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The development impact of quality education and learning effectiveness is actualized through the application of competencies that have been defined as essential for supporting development in specific contexts.

Development contexts are rapidly and sometimes unpredictably changing. Quality education systems not only have to effectively support the acquisition of development responsive learner competencies but also have to ensure the sustained responsiveness of those competencies. Quality education systems have to enable learners to continuously adapt their competencies while continuously acquiring and even developing new ones. These competencies are diverse in scope ranging from core skills, content knowledge, cognitive skills, soft skills, to occupational skills and enable us to "meet a complex demand or carry out a complex activity or task successfully or effectively in a certain context". Their typologies and approaches are as diverse as entities –countries, organizations and individuals– that define them (See: Categorisation of competencies). Competencies are acquired through learning cycles and throughout one’s life.

They are acquired through formal, non-formal and informal education and settings. When developed among disadvantaged groups early in their lifecycle, competencies can play a critical role in fostering conditions for an inclusive and sustainable development and in reducing socio-economic inequalities. The range of competencies address diverse development needs including the creation of democratic, just, peaceful and sustainable societies with social cohesion and cultural diversity, the development learners’ capabilities fully and throughout life to enable them: to live the kinds of life they prefer; to be responsible citizens; to adapt to swift and complex changes in society and the world of work; and to critically analyze and transform society.

Learning outcomes are essentially evidence of having acquired competencies. They attest to the effectiveness of education systems at delivering quality education and effective learning. This Analytical Tool considers desired learning outcomes with a particular focus on the notion of competency. It aims to assist Member States in undertaking a thorough diagnosis of competencies that learners should acquire in order to effectively support their defined development agendas.

What learners can acquire, however, depends not only on a clear definition of intended competencies and learning outcomes but also on different inter-linked elements of the GEQAF such as how they are packaged and presented, how they are taught, where they are taught and acquired, how learners are facilitated, how we verify their acquisition. Hence this Analytical Tool has to be used in conjunction and in complementarity with others.

Its paramount question is: What are the most important sets of competencies for our general education learners to acquire as learning outcomes if they are to effectively contribute to our development agenda and to face today’s (and tomorrow’s) world? This question is addressed in two aspects: 1) conceptualization of desired learning outcomes / a set of key competencies (See: Examples of countries' definitions of competencies); and 2) reorienting policies and interventions as well as revisiting visions and restructuring elements of education systems to achieve identified learning outcomes.

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