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DeSeCoDefinition and Selection of Competencies


Definition and Selection of Competencies:
Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations


Introduction to DeSeCo

The development and maintenance of human capital in terms of skills and competencies represents an important factor for sustainable development and social cohesion. What skills and competencies are needed for individuals to lead a successful and responsible life and for society to face the challenges of the present and future? What are the normative, theoretical, and conceptual foundations for defining and selecting a limited set of key competencies? These questions were at the forefront of an interdisciplinary and policy-oriented OECD-research program carried out under the leadership of Switzerland.

In late 1997, the DeSeCo Project (the acronym of Definition and Selection of Competencies: Theoretical and Conceptual Foundations) was launched by the OECD with the aim of providing a sound conceptual framework to inform the identification of key competencies, to strengthen international assessments, and to help to define overarching goals for education systems and lifelong learning.

The OECD’s DeSeCo Project was designed to bring a wide range of expert and stakeholder opinion together, to produce a coherent and widely shared analysis of which key competencies are necessary for coping with the manifold challenges of today’s world.

Three categories of key competencies – interacting in socially heterogeneous groups, acting autonomously, and using tools interactively – grounded in a holistic model of competence, constitute a core element of DeSeCo’s overarching conceptual framework.

The findings of DeSeCo’s multi-year research process are published in the final report "Key Competencies for a Successful Life and a Well-Functioning Society". An executive summary can be downloaded in several languages.