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Key competencies

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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. 


Exploring key competencies

Developing Key Competencies in Students Years 1-8
This 2019 Education Review Office (ERO) report describes what a sample of New Zealand schools with Years 1 to 8 students are doing to integrate and support the development of key competencies in their students.

A Systemic Lens on Classroom Teaching: Supporting the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum in Secondary Schools
This paper reports on school efforts to implement the key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum while considering the wide range of policies and organisations that impact classroom practices at the secondary level. 

Deepening understandings of key competencies
Rosemary Hipkins, Chief Researcher at NZCER, talks about the way the key competencies can change both the learning and the subject content. Rosemary emphasises the importance of understanding how meaning is made in a subject, what the literacies and conventions are, and how students should be included in the 'hidden game' as they make the learning-to-learn links.  

Key competencies in action

Helping your child develop key competencies
A guide for parents to help them help their children develop and use the key competencies.

Capable kids: Working with the key competencies
This material was developed for the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Council for Education Research.

Technology and key competencies
Technology, as an essential learning area, has a responsibility to work with all other learning areas to ensure the key competencies are mediated into the classroom curriculum. The capabilities captured in the five competencies are all essential underpinning capabilities for the development of a technological literacy that is broad, deep, and critical in nature, and one that will result in increasing student empowerment for future citizenship.

Science and key competencies
The science learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum emphasises developing learners’ citizenship capabilities. The Nature of Science strand explores ways science knowledge is created and used in the world, and can be used to encourage teaching and learning to help achieve the citizenship purpose.

Key competencies and international capabilities

International capabilities are how the NZC key competencies look when young people apply them in intercultural and international contexts. Therefore international capabilities fit within conversations about the teaching and learning of the key competencies.

Measuring New Zealand students’ international capabilities: An exploratory study
This exploratory study considers the feasibility of measuring New Zealand senior secondary (years 12/13) students’ international capabilities.

International capabilities: A summary report for schools
This summary report is drawn from research and analysis by the Ministry of Education and an explorative study completed by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research into international capabilities for students in New Zealand schools.

Key competencies in international and intercultural contexts
This table maps out how each of the key competencies and their self-reflective dimensions might look in three hypothetical international and intercultural contexts. These possibilities were developed in 2013 by NZCER as part of their exploratory study for the Ministry into international capabilities.

PDF icon. KCs and international contexts (PDF, 229 KB)


The key competencies are just another name for the old essential skills, aren't they?

The key competencies are more than just a set of skills. They are about the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values we employ as we encounter different situations and interact with diverse people and their perspectives. Developing the key competencies is a lifelong process as we respond to, reflect on, and integrate new knowledge as a result of our experiences.

Students need multiple opportunities to develop and apply the key competencies in a supportive environment across a range of learning contexts and school events.

We have decided to focus on one key competency each week to ensure we get good coverage on every competency by the end of the term, but it isn’t always a good fit with what we might be doing in the classroom. Are there other ways of ensuring we get good coverage and depth in each competency?

A focus on a particular key competency as part of a professional development or review cycle can be useful in exploring the complexity of each competency, particularly in terms of school curriculum design.

It is also important to explore how each of the learning/subject areas can provide rich contexts and opportunities for developing different key competencies at different times to other learning areas.

When planning units, teachers will be thinking about the strengths and needs of their students and the teaching approaches they will be using to best bring about the learning outcomes. This is an ideal time to plan for developing particular aspects of one or more of the key competencies that align with the approach.

Term and yearly plans will be useful in mapping key competency development opportunities across the learning areas and school events.

Our school is developing indicators for each of the key competencies, which we will monitor our students against to ensure we are developing their competencies. Are there any risks we have not foreseen?

Students need to be given opportunities to set goals and to self and peer assess the demonstration of a particular key competency within the context that it has been taught. This reinforces the idea of greater student ownership and self-management of the learning process.

The teacher is an important part of this cycle, helping individualise learning goals with students, providing the learning opportunity, evaluating students’ progress towards their goals, and planning for next learning steps.

Context is so important. We all have strengths and weaknesses in the different competencies, dependent on the situation we find ourselves in, and the knowledge and strategies we have available to us. Reporting on student development in the key competencies must reflect the context in which they were observed.

Updated on: 11 Dec 2020