SAQA has released the new RPL policy proposals in the document "Policy and Criteria for the Recognition of Prior Learning for public comment" available on the SAQA web site. I have attached a copy below for your perusal and comments.
Mentornet sent the following comments to SAQA:
The SAQA Board approved a Policy and Criteria for the Recognition of Prior Learning (Government Notice No. 35747 dated 5 October 2012). The “Glossary of Terms” is probably the best section of the document and one can relate to the definitions. This should not be underestimated – incorrect or ambiguous definitions can cause a policy to be unviable. A second strong point of the policy and criteria is that it is concise and to the point. The comments given in this document are suggestions that I hope will contribute to the quality of the SAQA document.
Pages 5 and 6 – the purpose of RPL. This section is probably too delimited which may result in RPL not being used efficiently. In addition to integration, access, redress, mobility and progression RPL should also be used to identify learning gaps, to remove barriers to learning, to serve as a basis for career planning, to avoid duplication in learning, to ensure that students are correctly placed for further learning in terms of level and curriculum, etc. RPL for access, credits and advancement are not the only reason why RPL should be conducted. Most importantly, RPL should be used for the awarding of certificates, placement and advanced status. These are real community needs and the policy should provide for them.
Page 8 (Scope). SAQA’s role is said to be to coordinate and develop RPL policies and practices across all sub-frameworks of the NQF, in collaboration with the three Quality Councils, accredited education and training providers; workplaces and other assessment sites; recognised professional bodies; and RPL practitioners. As much as one must admit that SAQA has done immense work in terms of kick-starting RPL, one should keep in mind that this is a quality assurance function and SAQA does not have a mandate to conduct quality assurance. Then again, if the quality assurance bodies do not accept their responsibilities in this respect we should appreciate SAQA’s initiative and drive. My point is this – SAQA should accept the role of an apex quality assurance body and the three quality assurance bodies (CHE/HEQC, Umalusi and the QCTO) should support and endorse this in the knowledge that their quality assurance function can be made much easier through the support that SAQA can provide them with.
Page 12, paragraph 32. It might be important to specify in a policy document that learning evidence for RPL assessment can be historical and/or current evidence. This means that student can submit portfolios consisting of documentary (or even tangible items like a scale model) evidence or the demonstration of previously acquired knowledge and skills, for example through oral presentations demonstrations, etc.
Page 12, paragraph 33. The principles listed here are very good and most relevant, even though I feel that we tend to call anything for which we do not have a name a principle. In subparagraph e) they are called “features” which shows that the RPL Reference Group had some difficulty finding an appropriate name. In addition to these “features” one could have listed prerequisites for RPL, which, in my opinion, are more important. The following are salient prerequisites for a holistic approach to RPL:
Page 14, paragraph 43. The establishment of an RPL Practitioner Association and awarding a professional designation is probably important if quality is to be assured. However, we have ample examples of such bodies and individuals being monopolistic practices. I am not suggesting that an RPL Practitioner Association and a professional designation is not a good idea, only that it should be based on merit and well-monitored.
Page 14, paragraph 44. The objectives listed here are probably the most important part of the policy and each item listed should be discussed in some detail. The reason for this is that such statements can be interpreted in a multitude of different ways so that it can be misused and misinterpreted by those who have mischievous motives with the RPL process. Secondly, the statements can easily be used as grounds for circumventing the standards for qualifications when in actual fact they should protect the integrity of formal standards.
Page 16, paragraph 47. Quality assurance of RPL should be evaluated against generic criteria that apply to all disciplines and levels of learning, so that the criteria should be specified as policy.
Pages 15 to 20, paragraphs 49 to 53. The criteria listed here are responsibilities, not criteria. Responsibilities can be measured against criteria but then the criteria should be formulated as such.
End of the document. RPL does not stop once the candidate has been awarded credits or a certificate. If RPL is to promote lifelong learning the process should also include guidance and support to candidates after completion of the RPL process. Candidates need to be encouraged to continue learning and those who did not attend formal learning for a long period of time need to be introduced to new opportunities. This should also be included in the policy.
Typing errors. I guess one should point out some obvious typing errors even though I am sure Dr Keevy would have picked them up and corrected them already.
Closing remarks. SAQA need to be congratulated with their leadership in doing research and establishing projects like this. They are making a valuable contribution to the promotion of lifelong learning and the achievement of national strategic objectives, notably the objectives of the NSDS III and the National Development Plan.
Dr Hannes (Jaap) Nel, MD Mentornet
Thank you Hannes for your insightful and constructive input.
I enjoyed reading your comments.
The broad description of RPL is an improvement on the previous definition of RPL in the 2002 Policy document.
Page 3. What is RPL?
Nonetheless it is problematic that formal learning is omitted in the description of RPL. The introductory paragraph implies that recognition encompasses only non-formal and informal learning acquired outside formal places of learning.
I am working at a university and regognition of formal learning is included in our RPL policy and I think it should be included in this broad definition as well.
Thank you Hannes - this is an excellent summary
I haven't read it yet, but I hope that it isn't another wishlist like the Green Paper and that there's something about practical and practicable implementation here! We remain a nation with good intentions - all talk and no do! Thank you, Des, for sharing this with us. Much appreciated. And bless you, Hannes, for taking the trouble to sum up for us. That helps a great deal.