The austrian teacher Johannes Linder is changing the way children are taught inside and out of the classroom in order to inspire and institutionalize social entrepreneurship as a means to achieve effective citizenship for students.
Johannes believes that entrepreneurship education is indispensable for empowering students with the tools to be effective citizens. The earlier that young people are given the space to develop their own initiatives, the more they are able to define themselves personally and professionally. During his time as a teacher at an Austrian occupational business school, Johannes noticed the limitations of an education system that discriminates against students of underprivileged social backgrounds. He determined that the school years are critical for students to learn how to be responsible, active citizens and discover their own entrepreneurial skills to realize their ideas. Johannes’ entrepreneurship curriculum applies non-conventional teaching methods inside and outside of the classroom. His model is spreading and becoming institutionalized across Europe. Johannes’ first step is changing the curriculum through entrepreneurship skills-building classes. All classes are designed to be highly practical, enriched with group-exercises, and include partner activities with other schools across the country. In addition, he has introduced a series of practical school projects to link classroom learning with the outside world.
The Austrian educational system reinforces class, economic, and social stratification. In fact, there is a striking difference in the quality of education between the Gymnasium and occupational business schools. Studies show that students who attend the Gymnasium typically have greater self-confidence and eagerness to seek out and pursue future opportunities. Students of occupational schools, however, graduate with more limited qualifications. When paired with the dull and disengaged education they receive, students from the occupational schools experience higher rates of unemployment and fewer opportunities to progress in their professional lives.
In addition, changes in the economic environment and social values have contributed to mounting pressures on youth worldwide. Poorly paid positions, unprecedented rates of unemployment, social exclusion, and low self-esteem are frustrating for young people. Simultaneously, changes in employment patterns, the marketplace, and the economy have shifted discourse on what it means to be a successful student, employee, or citizen. Given the increasingly competitive job market, personal and professional success requires innovation: Students need to be able to learn new concepts, spot patterns, take initiative, communicate ideas, and work with others. In this fast-paced world, these skills require practice; those who master them early will be in high demand in the future.
A supportive environment for learning and for youth to enact small-scale change is critical for changing the current-day education system. Young people need to be exposed as early as possible to what it means to be heard, develop their own ideas, put them into action, and be an enabler of change. Johannes has pioneered entrepreneurship education as central to the curriculum in CEE and Austria.
Check Johannes Lindnder´s Ashoka fellow profile for further insight into his work: https://www.ashoka.org/en/fellow/johannes-lindner