The Need for Entrepreneurial Education in Secondary Schools in Malawi

6. 2. 2021

One fundamental importance of secondary education to the economy is the demand for better educated and skilled youth entering the world of work to meet the complexities of a fast-evolving world. What skills and knowledge the secondary school graduates leave school with determines how successful they would be at the workplace. Countries assume that entrepreneurship is a way out for declining economies and stagnating ones (Matlay, 2004). Entrepreneurship is crucial for socio-economic development, considering the number of opportunities that boost countries’ economies. Entrepreneurship education equips individuals with entrepreneurial capability and skills; it impacts entrepreneurship intention and must be part of Secondary schools’ curriculum. The need for incorporating entrepreneurship education in Secondary Schools in Malawi is to spur increasing employment opportunities for the youth and economic growth in general. For more remarkable results, entrepreneurship education needs to be trickled down to Secondary Schools in Malawi. Various policies for promoting youth entrepreneurship to solve youth unemployment and transition to employment are formulated in different countries. This paper argues that the Malawi government should not wait for the youth to complete their education before providing entrepreneurial education. It should start right away while the youth are in Secondary school. Entrepreneurship as a secondary school subject can encourage some students to become entrepreneurs after graduation from school rather than looking for non-existent government jobs. Consequently, entrepreneurship as a subject is likely to encourage self-employment among Malawian youth as they develop a positive attitude toward self-employment, personal responsibility, and self-reliance. Malawi has a deep-rooted culture of graduates who always expect the government to provide them jobs instead of creating jobs for themselves. This mentality must be uprooted, and entrepreneurial studies would be a long-term approach to accomplish that goal at the secondary level. A proper private sector development is an idea that must be sown among the youth in their early schooling career to develop businesses, hence a market economy.


Education remains an essential instrument for socio-economic and political development as it enhances people’s skills, knowledge, and values (Afe, 2014). Different countries provide education through different systems and structures. In many instances, pre-primary education starts before children reach five years; it includes knowledge provided in kindergarten or from parents. Most children start Primary education from 5 to 7 years, followed by secondary education, which is a bridge to higher education. The formal education system refers to knowledge and skills provided within premises of the pre-primary school, primary school, secondary school, vocational colleges, and universities. The current basic education from standard one to form four is compulsory for every citizen in Malawi. Therefore, Malawi must consider a purposeful, focused, well-articulated, and national youth development policy to develop this country because it is predominantly a nation full of youth.

Morris (2001) observes that it is difficult for sustainable economic development to occur without entrepreneurship skills. Society could not increase its wealth or improve its quality of life without increasing entrepreneurship skills. Stakeholders must make efforts to produce entrepreneurs needed in the public and private sectors. One strategy is to include entrepreneurial studies as a subject in the secondary school curricula. Weligamage (2009) observes that the current changing business environment emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurial education for employability, focusing on developing skills and practical experience. As young people seek to navigate their way towards successful futures, transformative entrepreneurial competencies are essential.

Literature Review

Entrepreneurial Education

Entrepreneurial education is defined as content, approaches, and activities that support knowledge creation, capabilities, and experiences that facilitate student’s participation in entrepreneurial value-creating processes (Moberg et al., 2012, p.14). Entrepreneurship is when one acts upon ideas and opportunities and transforms them for economic, social, or cultural values. Entrepreneurial education is also a means of empowering people and organizations to create social value for the public good and addressing societal challenges (Volkmann et al., 2009, Austin et al., 2006). The main goal of entrepreneurial education is to develop a level of entrepreneurial competencies. Entrepreneurial competencies are the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that affect the enthusiasm and ability to execute the entrepreneurial work of value creation.

Education in Malawi

Governments and Institutions promote entrepreneurial education as major machinery for economic growth and job creation. Entrepreneurial education is also a response to the increasingly globalized, uncertain, and complex world, requiring students and society to be well equipped with entrepreneurial skills (Gibb, 2002). Relevancy, motivation, and other effects of entrepreneurial activities on students and business owners are other reasons for entrepreneurial education besides economic development and job creation.

Students’ interests in entrepreneurship are a starting point for entrepreneurial education. Such an interest can be harnessed into the curriculum and can drive profound learning and practice the students’ theoretical knowledge. Curiosity among young people to solve societal challenges is high worldwide (Youniss et al., 2002). Entrepreneurship, therefore, can be a tool for young people to attempt to become societal history-makers (Spinosa et al., 1999).

Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurship Education

Brinders et al. (2002) and European Commission (2003) define entrepreneurship in similar terms in its broadest sense as the capability of bringing resources to respond to opportunities and provide solutions to problems. The perception of business opportunities is a crucial part of the entrepreneurial process; it is the starting point of entrepreneurship. A significant emphasis is placed on the ability to identify opportunities and translate them into business endeavors. Consequently, entrepreneurship consists of the skills, knowledge, and ability to start up and run a business and creatively and innovatively create new economic success or value (new markets, new products, and improving existing products) for existing government-private businesses.

Divergent Views on What Constitutes Entrepreneurship Education

Lackeus (2015) argues that there is diversity in what entrepreneurship education means. The term entrepreneurship education focuses more on the specific context of setting up a venture and becoming self-employed (QAA, 2012, Mahieu, 2006). Making company owners out of students is a narrow view corresponding to entrepreneurship education: it is about opportunity identification, business development, self-employment, venture creation, and growth, i.e., becoming an entrepreneur (Fayolle and Gailly, 2008, QAA, 2012, Mahieu, 2006); it is about personal development, creativity, self-reliance, initiative-taking, action orientation, i.e., becoming entrepreneurial. There is a diversity of thought as to what constitutes entrepreneurship. This diversity implies that there is also diversity of focus and goals in entrepreneurship education. There is diversity in the approach to the delivery of entrepreneurship education to achieve the goals. Mwasalwiba (2010) concludes that approaches to entrepreneurship education focus on content design, target audiences, educational objectives, teaching methods, and student assessment procedures.

Entrepreneurship Education Content

Education has three separate but closely related purposes, namely: ideological purpose, economic purpose, and aesthetic purpose, and as such, curriculum content should endeavor to address them all. One of the ideological purposes of education is to act as an agent of social reconstruction or change or a conduit for transmitting cultural norms and values. In keeping with the purposes of education, the curriculum content of the entrepreneurial studies for secondary school education consists of, but not limited to, the following elements:

  • The role of entrepreneurs in the economy; characteristics of entrepreneurs;
  • Exploring differences between entrepreneurs and employees; identifying business opportunities;
  • Differences and similarities between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs;
  • Generating ideas; preparing business plans; budgeting and financing business opportunities; strategic planning concept;
  • Business registration process; business ethics; export procedures and cultures;
  • Marketing and pricing products; identifying domestic and international markets; business innovations and creativity;
  • Preparing, understanding, interpreting financial statements;
  • Product quality and cost control; problem-solving; teamwork; and
  • Business strengths and weaknesses; business solutions.

Delivering Entrepreneurship in Secondary Schools

Entrepreneurial studies may be considered too complex for secondary school students to understand. Research establishes that entrepreneurship can be taught and learned like any other secondary school course (Drucker, 1985; Donckels, 1991; Kolvereid & Moen, 1997; Fayolle, 2000). Hermann et al. (2005) demonstrate that entrepreneurial culture and spirit can be inculcated in secondary school students. The European Commission (2003) states that most member states, to varying degrees, are committed to promoting entrepreneurship teaching in their education systems. Greece, Belgium, and Austria introduced entrepreneurship at a secondary level. Malawi follows the British education system. Therefore, it can be interpolated that entrepreneurial studies can be taught and learned at secondary schools in any country, even in Malawi.

Johnson, 1988; Heinonen and Hytti, 2010, O’Connor, 2013 conclude that entrepreneurship education takes three approaches, namely: teaching “about” entrepreneurship, an approach which is content-laden, quite theoretical, and achieving a general understanding of the phenomenon in its students is the goal; teaching “for” entrepreneurship approach, aiming at giving budding entrepreneurs the requisite knowledge and skills; and teaching “through” means a process-based and experiential approach where students go through the actual entrepreneurial learning process (Kyrö, 2005). The education systems must design their curricula to suit the market demands without losing sight of encouraging human development. The students’ entrepreneurial skills are improved by maintaining a working relationship and contact between schools and employers. Thus, understanding industrial realities, work placement for staff and students, and adapting the new approach to learning. This highlights core skills and attitudes, job-seeking skills, and a repackaged set of technical and occupational skills.

Approaches to entrepreneurial studies combine theory with experience and practice: emphasizing a hands-on approach to learning activities, learning from other entrepreneurs through interviews and personal interactions, researching business problems, case studies of businesses, presentation skills, apprenticeship with entrepreneurs, group discussion, and problem-solving. In organizing entrepreneurship education in this manner and delivering the curriculum, the following objectives are expected to be accomplished::

  • To provide practical and theoretical knowledge of how to set up and run small and medium-size businesses; This includes attitude, beliefs, values, and behavioral patterns of entrepreneurs;
  • To inculcate the mindset for innovation, creativity, strategic planning skills, and knowledge that are suitable for the various sectors of the economy the students would be working in future;
  • To prepare entrepreneurship students to become entrepreneurs, business managers, consultants, researchers, and entrepreneurship professors at the secondary level.

