The K to 12 Curriculum in the Philippines has been extensively revised and enhanced since the introduction of the additional years of schooling. One change that has caused difficulties has been the high cognitive demands placed on students with the new curriculum; the other has been the introduction of 21st Century Learning Skills (21CS) as a key element of helping students cope with the ever-expanding knowledge needed to function properly in society today.
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High Cognitive Demand of the K-12 Curriculum
What is taught in classrooms is the main link between the curriculum’s intentions and the learners’ competence. There are 14,171 competencies in the K to 12 Curriculum.
A comprehensive review by the ACTRC expresses some concern over the high number of essential learning competencies (LCs) and the challenges it may pose during implementation, along with some issues with the sequencing and expression of the pre-requisites of these learning competencies.
The study found that the Department of Education (DepEd) K to 12 Curriculum was more demanding regarding the number of learning competencies (LCs) than the other countries in the comparison (Australia, Canada, and Singapore) and the Common Core Curriculum of the United States of America.
As a result of this review, some curriculum adjustments were proposed to reduce the amount of learning required in each subject curriculum so that all learning competencies can be taught to the required cognitive depth in the time available.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic gave urgency to the revision of the LCs. As a result, the DepEd identified the Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs) within the full K to 12 Curriculum.
The total number of competencies in all learning areas from Kindergarten to Grade 12 (excluding the TVL specializations in Senior High School) was reduced from 14,171 to 5,689 (around 60%).
This reduction of LCs will assist teachers in giving more focus to the most essential learning activities and resources and allow sufficient time for coverage and mastery.
Figure 1: Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCS) as a Percentage of All Learning Competencies (LCS) in Current Curriculum Guides
Weak Pedagogy for 21st Century Skills (21CS)
There is little evidence that 21CS is currently prioritized in classroom practice in the Philippines.
Research carried out by ACER in Philippines schools focused on the 21CS skills of problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration in English and Science subjects across Grades 4, 6, 8, and 10 since these skills were most emphasized in the K-12 curriculum and the DepEd BEA had written assessment items specifically to these sub-strands for the NAT at Grades 6 and 10.
There were no observed discussions about the application of skills, reflection on skills relative to learning outcomes, or checking of understanding of skills through formative assessment.
Most teaching of 21CS is implicit or opportunistic, and the integration of the 21CS is not included in lesson plans or learning outcomes.
21CS competencies will not be achieved through direct instruction, and engagement of students in learning is necessary to develop proficiency.
The 21st Century classroom is student-centered, not teacher-centered, yet many classroom lessons are still “content-based” with students as passive recipients of instruction.
DepEd has made explicit the requirement for the integration of 21CS into the education system through specific Departmental Orders (DOs) which stipulate that students must be equipped with “information media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, communication skills, and life and career skills, while simultaneously requiring that the teachers must use “pedagogical approaches that are constructivist, inquiry-based, reflective, collaborative, differentiated, and integrative”, and focus on both content knowledge and pedagogical strategies that develop critical and creative thinking, as well as other higher-order thinking skills.
At this stage, the Philippines has addressed the shift towards preparing students for the 21st century through curriculum reform rather than focusing on the associated professional development of teachers in appropriate pedagogical methods aligned with the competencies included in K-12, particularly in formative assessment.
The use of formative assessment as a dynamic pedagogical technique in every curriculum subject is an essential skill that is not widely practiced in Philippine classrooms.
The 21CS skills have applicability across all classrooms, although some skills (such as critical thinking) might be seen more frequently but not exclusively in mathematics or science subjects.
The expanded role for NEAP due to the NEAP Transformation activity will mean that the teaching of 21CS in the classroom will be a significant focus of the CPD offered in immediate training programs.
Teachers will be mentored on planning for and applying 21CS, reflecting on the different skills in different contexts, and relating them to learning outcomes. Most importantly, formative assessment checks their understanding of skills and whether they have been mastered.
Office of the Undersecretary for Administration (OUA)