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Within the European Union area a competence is defined as a combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the context. Competence indicates the ability to apply learning outcomes adequately in a defined context (education, work, personal or professional development). Competence is not limited to cognitive elements (involving the use of theory, concepts or tacit knowledge); it also encompasses functional aspects (involving technical skills) as well as interpersonal attributes (e.g. social or organizational skills) and ethical values. (CEDEFOP 2011).

Competences can be domain-specific, e.g. relating to knowledge, skills and attitudes within one specific subject or discipline, or general/transversal because they have relevance to all domains/subjects. In some contexts the term ‘skills’ (in a broader sense) is sometimes used as an equivalent of ‘competences’.

See also ‘Key competences/competencies or skills’.

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