post-secondary level is a basic requirement which facilitates entrepreneurship in all areas of life. A ‘Creative NI Framework’ is planned to catalyse and enhance collaboration across business, academia, the third sector and government.

The Innovation Strategy's Action Directory includes a short term action addressed to the Department of Education (DE): to examine how the encouragement and support offered to young people to engage in entrepreneurial activity can be increased.

An Action Plan for Entrepreneurship and Education was published in 2003. It began the process of building co-operation between the education and employment sectors, in support of a more integrated approach to entrepreneurship and the creation of a skilled workforce, capable of meeting both the current and future needs of a modern economy. The action plan considered entrepreneurship 'in its widest possible sense, as the ability of an individual, possessing a range of essential skills and attributes, to make a unique, innovative and creative contribution in the world of work, whether in employment or self-employment'.

Formal learning

Entrepreneurship education in compulsory education 

During primary education (ISCED 1, children aged 4-11), entrepreneurship education is integrated into the compulsory subject Personal Development and Mutual Understanding (PD&MU). It focuses on encouraging each child:

  • to become personally, emotionally and socially effective,
  • to lead healthy, safe and fulfilled lives 
  • to become confident, independent and responsible citizens, making informed and responsible choices and decisions throughout their lives.

It also covers introductions to the world of work and financial literacy.

During secondary education, (ISCED 2 and 3, pupils aged 11-16) entrepreneurship education is part of the compulsory area Learning for Life and Work (LLW) (Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4) which is central in helping young people develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours that are pre-requisites for life and work. This area of learning includes:  

  • employability,
  • home economics,
  • local and global citizenship 
  • personal development. 

Learning for Life and Work is also an element of the Entitlement Framework for 14-19 year olds. The Entitlement Framework for 14- to 19-year-olds is designed to provide pupils in key stage 4 and post-compulsory education with greater choice and flexibility through access to a wide range of learning opportunities suited to their needs, aptitudes and interests, irrespective of where they live or the school they attend.

The Department of Education (DE) provides annual funding for business education, which is delivered mainly by third-party partners.

Further information about enterprise education may be found in the 2016 Eurydice publication entitled Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe.

Hands on entrepreneurial activities 

Young Enterprise NI, a charity supported by the Department of Education and the private sector, delivers business education programmes across Northern Ireland which are mapped to the Northern Ireland curriculum. There are a range of programmes targeted at different age groups:

  • During primary education, these culminate in the 'Business Beginnings' programme which allows young people to get real business experience by setting up and running their own company.
  • Programmes during secondary education take young people from the initial stage of raising awareness of employability competencies to modelling key competencies through real-life experience.

Pupils in Northern Ireland may also participant in a number of UK-wide programmes:

  • The Tenner Challenge is for young people aged 11-19 who want to get a taste of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. It gives them a chance to think of a new business idea and make it happen, using real money to take calculated risks in the business field, make a profit –and make a difference.
  • The Fiver Challenge is for  5 – 11 year-olds, across the UK which gives participants £5  to set up mini businesses to create products or services they can then sell/deliver at a profit and engage with their local community.

Higher education 

There is no single model that describes the delivery of enterprise and entrepreneurship across higher education providers in the UK. Different models for delivery include:

  • management by a central unit
  • integration in the curriculum by subject-specialist educators
  • integration  in the curriculum under another name - such as,  'professional studies' or 'personal marketing skills'
  • delivery through a careers service
  • support by other facilities - such as, incubators, boot camps and extra-curricular clubs and societies.

In the context of extra-curricular activities, some institutions offer summer schools or events led by staff or students. Many actively support start-up activities and deliver mentoring support beyond graduation. Students can also gain practical experience through external bodies such as Enactus, an international not-for-profit organisation that works with leaders in business and education to develop socially responsible entrepreneurs. Shell Livewire, an online community that offers networking, advice and a chance to win monthly and annual 'grand ideas' awards, is another example of extra-curricular engagement in higher education.

Participation in extra-curricular activities may in some cases be formally recognised and recorded, for example through reference to the personal development process (in which learners identify key areas of learning and development activity that will enable them to either acquire new or develop existing skills and attributes) and use of transcripts, as well as the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR).

There are also stand-alone degree programmes (including at Masters level) in some institutions, which may involve actual business start-up as an integral requirement.

In 2018, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) produced guidance for UK higher education providers on enterprise and entrepreneurship education. This contains a broad framework for articulating learning outcomes, which can be applied across a wide range of delivery types.

Non-formal and informal learning

Youth organisations and other bodies involved in providing opportunities for non-formal and informal learning may also enable young people to gain practical experience of business – and to develop entrepreneurship competence.

Educators support in entrepreneurship education



Enterprise education is not mentioned in the framework of the requirements for initial training providers or professional standards for teachers. 

Continuing professional development (CPD) covers a wide range of activities and is closely linked with performance management. In Northern Ireland, it is part of an integrated, competence-based approach to teacher training which comprises four stages (initial teacher education, induction, early professional development and continuing professional development, collaborative practice and school improvement). The requirements and competencies expected of teachers during these phases are set out by the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland in Teaching: the Reflective Profession. Entrepreneurship education may though form part of local CPD provision.