Key competences help people to easily transfer what they have learned into their lives. Due to their transversal character they enable people to act accordingly in complex social situations.
When competences are universal, they are called "transversal" or "key competences."
Key competences are developed constantly in different social roles, at work, as citizen or in private life, very often informally. Education addressing transversal competences aims to identify and address these transversal competences in all these fields.
- 1 Definition: Key Competences for Lifelong Learning
- 2 Transversal and Transformative Focus: OECD
- 3 General Specifics of Key-competence-related Learning
- 3.1 Active Learning
- 3.2 Emphasis on Universal Applicability
- 3.3 Training Personal Competence, especially Autonomy and Learning-to-learn
- 3.4 Evaluative, reflective and critical thinking skills
- 3.5 Specific Competence Frameworks
- 3.6 BiBB Key Competences
- 3.7 Case Study with Checklist
- 4 References
Definition: Key Competences for Lifelong Learning
Competences are defined as a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes, where:
- knowledge is composed of the facts and figures, concepts, ideas and theories which are already established and support the understanding of a certain area or subject;
- skills are defined as the ability and capacity to carry out processes and use the existing knowledge to achieve results;
- attitudes describe the disposition and mind-sets to act or react to ideas, persons or situations.
Source: EU 
The recommendations “on key competences for lifelong learning” have introduced a reference framework with a definition of eight transversal (key) competences in eight fom the EU commission identified key fields. The framework received in 2018 an update after initial publishing in 2006 
The European Key Competences show how broadly competence-based learning can contribute to personal and social development. 
Strengthening literacy as a basis for further learning and communication in different societal and cultural contexts
2 - Languages
Enhancing the ability to use a variety of languages to be active and better cope with the challenges of today’s multilingual and diverse societies
3 - Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)
Focusing on improving acquisition of these competences to nurture scientific understanding
4 - Digital
Strengthening the confident and critical use of digital technology , including coding and programming, safety and citizenship related aspects
Improving the skills necessary to participate in an active social life
6 - Civic
Stressing the importance of democratic participation, European values, sustainable development and media literacy
7 - Entrepreneurship
Enhancing entrepreneurial attitudes to unlock personal potential, creativity and self-initiative
8 - Cultural awareness and expression
Increasing intercultural skills and the ability to express ideas in a variety of ways and contexts
Transversal and Transformative Focus: OECD
The OECD developed a very universal model around this definition: it has three main dimensions, which become more detailed through sub-categories in order to be applicable for various programs and studies (for example the PISA studies):
OECD Key Competences
As identified by the DeSeCo project in 2005, OECD came up with a more universal concept of key competences
Using Tools Interactively
- Use language, symbols and texts interactively.
- Use knowledge and information interactively.
- Use technology interactively.
Interacting in Heterogeneous Groups
- Relate well to others.
- Co-operate, work in teams.
- Manage and resolve conflicts.
- Act within the big picture.
- Form and conduct life plans and personal projects.
- Defend and assert rights, interests, limits, needs.
It is evident that this model is able to fit many fields of learning. On this basis OECD was shaping the concept of of transformative competences, "that students need in order to contribute to our world and shape a better future" . The concept is setting focus on active citizenship and the contribution of citizens to progress, (social, economic, cultural) value creation, and innovation.
OECD: Transformative Competences
Creating new value
Innovation is at the core of inclusive growth and sustainable development
Reconciling tensions and dilemmas
Balancing competing, contradictory or incompatible demands
Considering the ethics of action
Within any learning process, there is a difference between the cognitive mobilization of knowledge and active learning. Facilitating the acquisition of competences has been well described by the European Center for the Development of Vocational Training puts it: “The cognitive approach tends to emphasize the individual acquisition of certain kinds of learning, while approaches based on ideas of active learning tend to emphasize the dynamic role of social relationships and the situations in which learning takes place.”
A competence-centered learning is especially useful in order to create a change in the attitudes and to promote active implementation of this change in the participants’ every-day lives. Especially when participants may combine knowledge and practice in the form of project work, study visits, or simulations.
Emphasis on Universal Applicability
The term competence describes a broader definition of learning and its outcomes which takes into account knowledge, attitudes and skills acquired in different learning environments. This also includes non-formal learning and advocates for competence-based understanding of life as a learning process which reflects the interdependency of different learning opportunities: in schools, at the workplace, when part of a civil initiative, a project group or a youth organization. 
Let us consider a practical example: A cognitive approach of Human Rights Education would focus on the content of the Declaration of Human Rights and other key texts. For example, If you know the current definition of Human Rights you may act as a Human Rights activist and advocate for this idea. On the other hand, there are many other aspects which are essential for successful action such as presentation skills, strategic thinking, involving supporters, etc. They are equally contributing to success in this activity (advocacy for Human Rights) and need equal attention in education. Which competences beyond knowledge do you think that one needs for successful advocacy?
