What are Key Competences?

The word “competence” means a mix of knowledge, abilities and attitudes: you are “competent” if you are able to act well in a certain situation. To be competent does not mean solely to know something or to have some notions about some topics, but also to put into practice the knowledge in a given context and situation. The European Union has identified 8 Key Competences that enable every citizen to adapt to changes of society. They are important for the personal fulfillment and development, for the working life, for studying and learning new things.  Everyone should possess them: young people in training to get ready for the adult life, adult and senior people for Lifelong Learning in order to continuously improve knowledge.The 8 Key Competences are the following:31610-NYCTHM

1. Communication in mother tongue

2. Communication in foreign language

3. Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology

4. Digital competence

5. Learning to learn

6. Social and civic competence

7. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

8. Cultural awareness and expression.


1. COMMUNICATION IN THE MOTHER TONGUE, which is the ability to express and interpret concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts and opinions in both oral and written form (listening, speaking, reading and writing) in the mother tongue and to interact linguistically in an appropriate and creative way in a full range of social and cultural contexts.

2. COMMUNICATION IN FOREIGN LANGUAGES, which involves, in addition to the main skill dimensions of communication in the mother tongue, mediation and intercultural understanding. The level of proficiency depends on several factors and the capacity for listening, speaking, reading and writing.

3. MATHEMATICAL COMPETENCE AND BASIC COMPETENCES IN SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY. Mathematical competence is the ability to develop and apply mathematical thinking in order to solve a range of problems in everyday situations, with the emphasis being placed on process, activity and knowledge. Basic competences in science and technology refer to the mastery, use and application of knowledge and methodologies that explain the natural world. These involve an understanding of the changes caused by human activity and the responsibility of each individual as a citizen.

4. DIGITAL COMPETENCE involves the confident and critical use of information society technology (IST) and thus basic skills in information and communication technology (ICT).

5. LEARNING TO LEARN is related to learning, the ability to pursue and organise one’s own learning, either individually or in groups, in accordance with one’s own needs, and awareness of methods and opportunities.

6. SOCIAL AND CIVIC COMPETENCES. Social competence refers to personal, interpersonal and intercultural competence and all forms of behaviour that equip individuals to participate in an effective and constructive way in social and working life. It is linked to personal and social well-being. An understanding of codes of conduct and customs in the different environments in which individuals operate is essential. Civic competence, and particularly knowledge of social and political concepts and structures (democracy, justice, equality, citizenship and civil rights), equips individuals to engage in active and democratic participation.

7. SENSE OF INITIATIVE AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP is the ability to turn ideas into action. It involves creativity, innovation and risk-taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. The individual is aware of the context of his/her work and is able to seize opportunities that arise. It is the foundation for acquiring more specific skills and knowledge needed by those establishing or contributing to social or commercial activity. This should include awareness of ethical values and promote good governance.

8. CULTURAL AWARENESS AND EXPRESSION, which involves appreciation of the importance of the creative expression of ideas, experiences and emotions in a range of media (music, performing arts, literature and the visual arts).