What is enterprise?

Enterprise learning can be interpreted in three main ways. In one sense, enterprise can be ‘learning about business’. In many secondary schools this approach to enterprise would form part of business studies, accountancy and economics courses. Enterprise can also be about developing and applying enterprise skills. This could be identified with students creating a business and attempting to make a financial return as part of an in-class or co-curricular activity. Those students who establish businesses as part of business studies or who take part in the Young Enterprise Scheme are involved in this sort of enterprise learning.

More broadly, enterprise is an approach to learning that is based on students solving problems. This typically asks students to be innovative in preparing a response or solution to an actual business, social, community or environmental issue or opportunity. Examples of this sort of enterprising or authentic education can include a school building a partnership with a local library to have students design and develop signage; drawing on the experience of people in residential care to develop a local history website; having senior accounting students working with a local business to identify the costs per unit of different production items and preparing recommendations for improving production processes.

Enterprise and The New Zealand Curriculum

Enterprise as authentic learning is promoted through The New Zealand Curriculum. The vision of The New Zealand Curriculum is that students should be “creative, energetic and enterprising.” Similarly the future focus principle “encourages students to look to the future by exploring such significant future-focused issues as sustainability, citizenship, enterprise, and globalisation.” The New Zealand Curriculum elaborates on this by describing enterprise as “exploring what it means to be innovative and entrepreneurial” New Zealand Curriculum page 39.

The scope of The New Zealand Curriculum for enterprise teaching and learning is underlined in concepts of effective pedagogy.[1] Drawing on evidence about effective teaching, this section states the conditions under which “students learn best”. These include the need for students to see the relevance of what they learn and to make connections to their prior learning. Enterprise activities are one of the ways in which this type of teaching can occur.

The key competencies have been a focus for some educators making links between The New Zealand Curriculum and an enterprise approach to learning. The enterprising attributes reflect one way in which the key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum can be aligned to an approach that values authentic learning in a business or community context.

The table below shows the alignment between the key competencies of Managing Self and Relating to Others and attributes that are especially required when students work in a team to solve a client’s problem.

Table 1: Examples of key competencies and enterprising attributes [2]

A complete table is set out in Appendix 1 of this report. This table shows how each of the five key competencies can be translated into different enterprising attributes.

Managing Self

What they mean for students

6. Using initiative and drive.

Seeing what needs to be done and doing it, persevering when things get tough and showing determination to keep going.

7. Matching personal goals and capabilities to an undertaking.

Using your own skills and abilities to get things done and achieving your goals.

Relating to Others

What they mean for students

8. Working with others and in a team.

Listening to others, encouraging people to take part and sharing the responsibilities.

9. Negotiating and influencing.

Being persuasive, resolving issues, backing up ideas and reaching agreement with others.

10. Being fair and responsible.

Taking ownership of your own actions while considering what is right for others.

Many curriculum objectives in The New Zealand Curriculum also lend themselves to an enterprise learning approach. For example, in the table below a selection of level 6 curriculum objectives has been noted. One of the ways these objectives could be delivered is by engaging students in learning activities that involve students solving real problems for specific audiences.

Table 2: Examples level 6 achievement objectives from The New Zealand Curriculum

Sample curriculum area

Sample achievement objective


Show a developed understanding of how texts are shaped for different purposes and audiences.

The Arts

Prepare, rehearse, interpret, and present performances of music individually and collaboratively, using a range of performance skills and techniques.

Health and Physical Education

Advocate for the development of services and facilities to meet identified needs in the school and the community.

Mathematics and Statistics

Plan and conduct investigations using the statistical enquiry cycle


Develop an understanding of socio-scientific issues by gathering relevant scientific information in order to draw evidence-based conclusions and to take action where appropriate.

ERO’s 2011 report Directions for Learning: The New Zealand Curriculum Principles and Teaching as Inquiry found that New Zealand teachers needed to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the intent and nature of the principle of future focus. While schools often planned sustainability-based learning and could articulate a desire to be an ICT[3] rich 21st century school, most did not plan and enact a curriculum with reference to citizenship, enterprise and globalisation. There was limited evidence of schools helping students to imagine a positive future through practising decision‑making, learning about their rights and responsibilities in the classroom and the community, and discussing and acting on social justice issues. In light of this, the findings of this report are a resource for schools to see how other secondary schools have explored the enterprise aspects of this future focus principle.

E4E: Education for Enterprise

In New Zealand, the E4E website provides schools with many different resources linked to an authentic approach to enterprise in education. The main focus of this website is on enterprise as authentic learning. For example:

Education for Enterprise enhances what, and how, young people learn, to enable them to participate and contribute locally and globally and meet the demands of a rapidly changing world environment.

Education for Enterprise is an approach as well as a context for teaching and learning. It involves acquiring knowledge across the eight curriculum learning areas and key competencies of The New Zealand Curriculum, and promotes effective teaching practice.

The E4E website was developed as part of an overall E4E strategy that has included funding for professional learning clusters. The funding for the clusters has been provided through both the Ministry of Education and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE). Some of the schools in this report received funding as part of this initiative.

In its evaluation of the four initial Regional E4E clusters, the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) has identified that “one key feature of E4E is the emphasis it places on schools developing meaningful partnerships with individuals, businesses, and community groups outside schools to enable the development of rich and authentic contexts for student learning.”[4]

In New Zealand, enterprise education takes place in a range of contexts. This includes work with businesses as well as community groups. Enterprise education involves students developing and using skills to solve social, environmental and/or economic problems.