The SAQA Conference on RPL: 23 to 26 February 2014


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This topic contains 27 replies, has 9 voices, and was last updated by  Skills Universe 2 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #33262

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    These notes are my impressions of the SAQA Conference and not the views of or endorsed by SAQA. I missed the Workshop on the first day because I never would have thought anybody in South Africa would schedule a workshop on a Sunday. 

    The conference was very well organised and, at least partially because of this, well attended. Fortunately not all who indicated that they would attend, did, else there would not have been sufficient seats for all. I know that SAQA did some contingency planning (a second conference room with big screen facilities was on standby), so even this eventuality was catered for.

    Some of the speakers were experts in RPL. Professor Elana Michelson from the Empire State College, USA, can probably be singled out as the one person who knew her subject, prepared well and spoke with confidence. There were those who clearly did not know much about RPL and did not prepare properly either.

    The one issue that bothers me at every single conference that I have attended in the last twenty years is the inability of so many speakers to prepare and use PowerPoint slides. Slides are not substitutes for books, and they should not be cluttered with information that one can read in a book. Using slides requires certain presentation techniques, and it blows my mind how people, professing to be educators, sometimes even offering learning programmes in facilitation, teaching, etc. do not know how to use them.

    As can be expected, prominent people and government officials were given speaking slots before lunch, while the snooze sessions after lunch were used as breakaway sessions with private providers and other individuals speaking for approximately fifteen minutes each. This, in my opinion, worked well, and some of the “snooze session” speakers were much more informed and better prepared than some of the VIPs. Discussions at these sessions were also more interesting and valuable.

    Some speakers used the opportunity to take pot shots at SAQA, the QCTO, CHE, Umalusi and some learning institutions for not offering a professional service. This is valuable and I am impressed that especially SAQA took what was coming their way in a mature manner. If, after this, services improve, then SAQA would already have achieved something.

    And then, Mr Ahmed Essop, CEO of the CHE, declared that higher education, notably universities, do not wish to offer RPL assessment services. The thought that immediately came to my mind was that this is the kind of attitude that destroys any efforts to integrate (I still feel that ‘articulate’ is not the right word for this) the three sub-sector NQFs. Portability of credits and qualifications is seriously hampered if one quality assurance body resists the efforts of the others. On day two

    Professor Elana Michelson pointed out that universities in the USA regard RPL as important and that they offer it extensively. I wonder if Mr Essop is aware of the fact that the issuing of honorary degrees (mostly doctorates) is often based on prior learning (work performance and contributions to the community) and, therefore, RPL?

    Sadly, some of the examples of RPL success stories that some speakers discussed were rather insignificant, irrelevant and suspiciously unlikely.

    In her presentation Ms Inger Marrian of the W & R SETA pointed out the time-saving value of RPL. She also discussed the insistence on the achievement of learning outcomes and fundamentals as obstacles in the way of RPL. SAQA promotes a holistic approach to RPL, meaning that there are alternative forms of evidence that can be used, so that a dogmatic approach should not be followed.

    Some speakers felt that RPL is being hampered by lack of expertise in RPL assessment. This can be alleviated by making use of an assessment team, consisting of an expert in the particular subject and an expert in RPL assessment techniques, working together.

    A practical obstacle in the way of implementing RPL assessment in occupational learning is the AQP system that the QCTO hopes to implement. This implies that learning providers cannot offer RPL assessment services. Even if they are approved as assessment centres, they will still be dependent on AQPs to provide them with assessment instruments and quality assurance. I tried to speak to four different QCTO managers at the conference. Two of them could not give me a proper answer and the other two were simply too busy to speak to me.

    Another issue that a number of speakers raised was that employees expect salary increases and, in some instances, promotion once they received certificates through RPL. This, however, is to be expected and employees are, indeed, entitled to higher salaries and, in some instances, promotion if they are better, or suitably, qualified.

    Really good RPL models were offered by many speakers.

    Dr Christine Wihak of the Thompson Rivers University, Canada, mentioned an important function of RPL that I did not think of before. She said that RPL is especially useful for the recognition of qualifications achieved abroad, which is logical and fits in well with the mandate of SAQA.

