the National Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) system in South Africa 3

Concluding remarks from the above article – your comments would be most welcome. Is RPL alive and are the RPL objectives been met?

RPL offers people previously and currently disadvantaged in South Africa, a chance to access and progress in the system for education, training, development and work – for their individual development as well as to participate in the community, civic, and economic aspects of life. The ‘first wave’ of RPL led to islands of good practice; it is imperative that the ‘second wave’ – of policy revision based on the experience gained; of national RPL initiatives and the support of individual RPL candidates, and of establishing the ‘infrastructure’ of the national RPL system – succeeds.

A five year period was visualised by SAQA for scaling up from islands of good practice to the national RPL system. There is now Ministerial policy for the coordination and funding of RPL, which also spells out the responsibilities of all the role-players concerned – in line with the vision articulated by SAQA at the 2011 National RPL Conference: Bridging and expanding existing islands of excellent practice. Care needs to be taken however, to locate the RPL Coordinating Mechanism in an institutional position that will afford it strategic capacity. The fact that no new funds have been allocated for the functioning of the RPL Coordinating Mechanism, could inhibit its implementation. Speedy action in setting up the Reference Group to guide its development is needed to prevent loss of the momentum gained regarding the development of RPL in South Africa so far. The publication of the Ministerial RPL policy in 2016 has led to an urgent need for alignment of the SAQA and Quality Council RPL policies, with it. The ‘50% Rule’ still exists, although it has been challenged in court. The first round of this challenge was won by the institutions, but it has been appealed.

While workshops are underway to conscientise NQF communities about the National RPL Coordinating Mechanism, it needs to be staffed and capacitated as a matter of urgency. Successful models and large-scale cases exist, where effective delivery, quality assurance, and funding are addressed in feasible ways. Existing expertise needs to be concentrated in the National RPL Coordinating Mechanism, and systematic nation-wide RPL reporting needs to commence. Analysis of this reporting will show the extent to which access and redress has been accomplished via RPL. In order to achieve the further development desired, continued political will and state resources, nationally coordinated structures, relational agency and joint work by all the stakeholders involved, are needed.

Reference – Bolton, H., Samuels, J., Mofokeng, T. and Shapiro, Y. 2017. Lifelong Learning at the Centre: the National Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) system in South Africa. Proceedings of the 2nd Validation of Prior Learning (VPL) Biennale, 25-27 April 2017, Aarhus, Denmark. In text reference: (Bolton et al, 2017)

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