International Bureau of Education
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Key competences/competencies or skills

Within the European Union area key competences are defined as the sum of skills (basic and new basic skills) needed to live in a contemporary knowledge society. In their recommendation on key competences for lifelong learning (2006), the European Parliament and the Council set out eight key competences: communication in the mother tongue; communication in foreign languages; competences in mathematics, science and technology; digital competence; learning to learn; interpersonal, intercultural and social competences, and civic competence; entrepreneurship; and cultural expression. (Source: CEDEFOP 2011). The recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council also states that the key competences are all considered equally important, because each of them can contribute to a successful life in a knowledge society. Many of the competences overlap and interlock: aspects essential to one domain will support competence in another. Competence in the fundamental basic skills of language, literacy, numeracy and in information and communication technologies (ICT) is an essential foundation for learning, and learning to learn supports all learning activities. Critical thinking, creativity, initiative, problem solving, risk assessment, decision taking, and constructive management of feelings play a role in all eight key competences. (Source: European Parliament 2006).

Curriculum policies increasingly focus on competences that students are expected to develop during the whole process of learning across specific subjects or disciplines and that they need to succeed in education and for personal development, employment and inclusion in a knowledge society. A variety of terms are used to indicate these competences, the most frequent ones being competences or competencies (defined as key, core, general, generic, basic, cross-curricular or transversal competences) and skills (defined as key, foundation, core, basic, essential, cross-thematic, cross-curricular or 21st century skills). Beyond the European Union area, several organizations, partnerships and consortia have defined and endorsed different core competences/skills frameworks.

See also ‘Twenty-first century skills’.

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