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Key competences
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Key competences

What do “key competencies” really mean, why are they important, and how can they be improved? The 5 most important facts about key competences.

Today’s world is changing very fast. The skills and competences we need to be able to freely enjoy the benefits of the world and society are also subject to such changes. Each of us will need more and more new and fairly wide competences to be able to function well, learn to improve to find and maintain (dream) a job. The continuous growth of the economy and changes in the surrounding world entails the need for continuous personal development, including key competences.

“Key competences are those competencies that we all need for self-fulfilment and personal development, employment, social inclusion, a sustainable lifestyle, successful living in peaceful societies, managing life in a pro-healthy way and active citizenship. They are developed in the perspective of lifelong learning, from early childhood throughout adult life, through formal, non-formal and informal learning, in all contexts, including family, school, workplace, neighbourhood and other communities”  Source: COUNCIL RECOMMENDATIONof 22 May 2018on key competences for lifelong learning No  2018/C 189/01.

Key competences respond to the need for sustainable and inclusive growth, social cohesion and the further development of a democratic culture (as defined in the Council of the European Union Recommendations on Key Competences in the Lifelong Learning Process of 2018 .) are defined as a combination of:

  • knowledge,
  • skills,
  • attitudes

Knowledge is understood as facts and figures, concepts, ideas and theories that are already well-established and help to understand a specific area or issue;

Skills are the ability and ability to implement processes and use existing knowledge to achieve results;

Attitudes describe the person’s readiness and inclination to act or react to ideas, people or situations.

We distinguish eight key competences today:

  • Literacy competence (Competences in understanding and creating information),
  • Multilingual competence,
  • Mathematical competence and competence in science, technology and engineering,
  • Digital competence,
  • Personal, social and learning to learn competence,
  • Citizenship competence,
  • Entrepreneurship competence,
  • Cultural awareness and expression competence.

All key competences are just as important. Competences can be used in many different contexts and combinations. The ranges of key competences may overlap and are interrelated. Elements necessary in one area support competences in another. Such skills as: team work, problem solving, communication and negotiation skills, analytical skills, creativity and intercultural skills are present in all key competences.

Is it possible to develop key competences? Yes of course.

Key competences accompany us and develop them throughout our lives. We have the opportunity to develop our competences at every stage of life, from school and formal education, professional work, non-formal education, personal and professional development.

Learning, including key competences, can be enriched with interdisciplinary learning, combining knowledge and skills in different fields during the same activities.

What can help in acquiring basic skills and raising competences:

  • Systematic enrichment of formal (eg academic) learning through social competences, emotional learning, art, and cultural heritage.
  • Health-enhancing physical activity that favors the pursuit of a conscious, future-oriented and active lifestyle. It also teaches how to plan and achieve personal goals.
  • Strengthening personal and social competences, skills and willingness to learn and continuous development from an early age.
  • Taking part in internships, internships, exchange of experiences, active learning and improvement.
  • Acquiring practical experience in, for example, entrepreneurship, through practices in companies or business visits in education and training institutions,
  • Acquiring practical entrepreneurial experience through, for example, creativity exercises, start-ups, business simulations or project-based entrepreneurship learning, can benefit both young people as well as adults, lecturers and trainers.
  • Multilingual competence can be developed through cooperation with foreign institutions and systems of education, training and learning, mobility of educational staff and learners as well as the use of internet portals operating in this area.
  • If it is necessary, in the situation of finding yourself at a disadvantageous personal or life situation, it is worth looking for support aimed at improving social and environmental inclusion so that it is possible to realize the educational potential of a given person. Such support may include language, educational, training, academic or socio-emotional support, a partner coaching method, career consulting or material support.
  • Curiosity, willingness, need for constant learning, finding new things are very helpful, which significantly helps in raising own competences and qualifications.

How can a trainer, an educator, help trainers and educators?

Learning methods, for example based on art, play, and games, can strengthen motivation to learn and engage in learning. Similarly, experimental learning, work-based learning and scientific methods in the natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) can support the development of many other competences.

Learners, educational staff and training providers can be encouraged to use digital technologies to improve learning and support the development of digital competences. It is good to use innovative digital tools throughout the entire training or education process at every stage.

Author: Inga Kolomyjska, KIKO Educational Solutions (www.kiko.com.pl).

Certified trainer, coach, manager with over 18 years of experience in international and national  training and education projects. Passionate about professional education and trainings based on a reliable developed methodology and measurable results.

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Kitchen of Skills is the outcome of CUHEKO Project: “Through Culinary Heritage to Key Competences”. The CUHEKO project is an international Strategic Partnership Program, co-financed by the European Union under the Erasmus+ Program.


   The International project “Through culinary heritage to key competences” is co-financed by the EU ERASMUS-Programme.