Recognition of Prior Learning and its relationship to the QCTO
Now is the time for companies to address the issue
Background and/or update
The review of the NQF on the recommendation of the Ministers of Education and Labour took place during the course of 2007/2008 and became law by means of the Skills Development Amendment Act No. 37 of 2008: and the National Qualifications Framework Act, No. 67 of 2008 thereby repealing The South African Qualifications Authority Act, 1995 (Act No. 58 of 1995)
The reason for the changes to the NQF was that the previous NQF included all aspects of education including General, Further and Higher education as applicable in both institutional and workplace – based qualifications at all levels.
While it was felt at the outset that all aspects of education and training should continue to value, support and develop all fields and formats of learning it was necessary to differentiate between the varying forms and requirements in addition to their individual relevance and contribution to the entire spectrum of education, training and skills development needs.
The Quality Council for trades and Occupations, (QCTO) was therefore introduced to meet the changing needs of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The QCTO will concentrate on aspects of learning required in order to establish occupation competence which include both trades and professions.
The QCTO qualifications will incorporate and always include a work experience component to ensure learners are competent to do something related to a specific occupation or “job task”.
In my opinion, companies should consider the quality, experience, qualifications and potential qualifications of their existing employees. Many employees as a result of workplace experiential learning are potentially “qualified” and employers should consider offering them an opportunity to be recognised as such by means of RPL assessment.
Now is the time for HR and training managers to
Review job profiles and align these to the “Organising Framework for Occupations” (OFO)
Address the RPL needs of employees in order to afford employees the opportunity of gaining the recognition they greatly deserve
Encourage and assist as many employees as possible to undergo RPL assessment
Develop or train key role players to assist employees in the “preparation and presentation of portfolios for assessment”
Fundamental, core and elective components of qualifications
Qualifications will be made up of Theory, Practical and Experience components as previously mentioned. The previous Fundamental, core and Elective components will therefore be replaced by these.
All of these will therefore be core to the qualification and compulsory for the learner. In addition there will be specialisation components to be used by learners as appropriate to the specific occupational requirement.
So what is RPL and how will it fit in?
RPL is a way of recognising what individuals already know and can do. RPL is based on the premise that people learn both inside and outside formal learning structures (including learning from work and life experiences) and this learning can be worthy of recognition and credit. RPL is used extensively by those seeking admission to a course, as advance standing for a course or credits towards a qualification. Those seeking entry to a particular field of employment, promotion or self- development can also use RPL.
There are essentially two types of RPL
The recognition of prior accredited learning
The recognition of prior experiential learning
The first type is relatively simple to implement, provided there is a common means of assigning value to both the learner’s previous qualification and the target qualification.
Recognition of prior experiential learning is far more difficult to implement. It involves designing instruments that will capture, measure and evaluate learning acquired experientially, and often informally, in a range of differing contexts.
Matching previous learning with learning outcomes of a particular qualification can achieve this.
The recognition of both the above types of learning, accredited and experiential usually involves the following process.
• The candidate is advised to reflect on his/her prior learning and experience in the light of identified learning outcomes.
• The learner identifies his readiness and indicates this to the RPL advisor.
• The RPL advisor prepares the candidate for an assessment by explaining and demonstrating how to compile a portfolio of evidence.
• Once the learner is ready, the advisor informs the assessor.
• The assessor meets with the learner and evaluates his readiness. If not ready he/she is advised on areas to develop. Once learner is ready, the process continues.
• The assessor meets with the learner and identifies the assessment plan and the methods of assessment.
This is a supportive process, and learners must fully understand the process before it begins.
When ready, the learner will submit the portfolio of evidence to the assessor, which contains all the “proof” to show competency on the specific outcomes of the standard.
If the portfolio is adequate the learner is certified competent, or the learner will be advised on how to reach competency.
In order to obtain credits (or a full qualification) towards qualifications registered on the NQF, a learner must be assessed against the unit standards of that qualification.
In the past, assessment was based on measuring a person’s achievements against others being assessed. The most common way to assess an individual was by means of a written examination.
Therefore, assessment is a way of allowing individuals to prove that they are competent. Competence is the ability to transfer and apply knowledge and skills in the workplace.
Assessment allows an individual to prove that they have achieved the outcomes described in the unit standards. The process involves gathering information about the individual’s achievements.
Different types of evidence are collected, using a variety of assessment methods (for example workplace evidence, projects, presentations, case studies etc). The evidence is then assessed and recorded against the outcomes of the unit standard.
Judgements about an individual’s performance in relation to the unit standard (and not in relation to other learners), are made by a registered assessor (some-one who has proven himself/herself competent against the registered assessor unit standards). Assessors play a vital role in ensuring quality is maintained.
Recognition of prior learning is of tremendous benefit to employees at present but in the future will have a whole new meaning. No is the time to consider the needs of your employees and to pre-empt the changes that will take place.
In tough economic time such as we are experiencing many companies have cut back on training costs and budgets. RPL assessment is a fraction of the cost of a full course of training and yet it is overlooked by so many employers.
© Des Squire (Managing Member)
AMSI and ASSOCIATES cc