by Svanborg R. Jónsdóttir, Professor University of Iceland School of Education

Innovation and Entrepreneurial Education (IEE), as an area of learning, has for some time been seen as an educational undertaking that contributes to the economic progress of modern societies. In recent years the view has widened to regard IEE as an area of learning that supports individuals in becoming creative, active, and critical citizens (European Commission, 2012; Gibb, 2002; Seikkula-Leino & Salomaa, 2020). Thus, IEE can be seen as spurring personal and cultural growth, economic and technological development, and scientific discovery (David, et al., 2018; Jónsdóttir et al., 2014).

IEE has become a curricular area that focuses on creativity and knowledge to solve problems that learners themselves identify and analyse, while at the same time enhancing their initiative. It aims to develop critical and creative thinking in design, science, technology, marketing, and enterprise. Some researchers have described the pedagogy of IEE as emancipatory pedagogy, where the learner has ample agency and the teacher gradually and steadily gives students control of their projects (Jónsdóttir, 2011; Jónsdóttir & Gunnarsdóttir, 2017).

Figure 1 Emancipatory pedagogy – pedagogies in innovation — and entrepreneurial education (Jónsdóttir, 2011)


Iceland has divided IEE by school level, with innovation more often taught at compulsory level and entrepreneurship at the upper secondary level. The curricular model in Figure 2 shows this transition. This has been mirrored in IEE course design, where the first part is focused more on creativity and innovation, with a gradual transition to entrepreneurship, emphasizing presenting ideas and sharing with others.

Figure 2  Main emphasis in innovation and entrepreneurial education curricula (Jónsdóttir & Macdonald, 2013)


IEE seems to be searching for its identity, with fluctuating uses of words and concepts and varying manifestations in curricula, both formally and in practice. In other countries, the terms entrepreneurship education, entrepreneurial education, and enterprise education are more commonly used for this kind of education (Jónsdóttir et al., 2013). The National Icelandic Curriculum for Upper Secondary Schools (Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, 2012), however, has not presented IEE as a specific discipline or area in secondary education, only as specific courses that are usually part of a business curriculum.

An exploration of the situation of IEE education in upper-secondary schools in 2013 (Jónsdóttir, 2013; Jónsdóttir, et al., 2014) revealed that there are a number of interesting IEE undertakings in upper secondary schools. However, in most of the schools, only a very small proportion of the student population that gets an opportunity to take such courses. One notable exception is the new rural secondary school Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga (in English, The Tröllaskagi Upper-Secondary School), established in 2010 in rural north Iceland, where all students take a comprehensive transdisciplinary course with a focus on creativity, artistic expression, and connection to the community (Jóhannsdóttir, 2018).

Menntaskólinn á Tröllaskaga focuses on distance teaching and learning, and takes a self-management approach, placing the power to learn primarily in the students’ hands. Their motto is “Innovation – Creativity – Courage.”

Figure 3 A student at the Tröllaskagi upper secondary School presents her idea to a visitor (Jónsdóttir, 2013)


A 2013 survey asked administrators of upper-secondary schools in Iceland about the present status of IEE in their schools, their views on IEE, and its role in teacher education. The results indicated that these administrators see various interesting opportunities in IEE to support student autonomy, creativity, and critical thinking, while at the same time providing them with the knowledge and skills they need to function within their culture and society. They also reported various ways IEE could be put to use. However, at that time, — and there are no indications that the situation has changed much in the last 7 years — only a very small percentage of upper secondary students have experienced IEE.

For the last 10 years, researchers have called for a specific IEE policy for Iceland that is in line with their findings (Jónsdóttir, 2011, 2013, 2020; Sölvadóttir, 2013). It is high time for Icelandic education policy makers to create a policy from kindergarten to university for this important curriculum area. It would not require a specific time allocation in the curricula; rather, it would be a requirement of a form for modern education where the different aims of education were framed in a strategy that requires schools and pedagogic institutions to connect the education they offer to society and the world outside school, with creativity and action competence at its core. One of the powerful tools now available to support such a policy in practice is the EntreComp framework designed for the European commission.



Reference list

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Jóhannsdóttir, Th. (2018). Creating a school that matters: networking for school-community development, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 50(3), 297–314, DOI: 10.1080/00220272.2017.1337812. Link to accepted manuscript, preprint: Creating-a-school-that-matters_accepted

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Jónsdóttir, S. R. (2020). Á­kall um stefnu í menntun um ný­sköpunar- og frum­kvöðla­mennt: Virkjum sköpunar­kraftinn mark­visst. Vísir on-line daily newspaper, Oktober 9. 2019. Retrieved from

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Jónsdóttir, S. R., & Macdonald, A. (2013). Settings and pedagogy in innovation education. In L. V. Shavinina (Ed.), The Routledge international handbook of innovation education (pp. 273–287). London: Routledge.

Jónsdóttir, S. R., Thórólfsson, M., Finnbogason, G. E. & Karlsdóttir, J. (2013). Rætur nýsköpunar- og frumkvöðlamenntar í íslenskum námskrám og skólamálaumræðu. Netla  – Veftímarit um uppeldi og menntun. Sérrit 2013 – Fagið og fræðin. (ots ofinnovation and entrepreneurial education in Icelandic curricula and educational discourse). (Long abstract in English). Retrieved from

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Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. (2012). The Icelandic national curriculum guide for upper secondary school : general section : 2012. retrieved from

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