The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial attitudes and intention

Comments on an article by Fayolle and Gailly published in 2015.

The original article

Fayolle, A. and Gailly, B. (2015) ‘The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial attitudes and intention: hysteresis and persistence’, Journal of Small Business Management, 53(1), pp. 75–93. doi: 10.1111/jsbm.12065.


Quick summary

Students doing a short compulsory course in entrepreneurship were studied to see whether the course changed their intention to become an entrepreneur or “entrepreneurship intention”. Entrepreneurship intention was defined as an intention to be move towards self-employment instead of an employed situation.

Entrepreneurship intention increased for students who had never been exposed to entrepreneurship and persisted for six months. But entrepreneurship intention decreased for students who had previously been exposed to entrepreneurship, such as having a relative who was an entrepreneur. Having a high level of entrepreneurship intention before the course was associated with a lower entrepreneurship intention after the course.


More detailed comments

Background

Does entrepreneurship education make students want to be more entrepreneurial? There have been some conflicting results in the literature. Oosterbeek 2010 and von Graevenitz 2010 both found entrepreneurship education reduces the likelihood of becoming an entrepreneur. Oosterbeek 2010 suggested it is because it gives students a more realistic view of their own skills and what it takes to be an entrepreneur.


In this study, Fayolle and Gailly refer investigate whether a short compulsory course in entrepreneurship has an influence on the “entrepreneurship intention” of students. The authors define entrepreneurship intention as an intention to move towards self-employment instead of an employed situation. This is a narrow meaning of entrepreneurship because it does not include the option of being an employee and who also engages in entrepreneurial activities. However, the results may still be relevant to researcher entrepreneurs.


Theory of planned behaviour (TPB)

The study used the widely-accepted theory of planned behaviour (TPB) to analyse each student’s entrepreneurship intention. There is general agreement in the literature that a person’s intention, as defined in TPB, is a strong predictor of planned behaviour, such as planning to become an entrepreneur.

TPB is an evidence-based theory from social psychology, developed by Ajzen 1991, which says three key factors influence a person’s intention to engage in a particular behaviour:

  • Personal attitude toward the behaviour: does the person believe the behaviour is desirable?

  • Subjective norm: does the person believe others think the behaviour is desirable?

  • Perceived behavioural control: does the person believe they have the ability to perform the behaviour?

A questionnaire is used to generate the three factors above, and behavioural intention is derived from a weighted sum of the three factors.


Results

Overall, the study found there was no significant increase in entrepreneurship intention, either immediately after the course or after six months. However, the study did not stop there. It looked at whether a person’s previous experience with entrepreneurship affected their entrepreneurship intention. It turns out that entrepreneurship intention decreased for students who had previously been exposed to entrepreneurship, such as belonging to a family of entrepreneurs or having taken part in a prior training program. This result means entrepreneurship intention increased for students who had never been exposed to entrepreneurship, and that entrepreneurship intention persisted for six months.


Fayolle and Gailly suggest that the students without prior entrepreneurship exposure were discovering a field that was new to them and appreciating the positive aspects. On the other hand, the students with prior entrepreneurship exposure already had some knowledge of the field and may have learned some limitations or difficulties with entrepreneurship they had previously underestimated. Of course, having a more realistic view of entrepreneurship is not a bad thing.


The study also found that students with a high entrepreneurship intention before the course tended to have a lower level of entrepreneurship intention after the course (immediately after, and after six months).


The authors suggest that the difference between students who had been previously exposed to entrepreneurship, and those who had not, may explain why some previous studies find a negative correlation between entrepreneurship training and entrepreneurship intention (for example Oosterbeek 2010 and von Graevenitz 2010), while other studies find a positive correlation.


Data used in the study

Fayolle and Gailly surveyed 275 French students from various masters programs in management in a French “Grande Ecole” attending a compulsory entrepreneurial awareness course (24 hours of class time scheduled over three days).


References

Oosterbeek, H., van Praag, M. and Ijsselstein, A. (2010) ‘The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurship skills and motivation’, European Economic Review, 54(3), pp. 442–454. doi: 10.1016/j.euroecorev.2009.08.002.


von Graevenitz, G., Harhoff, D. and Weber, R. (2010) ‘The effects of entrepreneurship education’, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 76(1), pp. 90–112. doi: 10.1016/j.jebo.2010.02.015.


Ajzen, I. (1991) ‘The theory of planned behavior’, Organizational behavior and human decision processes, 50(2), 179-211.