The Key Competencies

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five Key Competencies:

  • thinking
  • using language, symbols, and texts
  • managing self
  • relating to others
  • participating and contributing


Our students need to master these competencies to live, learn, work and contribute as active members of their communities. More complex than skills, the competencies draw also on knowledge, attitudes and values in ways that lead to action. They are not separate or stand-alone. They are the key to learning in every learning area.

The development of the competencies is both an end in itself (a goal) and the means by which other ends are achieved. Successful learners make use of the competencies in combination with all the other resources available to them. These include personal goals, other people, community knowledge and values, cultural tools (language, symbols and texts) and the knowledge and skills found in different learning areas. As they develop the competencies, successful learners are also motivated to use them, recognising when and how to do so and why.

Opportunities to develop the competencies occur in social contexts. People adopt and adapt practices that they see used and valued by those closest to them, and they make these practices part of their own identity and expertise.

The competencies continue to develop over time, shaped by interactions with people, places, ideas and things. Students need to be challenged and supported to develop them in contexts that are increasingly wide-ranging and complex.

For a fuller explanation and some links to videos that place the Key Competencies in a meaningful context, click here: Tea with Sherilee March 2014