Education in innovative entrepreneurship

– What does research tell us?

One often hears that entrepreneurs do not benefit from education. Innovative and successful entrepreneurship would rather require skills, such as creativity and perseverance, that one can learn in practice rather than in school. Drop-out entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates, Ingvar Kamprad and Steve Jobs are great examples of this proposition. Given this common belief, it is rather surprising that many Western countries, including Denmark, invest vast and steeply increasing amounts in entrepreneurship education. What is wisdom here?

To address this question, research has been undertaken answering the following questions: Is (successful) entrepreneurship something one can learn or is it a genetic matter? In other words, is entrepreneurship success caused by nurture or nature? Studies using twins and adopted children can be used to address this question and show that entrepreneurship is certainly not only a genetic matter: nurture plays a twice as important role.

The follow-up question then is: Can entrepreneurship be learned through formal education? The answer is yes, as research shows: Entrepreneurs benefit a lot from their education, even more than employees. The important aspects one learns in school are, among others, analytical skills and technical skills. However, the largest part of the effect of education in general on entrepreneurship outcomes is yet unexplained and kept in a black box.

The third question that has been addressed by research is: Does specific entrepreneur education add value to teaching relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes to potential entrepreneurs? As it turns out, so far, the effects of entrepreneurship education programs have been scarcely tested in credible ways. Existing evaluation studies show disappointing effects. However, in particular, entrepreneurship education at a very young age contributes to relevant skill development, such as perseverance, motivating skills and creativity. We conclude that education can certainly be a valuable manner in which entrepreneurship skills are obtained. However, the optimal design of entrepreneurship education programs at a later age still needs to be determined.

Based on the following articles
Lindquist, M., Sol, J. & van Praag, C.M. (2015), Why do Entrepreneurial Parents have Entrepreneurial Children?  Journal of Labor Economics,  Vol. 33, No. 2, 4.2015, pp. 269-296

Rosendahl Huber, L., Sloof, R. & van Praag, C.M. (2014), The Effect of Early Entrepreneurship Education: Evidence from a Field Experiment  The European Economic Review, Vol. 72, 11.2014, pp. 76-97

Van Praag, C.M., van der Sluis, J. & van Witteloostuijn, A. (2012), The Higher Returns to Formal Education for Entrepreneurs versus Employees  Small Business Economics, 40, pp. 375-396

Hartog, J., van Praag, C.M. & van der Sluis, J. (2010), If you are so smart, why aren’t you an entrepreneur? Returns to cognitive and social ability: entrepreneurs versus employees   Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 19 (4), pp. 947-989

Oosterbeek, H., van Praag, C.M. & Ysselstein, A. (2010), The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurship skills and motivation   The European Economic Review,  54 (3), pp. 442-454

Van Praag, C.M., van Der Sluis, J. & Vijverberg, W. (2008), Education and Entrepreneurship selection and performance: a review of the empirical literature  Journal of Economic Surveys, 22 (5), pp. 795-841

Parker, S. & van Praag, C.M. (2006), Schooling, capital constraints and entrepreneurial performance: The endogenous triangle  Journal of Business and Economic Statistics, 24 (4), pp. 416-431

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