Lifelong Learning: Key Competencies

Readiness and the ability to adjust to changes determine tomorrow’s success, so developing key competencies for lifelong learning becomes paramount in an ever-changing world.

Lifelong learning refers to all formal, non-formal, and informal learning training processes, which can occur at any stage of an individual’s life cycle to acquire or improve knowledge, skills, or competencies that lead them to improve in personal or professional fields within a changing society.

For this reason, skills become essential to adapt to changes in the world of work (which is increasingly competitive), helping, in turn, people’s personal and professional development. This also directly impacts a country’s social and economic development.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), there are five basic pillars for developing lifelong skills:

However, to better understand the importance of skills for lifelong learning, it is necessary to understand the concept of megatrends and how this phenomenon directly impacts them.

A megatrend is a force for significant social, demographic, or technological change that develops long-term, strongly impacting the world and the way of life. Some examples of megatrends are urbanization, population aging, climate change, digitalization, and artificial intelligence.

Competences are, therefore, a direct result of what megatrends produce and a response to address them. Likewise, these (megatrends) drive the updating of skills and the development of new ones.

The OECD report comments that megatrends have “a great impact on the way people work, socialize, obtain information, purchase, and enjoy their leisure time.” It added that the relevant competencies are necessary to “overcome the challenges that these megatrends pose for economic growth and social welfare.”

Why is it necessary to develop competencies?

Having competent human resources is not only crucial for the economic development of a country, but it is fundamental for the integral well-being of each individual.

According to the OECD, highly competent people have better jobs and wages. In addition, it emphasizes that “competencies are also fundamental in the ability of people to participate fully in society, and for its cohesion […] People with more skills have confidence, participate more actively in democratic processes and community life, and enjoy better health.” As a result, the higher the level of competence, the better the opportunities for growth and development, both professionally and personally.

Key Competencies for Lifelong Learning

Many frameworks establish key competencies for the twenty-first century (with different approaches), but here we analyze the one established by the European Commission (2019). It identified eight essential competencies for personal fulfillment, employability, active citizenship, social inclusion, and a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

The European Commission established that these competencies comprise skill, knowledge, and attitude dimensions developed in various environments such as family, school, workplace, and community. These competencies are developed in formal, non-formal, and informal learning processes described in the following broad classifications:

Citizen: Refers to the ability to act as responsible citizens and participate fully in civic and social life based on the understanding of social, economic, legal, and political concepts and structures, as well as global developments and sustainability.

Business: Knowing how to leverage opportunities and ideas and transform them into value to benefit others. It relies on creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, initiative-taking, perseverance, and collaborative work to plan and manage cultural, social, or financial projects.

Cultural awareness and expression: Involves understanding and respecting how ideas and meaning are expressed and communicated creatively in different cultures through various arts and cultural forms. It involves developing and expressing one’s thoughts and sense of place or role in society in other contexts.

Digital: Requires the safe and responsible use of digital technologies committed to learning, working, and participating in society. This competence includes information and data literacy, media literacy, digital content creation (such as programming), security (including digital well-being and cybersecurity-related skills), intellectual property issues, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Literacy Is the ability to communicate and connect appropriately and creatively with others. It is a basis for learning, as it improves linguistic interaction.

Personal, social, and learning to learn: Refers to the ability to reflect on a personal level, effectively managing time and information, working with others constructively, remaining resilient, and managing one’s learning.

Mathematics, science, technology, and engineering: Mathematics comprises developing and applying mathematical thinking and knowledge to solve daily problems. It involves the ability and willingness to use mathematical thinking and presentation differently. In science, technology, and engineering: It refers to the ability and willingness to explain the natural world through knowledge and methodologies to obtain conclusions based on evidence.

On the other hand, competencies in technology and engineering imply the applications of that knowledge and methodology as a response to perceived human desires or needs. Together, these competencies require understanding the changes caused by human activity and the responsibility of each citizen.

Multilingual: Uses different languages effectively and adequately for communication. It includes the maintenance and development of mother-tongue skills and the acquisition of other languages. Implies contextual understanding, expressing, and interpreting concepts, thoughts, feelings, facts, or opinions orally or in writing (including the four skills of listening, reading, speaking, and writing). It shares dimensions with literacy competence.

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