History of the initiative
Founded in 1937, the University of Economics in Katowice is public university based in Katowice, Poland. The university is the biggest and oldest business school in the region and considered one of the top universities in Poland. The university hosts studies at Bachelor, Master, Doctoral and Post-diploma levels in four of studies field: Finance, Economics, Informatics and Communication and Management.
As a local activist, University of Economics in Katowice’s Bartłomiej Gabryś often visits schools where he organises entrepreneurship education-related workshops for students and teachers. Through this, Bartłomiej realised that many entrepreneurship education teachers only offer very theoretical knowledge to their students about entrepreneurship, such as how to set up one’s own company. However, they did not teach the process of developing a business idea, identifying market niches or how to look for information in today’s volatile business environment. These led Bartłomiej to try to meet the needs of teachers who wanted to teach entrepreneurship education in a modern way.
Bartłomiej and Professor Wojciech Dyduch, the former vice-Rector of the university, who also saw a need to treat entrepreneurship as a broader concept than just narrowly viewing it as regulations for managing a company. Professor Dyduch had the idea of preparing a cutting-edge postgraduate studies programme that would treat entrepreneurship education teaching in a complex way. Professor Dyduch also invited other four universities from various regions of Poland to build a consortium, and the project became big and attractive enough for National Bank of Poland to co-finance it.
Thus, the Entrepreneurship Education for Teachers programme was developed, with the studies co-financed by the National Bank of Poland. The main target group included in-service teachers and passive teachers who were not working at that time, provided they have master’s degrees in any subject. The was an enormous effort to make teachers aware of the studies, through personalised invitation letters which were sent to all schools in the Silesian voivodeship and the heads of those schools. Bartłomiej also made people aware of the initiative during various conference speeches and other initiatives he participated in. Apart from awareness raising, Professor Dyduch was able to source additional financing, thus, teachers paid only around one-sixth of the typical tuition fee that postgraduate students pay for the programme. Classes were also organised over weekends so that it did not interfere with teachers’ school activities.
Aims and objectives
The main goal of the initiative was to prepare participating teachers to teach entrepreneurship education in a practical way and allow them to show their students how to become a proactive member of society. The aim was also to equip teachers with the tools to teach students how to actively look for information and resources, organise their time effectively, come up with interesting business ideas, and make those ideas work in practice. Activities were performed in person and included group and individual work.
Activities and learning outcomes
Teachers were given chance to understand what entrepreneurship is, to develop entrepreneurship-related skills and ways of fostering these skills among their students. The teachers were not only offered interesting courses and meetings with experts on the subject, but were also able to download all the presentations, which were made freely available to be used as teaching aids.
The main content elements covered were entrepreneurship-related content and teaching methodology-related content. All the different types of classes had defined practical teaching efforts and learning outcomes which had to be met; for instance, after a class related to preparing business plans, participants had to prepare a business plan. Thus, participants learnt practical skills which could later help them become better entrepreneurship education teachers. At the end of the programme participants defended their theses and took the final examination during which they were asked to discuss entrepreneurship-related questions concerning the classes they participated in, their teaching internship and their theses. Also, after each class, the participants had a task to do, which was often a practical task.
The courses proposed as part of Entrepreneurship Education for Teachers postgraduate studies are presented below:
• Classes which were conducted in an interactive way and the issues addressed were carefully selected on the basis of a needs analysis.
• Workshops which made it possible for students to see how certain mechanisms or teaching techniques work in practice.
• Lectures in their classic form were kept to a minimum, but those lectures that were delivered, were done so by individuals who were able to share know-how with the students in the mechanisms of economy, the needs of young people with relation to entrepreneurship-related knowledge and modern methods of entrepreneurship education teaching.
• A diploma seminar where participants were given the opportunity to do their own research in entrepreneurship education-related areas. Their diploma works were double reviewed, so high quality documents could be shared amongst the participants and thus interesting material that could be used during their own teaching was developed.
• Teaching internships where students had to practice teaching entrepreneurship education at schools and the aim was not only to practice teaching, but also to see if their newly-gained knowledge could be used to teach entrepreneurship education in an improved, more practical way.
Breaking barriers for impact
There were three main challenges that the organisers had to face before launching the studies. The first barrier related to financing – the organisers were aware that target students may not have been able to pay the tuition fee as teachers in Poland often are underpaid and even paying the fee for cheapest postgraduate studies may be a challenge for them. Thus, external financial sources had to be located. This challenge was overcome after securing funding from the National Bank of Poland.
The next barrier concerned getting to the right target group. The organisers assumed that many teachers may not even look for postgraduate education opportunities due to their financial condition. What is more, in order to participate in the programme of the National Bank of Poland, organisers had to recruit around 50 students. Therefore, the study offer was presented during various conferences for teachers and, personalised invitations were sent to all public schools and their heads in Silesian voivodeship.
Lastly, only one cycle of the programme was co-financed, as the regulations concerning support for such initiatives by the National Bank of Poland changed and the studies were offered a higher price. Thus, the programme could not be afforded by teachers and further iterations of the programme were not undertaken. The organisers hope to continue the programme in the future.
The determination and vision of the main organiser who came up with the study idea, prepared programme and selected the best teachers were the main supporting factors that helped overcome many obstacles. The help of Professor Dyduch in finding external financial support and in building consortium with other Polish universities, was a large supporting factor. The commitment of National Bank of Poland which not only co-financed the initiative, but also, due to its recognisability, encouraged students to enrol and businesspeople to contribute as presenters of the course. In the organisation of the programme, the huge financial support of the National Bank of Poland and the expertise of University of Economics in Katowice in managing such initiatives, gave students many additional incentives. For instance, administrative support during and after classes.
The graduated participants still work as teachers and despite the recent crisis they did not lose their jobs. Some graduated participants became social activists inspiring other teachers, students and other underpaid groups to develop themselves. Many Polish teachers need to teach more than one subject at more than one school to support themselves financially. Taking into consideration the economic situation of some teachers in Poland it was great opportunity for the teachers participating. The Entrepreneurship Education for Teachers postgraduate programme created opportunities for extra sources of income and better job security as participants could teach entrepreneurship education as another subject. Students also benefit from the emphasis on practical entrepreneurial skills in the classroom. As for the University of Economics in Katowice, the co-operation with National Bank of Poland and the success of the programme added to its prestige.
Featured image by Bartłomiej Gabryś