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Key competencies

Find tools, stories, and resources to help you consider and embed the key competencies into local curriculum.

Featured resource

Key competencies and effective pedagogy 
This tool helps schools audit their progress with integrating the five NZC key competencies into local curriculum. It includes a self audit framework, engaging examples of practice, and insight into important aspects of the key competencies. 

About the key competencies

Key competencies are the capabilities people have, and need to develop, to live and learn today and in the future.

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:

  • Thinking
  • Relating to others
  • Using language, symbols, and texts
  • Managing self
  • Participating and contributing

This video of Mary Chamberlain, Ministry of Education, provides a brief description of the key competencies, explaining their importance for employment and personal well-being. (Duration 0.33)

Things we need to know about key competencies

  • Key competencies should be developed and promoted through a school's local curriculum. 
  • Key competencies encompass knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values.
  • Key competencies work together and influence each other.
  • Key competencies are demonstrated in performance – they require action.
  • Key competencies are complex and changing – they will look different in different contexts.

Key competencies relate to all other aspects of the curriculum

View a text version of this diagram >>

Why do key competencies matter?

Key competencies matter because things have changed. Since our education systems were first established there has been enormous change in the nature of societies, change in the nature of work, change in how knowledge is viewed, and change in technologies, to name just a few. Those changes, and the certainty of ongoing change, have implications for the kind of education our young people require. The key competencies put today’s students at the centre, and bring a future-focused perspective to teaching and learning.

In this video, Secretary for Education Karen Sewell explains the importance of building an education system that helps students learn how to learn and to manage the demands of a profoundly different world. (Duration 2:11)

Key competencies matter because they support dispositions that will enable young people to learn well now, and to go on learning throughout their lives. Margaret Carr explains that dispositions mean learners are ready, willing, and able:

Ready, willing, able.

It is no longer sufficient for students to merely acquire knowledge and master skills. Students need opportunities to develop their capability as users of knowledge and skills in wide-ranging contexts now and in the future.

They also need to be capable of using those competencies in diverse contexts – at school, in the community, at home, with friends, with peers, in mathematics and statistics, in the arts, and other learning areas.

How the key competencies developed and evolved

How the key competencies developed and evolved

PDF icon. How the key competencies were developed: The evidence base (PDF, 2 MB)

PDF icon. How the key competencies evolved over time: Insights from the research (PDF, 2 MB)

PDF icon. How key competencies are treated in the OECD ‘2030’ framework: Implications for the New Zealand Curriculum (PDF, 280 KB)

PDF icon. Weaving key competencies into the curriculum: Examples from other nations (PDF, 1 MB)

These papers were developed to make clear the evidence base and intent of the key competencies, and provide a view of current practice to help inform discussions at key education events in 2018.

Updated on: 11 Dec 2020


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