Experience does carry weight in education and training:

South Africa is a constantly changing and developing nation. There have been changes in everything from a complete shift in government, to more open-minded views on issues ranging from HIV and AIDS to employment equity in the workplace. It seems fitting, then, that there is restitution for those who were unable to benefit from various levels of education when they applied for jobs or were seeking advancement in their current company. The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has implemented a policy that will enable South Africa to utilize the true potential of its human capital. The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy will ensure that people who were in any way or form unable to access education and training in the past will now have the chance to do so.

Formal Education has always carried a greater weight than education gained through experience. The RPL policy offers the opportunity to remedy this situation, and people are now able to have their learning acknowledged – whether they obtained it formally, informally or experientially. However, RPL is definitely not the easy way of learning a qualification. The people who apply need to meet all the requirements of the qualification they wish to possess.

The underlying principles include the following:

  • Fair access to education and training programmes for all individuals who wish to further their learning,
  • Redressing past unfair education practices that prevented people from studying further, and
  • Recognising and crediting learning in relation to formal qualifications and unit standards where people already have attained the learning through informal and non-formal means.

In order to protect the integrity and standards of education and training, the policy lists quality assurance mechanisms for the implementation of RPL. These include quality assurance of the following:

  • Institutional policies of providers offering RPL services,
  • The services and support for people requesting recognition of their prior learning,
  • The training and registration of assessors and support staff who deal with RPL,
  • The methods and processes for the assessment of prior learning,
  • The moderation of RPL processes and assessment,
  • The fees charged for RPL services, and
  • Curricula and the inclusion of RPL

The RPL Implementation Guide:

The Criteria and Guidelines for the Implementation of RPL supply the education and training provider with guidelines regarding the implementation of RPL. These guidelines include the following:

  • Conducting a pre-implementation audit that helps to identify the environment within which RPL will be implemented, the purpose and the target group(s) for RPL.
  • Developing a sector/provider specific plan for the implementation of RPL.
  • Building the capacity of education and training institutions, staff and resources.
  • Designing fit-for-purpose assessment methodologies and instruments.

Developing moderation measures in terms of the overall process, as well as assessment and assessment results.

Who is eligible for RPL?

Those who may benefit from RPL are the following people who:

  • Have never attended formal schooling but who have experience of work and life,
  • Have not finished formal education but who have learnt a great deal in their workplaces,
  • Lack the minimum requirements for entry into formal learning programmes, but who believe that they meet those requirements through their informal learning,
  • Are under-qualified and want to up-skill and improve their qualifications,
  • Have attended short courses, but do not have a formal qualification in the particular area, and
  • Have taught themselves, e.g. how to service motor vehicles

How is Prior Learning recognized?

Prior learning can be recognized and credited through an appropriate form of assessment which may include the following:

  • Interviews
  • Challenge examinations
  • Assignments or projects
  • Demonstration of skills
  • Validation of previous certificates
  • A combination of the above

Such assessments always use a registered NQF qualification as a benchmark. The process usually entails the following:

  • Identifying the qualifications, unit standards or learning outcomes for which a learner believes that they will meet the requirements.
  • Matching a learner’s skills, knowledge and experience with the specific requirements.
  • Assessing a learner using appropriate forms of assessment.
  • Crediting a learner for skills, knowledge and experience attained.

Who conducts the assessment for RPL?

Education and training providers conduct assessments for the RPL. They are responsible for doing the following:

  • Developing policies and strategies for the implementation of RPL, including the establishment of admission and access criteria, in line with the ETAQ requirements.
  • Screening of candidates for RPL (and suggesting alternatives if RPL is not viable at that stage).
  • Advising candidates for RPL in terms of the process, the evidence required and the assessment that will be undertaken.
  • Assisting candidates to collect and structure evidence and prepare for assessment.
  • Developing for-for-purpose assessment methodologies and instruments.
  • Assessing candidates’ prior learning in relation to registered qualifications, unit standards and learning outcomes.
  • Moderating RPL approached, assessment instruments, assessment and results.
  • Reporting the results to the Education and Training Quality Assurance body (ETQA)

Where can you get more information on RPL?

  • Consult the SAQA website ( )
  • Go to “Publications” for the following SAQA publications on RPL:

The Recognition of Prior Learning in the context of the South African National Qualifications Framework

The Criteria and Guidelines for the Implementation of the Recognition of Prior Learning

View the RPL page on the SAQA website for information about ETQA’s and education and training providers who offer RPL services.

Contact the SAQA Directorate: Quality Assurance and Development at (012) 431-5097

Tel: +27 11 394 0879

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