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Skills certificates to demonstrate young people’s strengths


The competencies that young people develop through cultural education, e.g. in the context of international youth exchange, are not readily tangible or measurable. Competency records can help to document these competencies.

by Rolf Witte

Portrait of Rolf Witte

Rolf Witte heads the BKJ international department and is chairman of IJAB - International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The term “shaping competence” (Gestaltungskompetenz) is familiar to everyone working in the field of education for sustainable development. The term intercultural (or preferably: transcultural) skills is known to those involved in international youth work. And the term cultural competence plays an important recurrent role among cultural education professionals.

An examination of the underlying competence systems reveals that these concepts overlap to a large extent. All three emphasise that each (young) person should assert himself or herself as an individual (self-competence) and at the same time relates as a social being to others and to the world that can and must be (co-)shaped (social competence). They also have in common that they are not directly tangible and not easily measurable.

It is very difficult to prove that the effects of education or the increase in skills or competences are the direct and explicit result of individual global learning projects or programmes, international youth work or cultural youth education. The young people’s life and experience situations vary greatly and are influenced by many factors at the same time during their participation in projects, exchanges, meetings or educational programmes. As a result, causal links between the educational intentions of the organisers and what ultimately reaches the young participants can only be demonstrated on a point-by-point basis.

In all three areas, there are studies examining the effects of non-formal education on young people, such as a study on the long-term effects of participation in international youth exchanges on the personal development of the participants (Abt/Thomas/Chang 2006) and studies on other aspects of the topic (IJAB 2012, IJAB 2013). However, research looking at young people from the outside is not really consistent with the basic principles of youth work. Instead the young people should be involved in the research to find out what impact their participation in international youth work or cultural education projects has had on their strengths, their weaknesses, their knowledge and their skills and competences. Two methods were put in place to do this in a structured framework and record it in a proper document. The BKJ developed the ‘Cultural Competency Record’ and the member organisations of the International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (IJAB) took up this idea and created the ‘International Competency Record’, of which there are additional simpler versions.

Kompetenznachweis Kultur (Cultural Competency Record) and Kompetenznachweis International (International Competency Record) in international youth exchanges

In these two certification procedures, practitioners who have completed the relevant brief training assess and discuss together with the young participants which of their skills and competences were strengthened in the course of a project. The main purpose is to make them aware of their own knowledge, skills and strengths. The Cultural Competency Record and the International Competency Record can also be used for youth exchanges with partners from the Global South. Young people like to enclose the certificates with their training or job applications even though the documents were not explicitly developed for this reason. They can be useful for young people in Germany and in the respective partner countries.

Kompetenznachweis Kultur

Nachweise International

This article is taken from the BKJ's practical guide “Global Partnerships”:


BKJ: Skills certificates to demonstrate young people’s strengths
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    Portrait of Rolf WitteRolf Witte

    Head of international department

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    The German Federation for Arts Education and Cultural Learning (BKJ) is the umbrella organisation for cultural education in Germany.