The Concept of Competence and Its Relevance for Science, Technology and Mathematics Education

Part of the Contributions from Science Education Research book series (CFSE, volume 4)


Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, the concept of competence has been introduced as a new paradigm in several educational systems. It reflects the need of educational systems to respond to societal and economic changes, i.e. the transition from industrial- to information-based societies. In contrast to earlier educational goals that focused more on basic skills and knowledge expectations, competences are more functionally oriented. They involve the ability to solve complex problems in a particular context, e.g. in vocational or everyday situations. In science, technology and mathematics education, the concept of competence is closely linked to the concept of literacy. Apart from these rather cognitive and affective perspectives influenced by the need to assess students’ achievement of desired learning goals in relation to their interest and motivation, the perspectives of the concept of Bildung as well as of the labour market influence today’s definition of educational goals. In order to address these perspectives, twenty-first-century skills were defined that encompass skills believed to be critically important to success in today’s world like, e.g. innovation and communication. This chapter addresses these developments by describing the concept of competence, by explaining its relevance for science, technology and mathematics education and by examining future directions. The chapter concludes with some remarks regarding commonalities and differences between the three domains: science, technology and mathematics.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leibniz-Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN)KielGermany
  2. 2.Department of Science EducationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  3. 3.King’s College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Kiel UniversityKielGermany
  5. 5.Goldsmiths, University of LondonLondonUK

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