“To think in enterprising ways”: enterprise education and enterprise culture in New Zealand

Sam Oldham (Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

History of Education Review

ISSN: 0819-8691

Publication date: 4 June 2018



Enterprise education (EE) is a growing educational phenomenon. Despite its proliferation globally, there is little critical research on the field. In particular, the ideological potential of EE has been ignored by education scholars. This paper is the first to review the history of the Enterprise New Zealand Trust (ENZT) (known as the Young Enterprise Trust from 2009), as the largest and oldest organisation for the delivery of EE in New Zealand. It examines the activities of the ENZT and its networks in the context of the ascent of neoliberalism including its cultural manifestation in the form of a national “enterprise culture”. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the precise nature of the proximity between the ENZT and neoliberal ideology.


This paper uses document analysis, internet searches and interviews to reconstruct aspects of the history of the ENZT. Historical examination of the ENZT is in part obstructed by a lack of access to direct source material prior to the 1990s, as publications and materials of the ENZT are only available in archives from the early 1990s. The ENZT was, however, important to broader historical networks and actors, such as employer associations and think tanks, who left behind more robust records. Unlike the ENZT itself, these actors are given significant attention in literature which can be drawn upon to further enhance understandings of the ENZT and its relationship to neoliberalism.


This paper reveals that the ENZT has been a major conduit for enterprise culture and neoliberalism since its inception. It has been explicitly concerned with the development of enterprise culture through activities targeting both school students and the general public. Its educational activities, though presented in non-ideological terms, were designed to inculcate students in neoliberal or free market capitalist principles, including amenability towards private ownership of goods and services, private investment, private finance of public projects, free markets and free trade. These findings might serve to encourage critical attitudes among researchers and policy actors as to the broader ideological role of EE on a general scale.

Research limitations/implications

EE on the whole requires closer examination by critical education researchers. The overwhelmingly majority of existing research is concerned with enhancing the practices of EE, while deeper questions regarding its ideological implications are ignored. Perhaps as a result, EE as a conceptual category lacks definitional clarity, as researchers and policy actors grapple with its meaning. If it can be established that EE schemes are not merely “neutral” or non-ideological educational projects, but rather are serious purveyors of ideology, this should have implications for future research and particularly for policy actors involved in the field. A review of the history of the ENZT may be illuminative in this respect, as it reveals the organisation’s record of deliberate political or ideological messaging.


This paper is the first to review the history of the ENZT as the largest provider of EE in New Zealand. EE has become a global phenomenon in recent decades. Non-existent in New Zealand before the 1970s, it is now a staple of the school system, its principles enshrined in the national curriculum document. Within a decade of the ENZT’s inauguration in 1986, eight out of ten secondary schools were using its services. Despite this, the ENZT is all but absent from existing historical literature. Analysing the history of the ENZT allows for enhanced understanding of an important actor within New Zealand education, whose history has been overlooked, as well as provides insight into the broader ideological implications of EE.



Oldham, S. (2018), "“To think in enterprising ways”: enterprise education and enterprise culture in New Zealand", History of Education Review, Vol. 47 No. 1, pp. 87-101. https://doi.org/10.1108/HER-10-2017-0017

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