Entrepreneurship Education in Greece – challenges and a new era

Although Entrepreneurship Education (EE) is a rapid growing topic in the European educational curricula, Greece seems to be at the first stages of embedding EE in the schools’ context. In the Higher Education level, there are compulsory EE courses, especially in the departments of economics and business administration. In other disciplines, entrepreneurship might be an optional course or EE elements can be found in the context of other subjects, such as business administration, management and marketing.

In the primary and secondary education, EE was not until now a special course, but again elements of EE could be found in more general subjects, which are optional and based on the initiative of the teachers to implement such extra curriculum activities (Papagiannis, 2018). Additionally, in secondary education, EE could be found within the context of economy courses (Papagiannis, 2013).

Only recently, the Greek Ministry of Education, in light of keeping up with the international trends, introduced the “skills laboratories” in the primary and secondary level of education. More specifically, the programme includes four different thematic: quality of life, environment, social responsibility and innovation, and its basic scope is to infuse the 21st century skills (life skills, soft skills, entrepreneurial skills etc.) to the students. The programme is part of the standard curriculum and takes place three times per week for the lower classes (K12) and only one for the higher (K15). In the context of the fourth thematic, i.e. innovation, the two sub-topics are STEM and Entrepreneurship. Therefore, it is the first time that EE is introduced in the standard curriculum of primary education in Greece.

Apart from formal education, there are some notable initiatives on EE in Greece, such as the Junior Achievement Greece (JA Greece). Junior Achievement Greece is a non-profit organisation, established in 2005 and is a member of the international network of education and entrepreneurship “Junior Achievement Worldwide”. The basic scope of the organisation is to guide students to create their own job positions through the global programmes of active and cooperative learning. The programmes are applied to all levels of education, from primary to higher, while the organisation collaborates with teachers and corporate executives who volunteer as mentors.  The success stories or best practices that come out from those programmes are many. Most of the initiatives have to do with student’s virtual enterprise on bio-food products, robotics, ecology and software development.

More specifically, one of the most distinguished programmes of JA Greece is the “Virtual Enterprise” programme. The programme is addressed to students from 15 to 18 years old and allows them to turn an entrepreneurial idea into practice by creating an enterprise with a real structure and operations. Every year, the teams of students which developed a “virtual enterprise” can exhibit and sell their products or services in fair trades and exhibitions in Athens and Thessaloniki. The best team is awarded with the representation of Greece in the Junior Achievement Europe competition. The students are guided by their teachers, who are responsible to implement the programme, together with volunteer mentors from businesses. The courses in the schools are taking place during or after the basic school programme. The programme is free of charge and is supported by the Ministry of Education, institutions, organisations and businesses.

Papagiannis (2018), who studied the concept of EE in Greece, highlights that entrepreneurship might be labeled as a “skill”, but the true essence of the concept relates to mentality and culture. In other words, the scholar addresses the need to avoid the trap of viewing entrepreneurship just like having an instrumental role for achieving utilitarian goals. On the contrary, entrepreneurship is a wide concept that includes various social and cultural aspects which might affect the local community, environment and the wider society.

Stimmuli for Social Change, working for years now with several schools in Greece promoting Social Innovation Education and EE, can confirm the above study on how EE is conceptualised by teachers in Greece. In particular, during our own interactions with teachers we found that the majority of them understand entrepreneurship from a very “narrow perspective”, related to negative stereotypes about “entrepreneurs” seeking to create only profit for themselves.  This partial comprehension of entrepreneurship has influenced teachers’ willingness to introduce entrepreneurial learning in their classroom, as they believe its contradictory to the principles of cooperation and solidarity that should form the educational system.

Written by the Theofilos Pouliopoulos

and Stimmuli for Social Changee team