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Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCS) Guidelines

The current global health crisis poses a profound impact on the basic education system as approximately 87% of the world’s student population, or about 1.5 billion learners, have been affected by school closures (UNESCO, 2020). While interim distance and remote learning programs are being put in place in many locations, the most marginalized, poverty-stricken, and vulnerable children are expected to be put at a disadvantage.

In the Philippines, ensuring the welfare of more than 27 million learners in basic education alone requires indomitable commitment amidst this crisis. However, UNESCO reiterates its stand: “Education cannot wait. If learning stops, we will lose human capital.” Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable populations in these times is essential to achieving SDG4 (UNESCO, 2017).

The Department echoes UNESCO’s belief that educational quality, access, and system strengthening cannot be compromised in times of crisis (UNESCO, 2017), and that doing the opposite will negatively affect human capital. Thus, the Department of Education affirms its commitment to sustaining the delivery of quality, accessible, relevant, and liberating Philippine basic education services anchored on the Sulong EduKalidad framework. It will continue to strive to produce holistic Filipino learners with 21st-century skills. Consequently, the Bureau of Curriculum Development ensures that learning standards are relevant and flexible to address the complex, disruptive, volatile, and ambiguous impact of COVID-19 in the Philippines particularly in the basic education sector.

Working on the said premise, the Department hereby releases the Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs) to be used nationwide by field implementers for SY 2022-2023. The Department emphasizes that the review of the K to 12 curriculum remains ongoing, and the experience with MELCs for this school year will be used to inform and enrich the curriculum review.

The release of the MELCs is not just a response to addressing the challenges of the current pandemic but is also part of the Department’s long-term response to the call of SDG 4 to develop resilient education systems, most especially during emergencies. Thus, it can be used under certain circumstances as a mechanism to ensure educational continuity through the curriculum dimension.

The MELCs will enable the Department to focus instruction on the most essential and indispensable competencies that our learners must acquire, as we anticipate challenges in learning delivery.

It will also lighten the burden of converting classroom-oriented learning resources into learning resources adapted to distance learning.

Releasing the MELCs does not diminish the standards set by the full K to 12 curriculum guides. Rather, these serve as one guides for teachers as they address the instructional needs of learners while ensuring that curriculum standards are maintained and achieved.

The content and performance standards are indicated in the attached documents for field implementers, to demonstrate how the MELCs are anchored on the prescribed standards.

DOWNLOAD: Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCS) for School Year 2022-2023

Background on the Identification of the Most Essential Learning Competencies

The Department, through the Bureau of Curriculum Development – Curriculum Standards Development Division, in collaboration with the Assessment Curriculum and Technology Research Centre (ACTRC), started working on the identification of essential learning competencies in the middle of 2019 as part of its ongoing review of the intended curriculum. Bureau specialists, academic experts, and field implementers worked to reach a consensus regarding the criteria to be used in determining these competencies.

Initiated by Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones, the K to 12 curriculum review is not just meant to fulfill one of the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 105333 to review the curriculum but is also part of her commitment to ensuring quality, relevant and liberating education for all. After the four phases of curriculum review are completed, the Secretary will convene the Curriculum Consultative Committee to present the findings as provided for in Section 6 of the same Republic Act.

The review focuses on articulation within and across learning areas to identify gaps, issues, and concerns across learning areas and grade levels. Specifically, the review covers the following:

  • Mapping of the essential and desirable learning competencies within the curriculum;
  • Identification of prerequisite knowledge and skills needed to prepare students for essential learning competencies; and
  • Analysis of the interconnectedness of prerequisite knowledge and skills among the learning competencies for each subject area.

Essential learning competencies are defined as what the students need, considered indispensable, in the teaching-learning process to building skills to equip learners for subsequent grade levels and subsequently, for lifelong learning. On the other hand, desirable learning competencies were defined as what may enhance education but may not be necessary for building foundational skills.

