Transversal competencies in education and training: from discourses to practices
In contemporary Western societies, transversal competencies (or soft skills) are often regarded as essential resources that should enable greater flexibility and faculty to adapt to the rapid changes in society.
In the world of education, the topic of soft skills is recurring, not to say fashionable. Such skills would enable people to be prepared for the adult world and particularly for the world of work.
Moreover, such skills are the subject of increasing categorization and formalization and find their way into various programs and curricula as objectifiable, identifiable and consequently learnable competencies. In particular, the scientific (and non-scientific) literature abounds with definitions and lists with respect to such transversal competencies: what they should be, what their nature would be, how they should be promoted and/or developed. Despite this centrality, transversal competencies remain a polysemous universe, a theoretical and discursive construct that is not easy to understand. They are often brandished as a miraculous solution to address complex problems and tend to represent an educational and training injunction full of promise and potential that in stages of application, however, often results in approaches still tied to more traditional disciplinary goals and content.
If indeed such competencies are useful skills to be developed and applied both in school and in daily life, it is also important to go beyond rhetorical definitions and applications of immediate use and give oneself the time and means to analyze and understand those obstacles, critical aspects and more generally those areas of tension that the many discourses on transversal skills tend to hide.
In this sense, the Conference of the Swiss Society for Research in Education 2024 aims to provide a privileged opportunity to discuss transversal competencies in depth and critically, to understand their real and concrete role in the world of education and training, to thematize their best practices and ways of development, and to identify and grasp the real benefits they could bring in education and training.