What is a key competence

Key competencies (sometimes called "core competencies") to lift those skills that all people in modern societies need. At least this is the view of those who define and propagate key competencies and thus also represent their interests.


Two typical examples:


In 2006 the European Union defined a European frame of reference: "Key competences for lifelong learning". She understands by "key competences ... those competencies that all people need for their personal development, social integration, civic spirit and employment."


Eight key competencies are named here:


  1. Mother tongue competence
  2. Foreign language competence
  3. Mathematical competence and basic scientific and technical competence
  4. Computer literacy
  5. Learning skills
  6. Social competence and civic competence
  7. Initiative and entrepreneurial competence
  8. Cultural awareness and expression.


The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) defined key competencies in 2005 as part of the DeSeCo project. She generally understands competence as the ability to "cope with complex requirements by drawing on and using psychosocial resources (including cognitive abilities, attitudes and behaviors) in a specific context." Special key competencies "help people to meet important requirements under different framework conditions and are important not only for specialists, but for everyone." "The ability to think independently", the ability to "take responsibility for one's own learning and action" and the need for "reflective thinking and acting" form the core of all key competencies.


These are divided into three categories, each of which contains three competencies:


(1) Interactive use of media and means (e.g. language, technology)


  • Ability to use language, symbols and text interactively
  • Ability to use knowledge and information interactively
  • Ability to use technologies interactively


(2) Interact in heterogeneous groups

  • The ability to have good and sustainable relationships with other people
  • Ability to cooperate
  • Ability to manage and resolve conflicts


(3) Autonomous capacity to act / independent action

  • Ability to act in a larger context
  • Ability to design and implement life plans and personal projects
  • Ability to exercise rights, interests, limits and needs


Key competencies in particular clearly show how much the perception and description of competencies depend on the perspective as well as the goals and interests of the person describing it. Similar to the division of competencies into competencies with the help of schemes, key competencies can be helpful for understanding. In the best case, they represent important aspects of comprehensive dynamic ability.