This article focuses on the knowledge–competencies nexus in the context of ‘twenty-first century learning’. It raises several questions: Does the interest in competencies devalue or undermine knowledge? Does a social constructivist paradigm necessarily dismantle disciplinary knowledge? What is the relationship between knowledge and improving the life chances for the marginalised? Against a critical background discussion of ‘twenty-first century learning’, these questions are addressed by considering and synthesising three perspectives on knowledge in relation to their particular critique of education, what they say about knowledge, and the bearing this interpretation has on how they view pedagogy and curriculum.