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The definition and selection of key competencies: Executive summary

Today’s societies place challenging demands on individuals, who are confronted with complexity in many parts of their lives. What do these demands imply for key competencies that individuals need to acquire? Defining such competencies can improve assessments of how well-prepared young people and adults are for life’s challenges, as well as identify overarching goals for education systems and lifelong learning. A competency is more than just knowledge and skills. It involves the ability to meet complex demands, by drawing on and mobilising psychosocial resources (including skills and attitudes) in a particular context. For example, the ability to communicate effectively is a competency that may draw on an individual’s knowledge of language, practical IT skills and attitudes towards those with whom he or she is communicating. Individuals need a wide range of competencies in order to face the complex challenges of today’s world, but it would be of limited practical value to produce very long lists of everything that they may need to be able to do in various contexts at some point in their lives. Through the DeSeCo Project, the OECD has collaborated with a wide range of scholars, experts and institutions to identify a small set of key competencies, rooted in a theoretical understanding of how such competencies are defined