A list of characteristics of essential learning competencies was provided to help reviewers decide which among the learning competencies are deemed most important.

Characteristics of an Essential Learning Competency

  1. It is aligned with national and/or local standards/ frameworks (eg: “scientifically literate Filipinos”).
  2. It connects the content to higher concepts across content areas.
  3. It is applicable to real-life situations.
  4. If students leave school, it would still be important for them to have this competency above many others.
  5. It would not be expected for most students to learn this in settings other than through formal education.

These characteristics are based on a US-developed competency validation rubric, which is intended to assure that learning competencies can reach the highest level of quality and comparability across schools (New Hampshire Department of Education, 2012), although adaptations were made for relevance in the Philippine context.

With the challenges in learning delivery posed by COVID-19, the Bureau of Curriculum Development accelerated the identification of the essential learning competencies and streamlined these further into the Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs).

In determining the criteria for the selection of the most essential learning competencies, the descriptor “ENDURANCE “ was considered to be the primary determining factor. A learning competency is considered enduring if it remains with learners long after a test or unit of study is completed, or if it is useful beyond a single test or unit of study. Examples of such learning competencies include research skills, reading comprehension, writing, map reading, and hypothesis testing, which are essential in many professions and in everyday life (Reeves, 2002; Many & Horrell, 2014).

Part of the process was deciding whether a learning competency is to be retained, merged, dropped, or rephrased. As a general rule, a learning competency was retained if it satisfies the endurance criterion which greatly contributes to lifelong learning and is a pre-requisite skill for the next grade level. Two or more learning competencies are merged or clustered into one comprehensive learning competency if they have the same objective or learning intention. A significant number of learning competencies were removed/dropped due to the following reasons:

  • They are too specific, and the articulation is similar to that of a learning objective
  • They are deemed appropriate to be introduced in an earlier quarter or grade level or moved to a later quarter or grade level
  • They are recurring
  • They are subsumed in another learning competency.

Finally, certain competencies were rephrased to be more concise.

The content and performance standards are directly lifted from the curriculum guides. This is to emphasize that the identification of MELCs is anchored on the prescribed standards and not a departure from the standards-based basic education curriculum. Thus, teachers are encouraged to refer to the 2016 Curriculum Guides in unpacking the MELCs.

All learning areas will still be taken up by the learners in all grade levels, but with streamlined competencies. This is to ensure that the learning outcomes are still achieved even in this pandemic. It is noted that, in principle, the time allocated per subject on a daily basis did not change. This means that schools need to consider this aspect in employing various delivery schemes.

Field implementers and private schools are encouraged to contextualize the most essential learning competencies in order to accommodate the varying contexts of learners, teachers, learning environment, and support structures considering both the content and performance standards. It is advantageous for students to learn the concepts and skills in the MELCs through meaningful activities and scenarios relatable to them and within the context of the student’s own environment. The MELCs are implementable as long as the designed activities also teach the procedures and processes on how and when to apply that knowledge and skills in a given context. With these, learners are assured relevant and quality basic education despite the current health crisis.

The Department of Education, through the Office of the Undersecretary for Curriculum and Instruction, shall gather relevant feedback on a regular basis from internal units and external partners and stakeholders in the implementation of these guidelines in order to further enhance the ongoing review of the K to 12 curriculum.

Guidelines on the Use of the Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCS)


Mark Anthony Llego

Mark Anthony Llego, hailing from the Philippines, has made a profound impact on the teaching profession by enabling thousands of teachers nationwide to access crucial information and engage in meaningful exchanges of ideas. His contributions have significantly enhanced their instructional and supervisory capabilities, elevating the quality of education in the Philippines. Beyond his domestic influence, Mark's insightful articles on teaching have garnered international recognition, being featured on highly respected educational websites in the United States. As an agent of change, he continues to empower teachers, both locally and internationally, to excel in their roles and make a lasting difference in the lives of their students, serving as a shining example of the transformative power of knowledge-sharing and collaboration within the teaching community.

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