Redford (2014) concurs with others on the goal of entrepreneurship education introduced in African secondary education. The program’s main goal was to increase student awareness, highlight the entrepreneurial path as a viable career option, and develop positive attitudes, entrepreneurial knowledge, and skills. It is expected that by building up this entrepreneurial foundation, the private sector would become more sustainable, human development would be supported, and poverty alleviated.

Effects of Entrepreneurial Education

Introducing entrepreneurship as a secondary school subject may inspire some students to set up businesses for themselves upon graduation. However, it would also motivate other students to study it to become researchers and consultants of entrepreneurship. The introduction of entrepreneurial studies at the secondary school level would provide a practical context for students to apply theoretical concepts learned in other subjects. Entrepreneurship as an applied discipline requires students to solve practical business problems such as improving labor productivity or reducing business operating costs using various ideas, concepts, and approaches. Students need to learn the craft of entrepreneurship and solve real-life business problems through practical observations, logical thinking, and creativity skills.

Dana (1996) concludes that entrepreneurship is not necessarily a function of opportunity but rather a function of cultural perceptions of opportunity. Dana (1996) suggests that entrepreneurial development programs should be designed to foster entrepreneurial values and culture among the indigenous population to break down cultural barriers to entrepreneurship. Certain Malawian beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes hinder the development of entrepreneurial and managerial culture in the continent. Introducing entrepreneurial studies in secondary schools would indoctrinate entrepreneurial values and behavioral patterns in students, eventually breaking down some cultural practices detrimental to entrepreneurial development.

The youth in Malawian secondary schools should also be the target of any economic reconstruction whose purpose is to encourage self-employment and generate economic growth. The reason for targeting the youth is that the nation’s economic prosperity depends significantly on youth development, including inculcating the entrepreneurial culture to become contributing members of society (Dionco-Adetayo, 2003). This does not suggest that introducing entrepreneurial studies at the secondary school level would automatically convert every student into an entrepreneur. Some students may have different career paths and ambitions. Southon & West (2004) state that not all students could be entrepreneurs. However, students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities in entrepreneurship courses could be used in all walks of life. Students who take entrepreneurship courses favor entrepreneurship and venture creation in general than those without such a course (Clark et al., 1984; Fayolle, 2002; Kolvereid & Moen, 1997). Some students who enroll in entrepreneurial studies out of sheer intellectual curiosity without an initial inkling to become future entrepreneurs develop a desire to become entrepreneurs due to their positive experiences with entrepreneurship studies (Hytti, 2002).

According to Hytti (2002), the other group comprises students who want to learn to become entrepreneurs. It is logical that just as some students may embrace entrepreneurship as a career choice, others in the second category may give up their dreams to become entrepreneurs. Accordingly, Echtner (1995) provides the following insight:

It is difficult to deny that some individuals seem to have an inborn entrepreneurial skill, just as others have innate talents for mathematics and music. Nevertheless, success in any endeavor requires the appropriate mix of ingrained characteristics and learned skills. Aspiring entrepreneurs need certain behavioral traits and need to acquire knowledge and understanding of specific management tools. While some innovative individuals would like to become entrepreneurs, they lack the techniques and skills to succeed (p.4).

Entrepreneurial education would tremendously develop skills, abilities, and business knowledge, introducing innovations, efficiency, and productivity that impact businesses to students who naturally lean toward entrepreneurship. African entrepreneurs who lack bookkeeping, accounting, planning skills, and personal initiatives are less likely to succeed in their chosen careers than those who possess these vital skills and knowledge (Kiggubdu, 2002). Entrepreneurs who are provided with entrepreneurship education gain attitudes and skills such as self-motivation, creativity, opportunity-seeking, and the ability to cope with uncertainty. These studies, therefore, indicate that entrepreneurial education could highly contribute to nurturing entrepreneurs among the youth in Malawi. The need to target the youth to promote entrepreneurship is recognized by the European Commission (1999). The Commission suggests that the Member States should introduce entrepreneurial education from even primary school through university. In his presentation on entrepreneurship and development in Africa at the International Conference on the cultural approach to development in Africa – Dakar, Senegal, Tshikuku (2001) suggests that African youth should be targeted for acculturation with the values, attitudes, and reflexes of entrepreneurship as part of the strategy to develop a vibrant entrepreneurial culture in the continent.

