Who wins when you try to convince a mouse her best friend is a cat? The value of competition in entrepreneurship education.

Nigel Culkin, Catherine Brentnall, Iván Diego Rodríguez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The push by policy makers for entrepreneurship education at an ever-earlier age, and the expansion of programmes and activities at secondary schools, is increasing the likelihood that more young people will be sheep-dipped in competitive entrepreneurial learning experiences. By its nature, competitive pedagogy requires that there are winners and losers, the latter group being the vast majority of participants. Though this method is handed down to entrepreneurship education as an appropriate and effective approach, its value – both stated and empirically observed - is under-researched. In this context, this working paper seeks to identify, and caution against, the taken-for-granted benefits of competition stated in entrepreneurship education policy by discussing evidence from a range of disciplines that illustrate the negative effects of competition in different contexts.

Studies of the effects of competitive pedagogy in entrepreneurship education are notable by their absence. A recent meta-analysis of entrepreneurship education studies (Bae et al., 2014) revealed that of all the moderating factors utilised by researchers - economic status, gender, education of parents etc. - no study, at any level of education could be found that investigated the effects of an intervention controlling for ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’

European policy and guidance documents for schools are reviewed in order to establish how competition is featured and identify its stated value. These claimed benefits are discussed in relation to theory and mechanisms from educational, social and psychological research. Emerging themes are discussed and recommendations are made.

Analysis of European policy and guidance demonstrates that competitions are widely promoted and, largely, uncritically recommended to educators as a standard model of good practice, effective for developing the entrepreneurial skills and motivation of learners and an appropriate pedagogy for teachers at all phases of education. Evidence from educational, psychological and social research demonstrates the negative effects of competition, for different subjects in different contexts, and does not support such uncritical assertions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConference Proceedings
EditorsRobert Edwards
PublisherInstitute of Small Business & Entrepreneurship (ISBE)
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Event39th Annual Conference of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship: Institutional Voids, Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development - Nvotel Tour Eiffel, Paris, France
Duration: 26 Oct 201628 Oct 2016


Conference39th Annual Conference of the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship


  • Competition
  • Entrepreneurship education.
  • Values


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