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RPL Purpose

Completion requirements

Recognition of Prior Learning is a system by means of which skills, competencies, and knowledge, which have been gained in the workplace, in the community, in part-time jobs, during parenting or while practising hobbies, can be assessed and accredited. This can be done for promotion purposes, to allow the learner advanced standing in a formal training programme thereby saving time and money or merely for personal satisfaction.

RPL has a twofold purpose: it is a valuable tool for technicon’s, colleges, and universities to measure academic skills and prior workplace learning, and; it is a very valuable tool for the individual to take stock of his/her life and plan the way forward.

The purpose of an RPL assessment is to enable assessors to form an informed opinion:

  • Whether the claims of prior learning which occurred outside the classroom put forward by the learner measure up to the requirements of the training programme requirements of industry requirements of the professional body.
  • Whether the learner has included sufficient documentation to prove his/her claims.
  • Whether the evidence put forward is authentic and borne out by the documentation included.
  • Whether documentation included has been verified by contactable references.
  • Whether the presentation of the evidence reflects a level of literacy and organisational abilities which will enable the learner to cope with the demands of education/training.
  • Whether the presentation of evidence reflects requirements stipulated by SAQA (South African Qualifications Authority).
  • Whether the prior learning claimed by the learner meets the criteria of relevance, validity, quality, transferability authenticity and currency and is in line with internationally accepted standards.
RPL Process

The method of RPL judgment differs depending on the type of assessment or evidence that has to be gathered. In most cases, learners are required to provide evidence according to a framework in the format of a Portfolio of Evidence, which will usually consist of the following:

  • The learner’s personal details.
  • The learner’s declaration of authenticity.
  • The learner’s proof of having specific knowledge or skill for a specific qualification – this can include certificates obtained at formal education institutions, certificates obtained for training done while in employ or at private institutions, workplace testimonials from supervisors/mentors/coaches, proof of work experience through e.g. attestations from former employers, proof of current training, education activities, etc.

RPL should not be seen as an easy way out and a “quick fix” solution to obtaining a qualification. The process is often very expensive and requires a lot of guidance from the guiding assessor. The compilation of an RPL portfolio is no easy feat!

RPL Benefits
  • RPL validates the value of learning which learners have achieved on their own;
  • Demonstrates to them what they still need in order to achieve their personal, career or academic goals;
  • Shortens the time necessary to earn a formal qualification;
  • Saves them money by lessening the number of courses they need to take;
  • Enhances their pride and self-esteem for what they have accomplished as learners; 
  • Makes them aware that learning is a lifelong process; and
  • It helps eliminate the effects of poor schooling and school systems on the self-esteem of the learner and as such, is a useful tool for transition.

RPL Challenges

The challenges facing the implementation of RPL in South Africa include:

  • Ensuring that equity, redress and a holistic approach are developed and practiced;
  • Ensuring that new forms of exclusion and discrimination of adult learners do not become the norm at education institutions;
  • Ensuring that education providers become more “adult learner friendly” as they deal with increasingly diverse learner populations;
  • Juggling institutional autonomy versus consistency within and between institutions in the relevant sector; and
  • Ensuring the participation and collaboration of all stakeholders in the relevant sector.

RPL Evidence Options
  • Certified copies of certificates of competence from previous education and training courses, including short learning programmes and skills programmes.
  • Licenses to practice.
  • Professional registration.
  • Products and work samples of the same nature offered by the training institution, e.g. if learner normally has to submit an art portfolio at the end of learning as evidence of their competence, and the RPL learner already has the same standard of portfolio proving their competence. In these cases, it is important to ensure that authentication is established as part of your RPL assessment portfolio.
  • Employment related documents such as resumes performance appraisals and letters of recommendation from industry.
  • Statutory declarations outlining previous types of work and work experience.
  • Traceable references from current and past employers, supervisors and colleagues.
  • Testimonials from other people holding relevant qualifications in the filed being assessed, i.e. Subject Matter Experts.
  • Photographs of completed work certified by a referee or accompanied by a statutory declaration.
  • If self-employed in the past in the same field in which the learner is being assessed, evidence of actively running such a business using the relevant skills, knowledge and attitudes related to the assessment area being claimed.