Authors: Karsten Krüger & Alba Molas
Only available in Spanish
The term “competence” has played and continues to play a prominent role in shaping education policy strategies both at the level of the European Union and its Member States. As is often the case with terms situated between the political and the academic, the term remains highly ambiguous, leading the authors to reflect on the approach. The reflection starts from the different origins of the concept and the difficulties of clearly delimiting it from another key term, skills, but also from the term knowledge. Its ambiguity is criticised as opening the way to the creation of an infinite number of competences and sub-competences.
The implementation of the competency-based approach is framed within political and social changes such as globalisation, neoliberal policies, the transformation of the welfare state and the abandonment of Fordism as a reference point for the organisation of work. Its use allows for greater flexibility in adapting education and training systems to the changing demands of labour markets. In an education and training system such as the German one – oriented more towards holistic educational principles – this change of reference has provoked strong debates around the holistic principle of vocational education and training (Berufsprinzip) and ‘Bildung‘.
However, the competence approach deploys its full socio-political effect only in interaction with the social tendencies towards the s subjectification of work and the individualisation of society, which are exemplified by the demands for self-optimisation that are increasingly imposed on individuals (employees) in capitalist society.