Key competences and basic skills

The European Commission works with EU Member States to support and reinforce the development of key competences and basic skills for all, from an early age throughout life.

Why are key competences and basic skills important?

Everyone has the right to quality and inclusive education, training and lifelong learning that develops key competences and basic skills. Key competences and basic skills are needed by all for personal fulfilment and development, employability, social inclusion and active citizenship.

Yet, the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show that more than one in five pupils in the EU has insufficient proficiency in reading, mathematics or science.

In 2018, the underachievement rate stood at 21.7% in reading, 22.4% in mathematics and 21.6% in science. Over the 2009-2018 period, performance in science and reading deteriorated at the EU level, while remaining stable in mathematics.

What is the EU doing in this field?

The European Council has adopted an updated Council Recommendation on Key Competences for Lifelong Learning. The approach of the Recommendation is to promote the development of key competences and basic skills by:

  • providing high-quality education, training and lifelong learning for all
  • supporting educational staff in implementing competence-based teaching and learning approaches
  • promoting a variety of learning approaches and contexts from the perspective of lifelong learning
  • exploring approaches to assessment and the validation of key competences

To support the development of key competences, in November 2019 the European Commission organised a conference on learning approaches and environments in school education.

What are the next steps?

As part of the framework for European policy cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), EU Member States have set the objective that less than 15% of 15-year-olds should be classed as 'low-achieving' in basic skills by 2020.

The Commission supports Member States to strengthen basic skills and key competences for all citizens by facilitating mutual learning and the exchange of best practices.