Secondly, the spirit of cooperation is especially important in making social change sustainable. That is why the participants can be taught to involve relevant stakeholders and the broader public in the processes of creating social change, from teamwork to networking and cross-sectoral exchange.
Toward a Holistic Understanding of Applicability
Refering to this example it is becoming evident that "applicability" does not mean to create learning which only prioritizing workplace-demanded skills while theoretisation and open imagination are not relevant. It means that education proves its impact when learners can make use out of it in workplaces, civil society private life or where else, but exactly not limiting them in predescribing what use case this could be.
Training Personal Competence, especially Autonomy and Learning-to-learn
Lifelong learning outside of schools and universities requires that learners identify their challenges, needs, and motivations for self-development, as well as for social development. It also requires a capacity for self-discipline to overcome challenges successfully. In this sense, becoming an active citizen is connected with becoming a continuous learner - a process of self-development.
All change begins with an individual’s self-perception (self-efficacy) as a potential change agent and with an individual's ability to relate with other individuals or groups. For sustainable citizenship education, competence frameworks need to give these social and personal competences enough importance. In order to create a holistic learning experience, they need to balance the topical and methodological development of competences with a gain in this social and individual competence dimensions.
Maybe this self-competence is foundational for any competence-centered learning, which implies that it would need to get specific attention in all educational activities aiming to address key competences.
More: Learning to Learn
Evaluative, reflective and critical thinking skills
Another key aspect in attaining competences is the capacity to observe, analyze, and then draw conclusions based on the observation (i.e. evaluate). This ability helps people to transform experience into behavior which in turn is the basis for new experience. When learning is a lifelong process, learners need the capacity to observe themselves and the society while in the same time being subject in it = meta-perspective. Holistic learning is therefore giving enough space and putting emphasis on reflective tasks, evaluation, critical thinking.
Specific Competence Frameworks
For specific stages of the educational process there are other more specific competence sets which complement the transversal models. For example, the United Nations and UNESCO promoted the Education for Sustainable Development and the Council of Europe - Citizenship Education: Definitions , which are specific models of civic education developed in different countries which relate to Civic Competences and the idea of “Human Rights Education”.
The German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training provides one example of how this may be described in concrete learning environments.
BiBB Key Competences
Task-specific Factual Competence
Identifying adequate solutions for tasks and problems on the basis of knowledge about the specific field, and how it is systematically related within its field and to other fields.
Acting consciously, adequately and in a goal-oriented way. An ability to choose methodologies and to evaluate outcomes.
Living in relation to other people and acively shaping social relations. Reflecting different interests, needs and tensions. Team and conflict management skills.
Acting autonomously, in a self-organized and reflective way: Observing and evaluating challenges, requirements, or options. Assuming responsibility.
Case Study with Checklist
Theory, especially written by others, can sometimes be challenging to apply practically. In the following case study you will see how organizing a small local project can lead to the development of skills, competences and knowledge in the organizers and the target group: Planning with Key Competencies
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 OECD (2005). DeSeCo - Definition and Selection of Competences: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations. Definition and Selection of Key Competences - Executive Summary
- ↑ European Council: EU Council Recommendation of 22 May 2018 on key competences for lifelong learning (Text with EEA relevance) (2018/C 189/01)
- ↑ European Commission/European Parliament 2006: Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning; http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ:L:2006:394:TOC
- ↑ Description of each of the eight Key Competences in: “The Youthpass Guide”; section A.4: https://www.youthpass.eu/en/youthpass/downloads/guide/
- ↑ OECD Future of Education and Skills 2030. Transformative Competences Conceptual learning framework. Transformative Competences for 2030
- ↑ European Center for the Development of Vocational Training (Cedefop): The shift to learning outcomes Policies and practices in Europe; Cedefop Reference series; Thessaloniki 2009; p. 35
- ↑ A. Galfayan, S. Wehrsig, N. Zimmermann (2013) [https:mitost.org Environment and Civil Involvement. How Can We Connect Sustainable Development Education and Active Citizenship Empowerment?] MitOst-Editionen, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-944012-01-8
- ↑ Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB): K. Hensge, B. Lorig, D. Schreiber: Kompetenzstandards in der Berufsausbildung; Abschlussbericht Forschungsprojekt 4.3.201 (JFP 2006)
Editor of Competendo. Coordinator of the project DIGIT-AL Digital Transformation in Adult Learning for Active Citizenship. Network Secretary of the DARE network. Topics: active citizenship, civil society, digital transformation, non-formal and lifelong learning, capacity building. Blogs here: Blog: Civil Resilience. Email: email@example.com