Tom Ravenscroft, Enabling Enterprise’s founder and CEO, travelled to Estonia to share the organisation’s work as Estonia considers how to create a more skills-focused education system.

I wrote last month about the universality of the importance of enterprise skills. The motivation was the publication of a new EU-supported report on entrepreneurial education and its launch, featuring Enabling Enterprise, in Poland.

I suggested then that the recommendations of that report chimed closely with our own evaluation of the critical principles for effective enterprise education – with one exception: that we have come to see being able to measure progress in the enterprise skills as critical.

So, it was a pleasure to travel to the University of Tartu in Estonia to share our work, with a particular focus on just that: using the measurement of entrepreneurial skills to transform outcomes for students.

The Estonian Context

Estonia is a small country, with a population of just 1.3 million – but it has a bold vision for the future.

Over the last few years, the education system in Estonia has been re-orientating away from a traditional model, focused on didactic learning and the acquisition of knowledge. Instead, the focus has been on building the values and skills for the 21st century.

A good crowd

It’s a slightly unnerving experience to be simultaneously translated. The translation always lags the speech by a few seconds and so any audience reactions are split into the group that listens to the English directly and those who follow the translation.

If I needed reassurance of the engagement of the audience though, the questions from the audience showed that there was no passivity here:

Question 1: What makes the Enabling Enterprise approach different?

A great question – I think the main point is rigour, measurable outcomes, and a long-term commitment to the development of students’ skills. We tackle full-on the fact that enterprise skills are hard to measure by creating

Question 2: What is the long-term impact for students who have finished the programmes?

Another great question – and one that we are still working on. Destination data (that is, where the students go after they complete formal education) in England can be patchy – so we don’t have a clear picture yet.

Given our focus on working with students from the age of 5 though, the destinations of our students are only ever going to be a small part of the picture. What matters too is the progress that students are making all the way through their time in school.

Our Impact Report this year shows that the Enabling Enterprise programmes are putting students on the right trajectory for future success. The end of the year, 86% of students were either at the target level for their age or above it.

We still want to do a lot more on the long-term impact though – starting with a piece of work that UBS are supporting to track students over multiple years in Hackney, in London.

Question 3: Who assesses the skills of the students?

A simpler question! This year, we’ve moved away from student self-assessment as one of our key measures to instead focus on teacher assessment. We found that student self-assessment provided some important patterns at a high level, but that their self-assessments were often affected by mood, or decreased as they developed a better understanding of what that skill really looked like.

This year, over 15,000 students have been assessed by their teachers, and this data is helping to inform better teaching.

Question 4: Are the teachers reliable?

A controversial one to end on – but not a controversial answer! We put a lot of work into providing top quality teacher training, knowing that the skills framework is most powerful when underpinned by a clear, intuitive understanding of why progress looks as it does. We also encourage teachers to observe their classes over up to 4 weeks before they complete the assessment so they are doing so with a richer understanding of those skills and aptitudes.

We’ve seen that over more than one year of running Enabling Enterprise, teachers become a lot more confident in identifying and developing those skills in their students too.

International scrutiny

It’s a great privilege to be able to share our work internationally, and particularly the challenge that comes with different viewpoints.

I left Estonia enthused that the challenge of developing students’ enterprise skills is receiving such thoughtful and considered attention. I also left with a renewed sense that measurability is a vital key – and that we still have plenty of questions to work on.

To find out more about Enabling Enterprise’s approach to enterprise skills assessment see here, and you can find out more about our international work here.

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