Entrepreneurship Education

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8) Mini-Companies in Secondary Education: Final Report of the Expert Group: A Best Procedure Project:

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Authors: Enterprise and industry Directorate-General

DateSeptember 2005


To investigate the prevalence of ‘min company’ activities in secondary education in the EU and to locate factors that enhance its impact in the teaching of entrepreneurship and the achievement of an entrepreneurial mind-set.

Key Findings:

Students participating in mini-company programmes are still a minority.  As regards the number of schools offering these programmes, in most countries secondary schools involved are less than 15 % of the total

The expert group conclude that growing success of the student company methodology is due to:

  • The strong connection with businesses and with the local community, and the involvement of the private sector;
  • Flexibility and adaptability of these programmes to different types of education, and locally to different situations;
  • Enthusiasm and motivation generated in students (even those who lack motivation in more traditional subjects);
  • The potential, in terms of creativity, initiative and innovation that these activities are able to unlock in young people

In primary schools, the activities and tasks to be performed are simpler, and programmes have a shorter duration than found in secondary schools (for instance 2-3 months, or just the time needed to develop a specific project). The methodology will be more oriented towards learning by playing, through experimentation and games. Emphasis will be rather on attitudes (team working, initiative etc.) than on business skills. Activities already existing inside the school will be often used (like organising a bazaar, raising money for a school trip, etc.), or the student company may be organised around a certain event (like selling products at a Christmas Fair).

Focus of Study

A student company is defined as a pedagogical tool based on practical experience by means of running a complete enterprise project, and on interaction with the external environment

These activities allow students to acquire basic business skills, but also to develop personal qualities and transversal skills that have become increasingly important for all in order to live and work in the knowledge society. In fact, through participation in mini-companies students display their creativity, develop enthusiasm and self-confidence, and learn how to work in a team, become more willing to take responsibility and to use their initiative.

The objective of mini-companies run by students is that of developing on a small scale a real economic activity, or of simulating in a realistic way the operations of real firms.

Though operating in a protected environment and for a pedagogical purpose, frequently student companies produce and sell real products or services. Therefore, this study included both student companies selling their products for money and virtual, fictitious or practice firms, provided that the simulation is sufficiently realistic and that certain criteria are met. It should be seen as a necessary condition that students work in a team and that there is some interaction within and outside the school environment, with teachers, mentors, business people or the local community in general.

Authority and Credibility:

An Expert Group was created for this project which consisted of nominated experts from different nations in the EU plus representatives of relevant international networks. The members were tasked with bringing together the necessary information and data on existing programmes including examples of good practice.

Implications & Comments:

  • At the level of the school and education authority.

Obstacles lie with the reluctance of schools and teachers to become involved when programmes are not backed up, recognized or recommended by the educational authorities. These programmes often require additional time and effort from teachers that go beyond the classroom and the normal school day so that some teachers are reluctant to become involved if such work is not recognised by the school.

The inclusion of student company programmes as an option in framework curricula established at national or regional level has a positive effect on their dissemination and their success, for instance by raising the motivation of teachers.

Criteria for identifying best practice in running student company programmes:

  1. The programme places emphasis on team-working skills and cooperation between students; an appropriate induction to group work is given to students prior to the actual implementation of the programme;
  2. Volunteers and teachers involved are qualified for organising student company programmes, or they are given specific training on this subject;
  3.  Support and advice to teachers and students are available throughout the duration of the programme;
  4. Students are assisted by a facilitator (teacher, tutor, mentor), but have freedom to develop their own ideas and are fully responsible for the operation of the mini-company;
  5. Specific teaching material on how to facilitate and how to run student companies has been produced and is available (manuals, guide, etc.);
  6. The programme is flexible, applicable in a wide variety of contexts and easy to integrate into school activities, both within the classroom or as an extra-curricular activity
  7. Mentors and advisers from the business world participate in the implementation of the programme;
  8. Events external to the school, such as trade fairs, are organised;
  9. The programme is supported by the local community;
  10. Tools for the evaluation of the programme are regularly used;
  11. Networking between teachers is ensured for mutual assistance and learning, as well as the development of national and international contacts between teachers, students and other actors involved.
  • For public authorities,

These recommendations include:

  • Developing an overall strategy for entrepreneurship education in schools. In this strategy, student company programmes should be highlighted as one important option within the established curricula. 
  • Setting up regular cooperation between different ministries, business associations,
    non-governmental organisations, educational institutions, municipalities, with the objective of further promoting activities based on the student company methodology.
  • Cooperating in particular with those organisations (such as NGOs) that are widely
    disseminating these programmes, and involve them in national plans for
    entrepreneurship education.
  • Endorse, and actively promote student company activities to schools, heads of school and teachers.
  • Ensure that legal and administrative barriers to the setting up and implementation
    of mini-companies are removed;
  • At regional and community level

These programmes can represent an important instrument within regional development policies. In fact, especially in less developed or more isolated regions, activities may have positive effects in increasing the number of school leavers who remain in the area by building direct links with the local community.

Bibliographic Information

Enterprise & Industry Directorate-General. (2005). Mini Companies in Secondary Education: Final Report of the Expert Group. Brussels: European Commission.
 Url accessed 28/02/2015