What is recognition of prior learning (RPL)

The South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 Act No. 58 of 1995, Government Gazette No 6140, No. R542 defines RPL as,” the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the learning outcomes required for a specified qualification, and the acceptance for purposes of qualification of that which meets the requirements.”

RPL is an important way to recognise and assess an individual’s position in terms of what s/he knows and can do against national standard/s and qualifications at this point in time. The learning that is recognised could include a multiplicity of areas. This may include formal education and training programmes, formal and informal on the job education and training, self study and experience and in-house company education and training.

It is clear from the outlined purpose of the Skills Development Act that RPL will be an important catalyst in achieving the objectives of the Act. The Act outlines the importance of improving the quality of life for learners and their prospects of employment, improving productivity and self employment, and increasing the skills pool of available talent in the market place.

Recognition of Prior Learning means the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner against specified learning outcomes required for:

• The award of credits for a specified unit standard or qualification,
• Access to further learning,
• Recognition in terms of meeting minimum requirements for a specific job,
• Placement at a particular level in an organisation or institution, or
• Advanced standing or status.

This means that regardless of where, when or how a person obtained the required skills and knowledge, it could be recognised for credits. In this sense, RPL is an important principle of the NQF.

RPL involves an assessment process of preparing for RPL, engaging with RPL candidates, gathering evidence, evaluating and judging evidence in relation to defined criteria, giving feedback and reporting results.

Given that the all candidates are assessed against the same criteria, credits awarded through RPL are therefore just as valid as credits awarded through any other assessment process.