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How can we learn from Estonia, the fastest growing economy in Europe?

The latest report by Finn Conway at APPG for Entrepreneurship Education shows that young people have a massive entrepreneurial desire but they are not provided with the education and know-how to take that desire further. Based on 38 European countries, England was one of nine countries not to have an entrepreneurship education policy[1]. But Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all developed different strategies to encourage enterprise education, thus England remains the anomaly. To exemplify, in Wales the National Curriculum (2015) focuses on encouraging skills such as creative synthesis, adaptability and flexibility that draw on essential enterprising contributors[2]. Scotland has implemented a 'Curriculum for Excellence for 3 to 18-year-olds which has now been expanded to tie to a broader entrepreneurship and innovation strategy called 'Scotland Can Do'. It provides entrepreneurship education by prescribing specific actions to develop classroom resources and support national entrepreneurship education activities. Northern Ireland, follows similarly with an innovation strategy that stresses the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit in young people to the development of an innovative region. As a result, more young people are participating in Young Enterprise Northern Ireland which engages them in entrepreneurial activities[3]. The report concludes that the Government needs to draft a Youth Enterprise Strategy for England, learn from Wales and Scotland, and integrate enterprise into the National curriculum. The report stresses this importance because it evidences the national strategy to be fundamental in providing young people with the knowledge, confidence and agency to set up their own businesses.

The UK is ranked 14th among 44 countries in the National Entrepreneurship Context Index[4] so there is room for improvement, therefore, it is interesting to compare Estonia to the UK. The governmental organisation Enterprise Estonia published a report detailing how they are becoming the largest growing economy in the European Union with the most startups, unicorns and investments per capita in Europe[5]. Their key strategy is planning and detailing exactly how they would be able to achieve their goal, 60 per cent of smaller companies and 80 per cent of larger companies deemed planning as something vital. This proves that having a long-term plan for entrepreneurs is essential.

More interestingly, the Estonian culture finds that entrepreneurs have a larger role in the community, they are encouraged to participate in groups and networks. In addition, working environments and sustainability are increasingly important to individuals. From this, Estonian entrepreneurs have become more self-confident to become leaders themselves. The takeaway from this is for England is perhaps to develop a network or national framework that enables young entrepreneurs to be part of a larger community[6]. The advantages of a communal working environment prove to build confidence because of the influence and encouragement from peers within their professional network. Using Estonia as an exemplar that has benefited from encouraging networking demonstrates to the UK that confidence-boosting environments and workshops are essential in enabling young people to have the confidence to become leaders themselves therefore this clearly reinforces the importance of networks in enabling this skill. Moreover, a central focus of entrepreneurship in Estonia has come from the "I am an entrepreneur" program that aims to promote entrepreneurship education in schools across the country. The scheme seeks to ensure that entrepreneurial competencies are developed at all school levels[7]. There is also ENTRUM, or the Youth Entrepreneurship Ideas Contest and Development Programme designed to engender an entrepreneurial mindset in students ranging from 13 to 19 years of age. This is a perfect example of the belief that entrepreneurial mindsets come from thinking creatively, being open and curious, acting courageously, having self-motivation, and ensuring one take responsibility for oneself and those around you. This mindset is evident in providing courage to young people to take the risks and have the resilience to become successful.

Overall, I think that looking to Estonia for inspiration, young females need to be surrounded by like-minded individuals that share similar aspirations to become entrepreneurs because it does give them confidence. This confidence is an essential mentality that I wish was taught when I was in school, perhaps I would’ve taken more risks to start my own business. The courageous act of doing for young people should be drawn from engagement in the education process.

[1]Finn Conway, Entrepreneurship Education, APPG Entrepreneurship, 2022, pg. 8, accessed 5 Jul 2022 [2] Welsh Government, Curriculum for Wales guidance, 2020, pg. 23, accessed 5 Jul 2022 [3] European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice, Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe, Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2016, pg. 44, accessed 5 Jul 2022 [4] Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, GEM UK 2020 Monitoring Report, 2020, pg. 49. accessed 5 Jul 2022 [5] Marian Männi, Work Estonia, why estonian entrepreneurs are so successful – study explains, April 2022, accessed 5 Jul 2022 [6] Ibid. [7] Adi Gaskell, Growing Entrepreneurs And Entrepreneurship: Lessons From Estonia, Forbes, Sep 2022, accessed 5 Jul 2022

By Heena Carahaa


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