The European Parliament and the Council adopted in 2006 the Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. It aimed to contribute to the development of quality, future-oriented education and training tailored to the needs of European society.

It provided a common European reference framework on key competences for policymakers, education and training providers, the social partners and learners themselves. Furthermore, it hoped to support other related policies such as employment and social policies and other policies affecting youth.

According to the recommendation, key competences for lifelong learning are those all individuals need for personal fulfilment and development, active citizenship, social inclusion and employment. Key competences are therefore relevant for all education and training sectors (schools, vocational education and training, higher education, adult learning) as well as non-formal and informal learning.

Key competences should be acquired by:

  • Young people at the end of their compulsory education and training, equipping them for adult life and
  • adults throughout their lives, through a process of developing and updating skills.

The Key Competences Recommendation sets out eight key competences each being a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes. The eight key competences are:

  • Communication in the mother tongue;
  • Communication in foreign languages;
  • Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology;
  • Digital competence;
  • Learning to learn;
  • Social and civic competences;
  • Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship; and
  • Cultural awareness and expression.

Many of the competences overlap and interlock. Transversal skills, such as critical thinking, creativity, initiative or problem solving are present throughout the framework.

To further promote a shared understanding digital and entrepreneurship competences, the Commission developed two additional frameworks: European Reference Framework for Entrepreneurship and Framework for Developing and Understanding Digital Competence in Europe.

The Use of the Key Competences Recommendation

The Key Competences Recommendation has been broadly accepted by Member States and stakeholders. During the last decade, it has influenced national policy development in different education and training areas contributing towards competence-based teaching and learning across Member States. Progress has especially been noted in the development of school curricula. The framework is also used for recognition of non-formal learning in the youth field (Youthpass certificate).

At the same time, the use of the framework has been uneven across Member States, education and training sectors, and across competences with difficulties in including transversal skill. The need for more support to teachers, trainers and school leaders in using the key competences approach has been identified as was the need to further develop assessment and evaluation tools.

Review of the Key Competences Recommendation

The aim of this review is to update the recommendation to ensure that it reflects political, social, economic, ecological and technological developments since 2006. It might therefore propose changes to better reflect recent developments in areas such as multilingualism, cultural diversity and varied ways of communicating, migration, citizenship, and sustainability issues.

Another aim of the review is to better understand the needs of stakeholders for the future use of the framework and to identify useful tools and processes which can help policymakers and practitioners in their work.

Finally, the review aims to ensure that the Key Competences Recommendation remains a relevant tool for education and training development 11 years after its adoption. By updating and developing the Key Competences Recommendation, the Commission intents to further promote competence-based teaching and learning across Europe. The updated recommendation will continue to support efforts in key competence development for all - at national, regional and local levels and in formal and non-formal settings for citizens of all ages.

Consultation Process

The consultation process on the Review of the Key Competences Recommendation started in June 2016 and will continue in 2017. A revised Key Competences Recommendation is foreseen for adoption in the 2nd half of 2017. The consultation aims to ensure involvement of all target groups and will include an assessment of previous use of the recommendation in Members States as well as foresight studies to identify key competences needed in the future.