Entrepreneurial Competencies

The main goal of most entrepreneurial education is to develop entrepreneurial competencies such as knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affect the willingness and ability to perform value creation (Sánchez, 2011, Burgoyne, 1989, Kraiger et al., 1993, Fisher et al., 2008). Redford et al. (2014) summarize key entrepreneurial competencies into four categories, namely: entrepreneurial knowledge; entrepreneurial skills; entrepreneurial attitudes; and entrepreneurial intentions, while Lackeus (2015) and others categorize the competencies into three broad areas, namely: knowledge (cognitive); attitudes; and skills. Intentions are considered as belonging to the category of entrepreneurial attitudes. Moberg et al. (2014) describe an individual entrepreneur as having competencies, namely: understanding entrepreneurship; one who has learned to become an entrepreneur; and lastly, one who has learned to become entrepreneurial.


Measuring the effects of entrepreneurship education has largely been based on the theory of planned behavior, where students’ perceived entrepreneurial attitudes and intentions before and after are compared. If attitudes and intentions have positively changed afterward, it is deemed to be a successful entrepreneurship education. Alternatively, studies have been conducted to capture actual entrepreneurial behavior as it occurs (Moberg (2014). Analysis of the data obtained used measures of central tendency, namely mean, standard deviation, and frequencies. In addition, t-tests were also used. The analysis was conducted with the help of IBM SPSS.

In this study, the key investigation was to check what entrepreneurship skills or competencies are acquired through formal secondary education in Malawi. A quantitative approach was used with a questionnaire adapted from the ASTEE study. Data was collected using a questionnaire and administered to secondary school graduates.

Analysis, Presentation, and Discussion of Findings

Characteristics of Sample

Data were collected from a random sample of 49 currently university enrolled students through a self-assessment questionnaire.  55% of respondents were females, and 45% were males. The modal age group was 18-35 years. 48.7% of these respondents had prior family business exposure.

Self-Reporting Entrepreneurial Competencies

Table 1 presents the summary of the findings.  Among the three categories of entrepreneurial competencies (namely skills, knowledge, and attitudes), the lowest proportion of respondents (31%) reported having some knowledge competencies in entrepreneurship. The highest proportion (84%) of respondents reported positive entrepreneurial attitudes. In comparison, 39% were of the view they had the skills of an entrepreneur. From these findings, while a high proportion of respondents reported high positive entrepreneurship attitudes, the majority had very low knowledge and skill levels.

Table 1: Frequencies of Entrepreneurial Competencies in Secondary School Graduates


Strongly agree




Strongly Disagree

Entrepreneurial Competence Category: Skills

Propose creative ideas






Propose new solutions to problems






Deal with sudden change and surprises






Continue to develop activities despite the problems






Develop activities under stress and pressure






Develop partnerships to reach goals






Composite score

18 (37%)

21 (43%)

7 (14%)

2 (4%)

1 (2%)

Entrepreneurial Competence Category: Attitudes



Starting a business is something that is useful/worthwhile



Starting a business is fun



Starting a business is positive



Composite score

41 (84%)

8 (16%)

Entrepreneurial Competence Category: Knowledge

Ability/know to define objectives for a project






Ability/know to create a project/business plan






Ability/know to structure tasks in a project






I know how to conduct market research (no responses were obtained)

I know how to develop a market strategy (no responses were obtained)

Composite score

15 (31%)

16 (33%)

7 (16%)

3 (7%)

6 (13%)

The analysis further explored whether there is a relationship between prior business exposure (through their close family member owning and operating a business) and the entrepreneurial attitudes of the respondents. A chi-square test for independence at p=0.05 was conducted. A chi-square statistic of 1.7 was obtained, indicating that prior business exposure does influence entrepreneurial attitudes.


Therefore, education at secondary and tertiary levels should prepare its graduates for the rapidly changing world. For least developed countries like Malawi, the need to create a labor force for existing and new innovative labor markets is enormous. Thus, providing a type of education that develops entrepreneurial competencies in its students is paramount. Most youth at that education level would be more interested in entrepreneurial studies with a definitive purpose because of their practical nature. Youths with enthusiasm, motivation, risk-taking, flexibility, energy, resourcefulness, and willingness to try new things are an excellent target for entrepreneurial education. Hence, most secondary school students are more likely to embrace entrepreneurship as a subject of study. The education system needs to be reformed to meet the needs of upcoming job markets. This study asks the most important players of an educational system what must be done to guarantee future graduates high-quality entrepreneurial skills.

Author: Matilda Tumalike Matabwa

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