    I would like to mention two issues that specifically impact on private learning institutions:

    • In general most speakers demonstrated a diplomatic acceptance that private learning institutions, as providers of RPL, will have an important role to play. It is my opinion that private providers will play a leading role, especially since the CHE and universities seem to resist the process.

    • A member of Organised Labour attacked private providers attending the conference, calling them scavengers who are always looking for opportunities to make money. He is not entirely wrong. Sadly there are such private providers. However, having this kind of attitude towards all private providers is unfair and can seriously hamper the implementation of RPL. RPL will be used extensively to recognise occupational prior learning, and this is mostly offered by private providers.

    Speaking of Organised Labour – they do have a tendency to make speeches when they are supposed to ask questions. One such “speaker” stated that RPL is a political objective. From the SAQA RPL policy one can, indeed, see that the South African version of RPL has an element of politics in it.

    However, South Africa is not a closed system, and if we are hoping that the rest of the world will accept and respect our RPL efforts, then we need to maintain sound educational quality. Secondly, if employers discover that their employees are given certificates, which might imply salary increases and promotion, while the individuals can add no additional value to the workplace, they will quickly refuse allowing them to be assessed on prior learning. Thirdly, if the individuals who receive certificates through RPL cannot cope with further learning or the challenges of the workplace, they, too, will no longer be interested in the process.

    In closing, probably the most value that one can gain from an event like this is the wonderful networking opportunities that it offers. I don’t think one can expect to gain more than 20% value for the entire event in terms of its purpose (the implementation of RPL) – there are too many uninformed, incorrectly focused, poorly prepared and irrelevant presentations. However, the new people that you meet and the officials that you get a chance to speak to makes up for this.

    Dr Hannes Nel, MD Mentornet

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  • #33287

    Zerelde Uys
    Participant

    Thanks for an honest and real record of your experience. And to have been brave enough to even attend as a Private Provider…

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  • #33286

    TRACEY MCLENNAN
    Participant

    Thank you for this excellent review.  My main question would be “where to from here?” what is the next step?

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  • #33285

    karen deller
    Participant

    Hi Hannes, I was there as well – I also did a presentation (as did you).  So a few of us private providers are recognised at least.  I am not sure if you attended the one session I participated in in the plenary on Wed morning (the report back on our five year SAQA research project into RPL).  My leg of this research was to look at RPL as it would unfold under the QCTO’s new curriculum framework.  My research is not encouraging at all and there is a good chance that if the QCTO continues with its current inflexible curriculum design process for RPL candidates, RPL in the QCTO space will be almost impossible.  The main reason for this is that the QCTO curriculum structure is designed specifically for novice learners in the field.  As such, the curriculum is completely dis-aggregated – they start with theory with one provider.  and once this is mastered and assessed (not by registered assessors even according to the draft QCTO policies) they move into (potentially) another provider to do the practical component.  this is then assessed with no reference to the theory  component and again with no need for a registered assessor.  The next component is in the workplace – another completely different learning space.  Then for NQF 3 and 4 they must wrote the FLC exam set by IEC (no RPL allowed here at all under any circumstances).  This is similar to the artisan system of old and will work for novice learners (well, i am not sure about the opening of the workplace for white collar unemployed learners – but time will tell)

    The expert practitioner (who RPL candidates are) have already aggregated their performance and are operating in a mode which does not have theory separate from practice separate from workplace separate from fundamentals.  When we RPL candidates we do so in a highly integrated manner – integrating fundamentals and practical and theory into a single assessment process.  This will not be possible under the QCTO structure – the expert practitioner will have to (as things stand now) first dis-aggregate their practice and then find the three separate providers (theory, practical, workplace and IEC) to do RPL for the three (plus FLC) components.  This is quite difficult to do and difficult to disaggregate.  And what they do with each provider will still only get them a SoR for each one.  They still have to write the EISA.  The EISA cannot (according to present draft policy) be RPL-ed.    We need to petition QCTO to see that expert practitioners need a single RPL assessment that integrate the four components and is conducted by a single provider.  Unless we can do this I can’t see RPL having the future it deserves.  (Also, the removal of the need for registered assessors at the provider stage is worrying for RPL delivery as RPL is specialised.  according to the draft QCTO policies only the AQP will need to sue registered assessors and moderators.  At provider level they are not seen as necessary, so the RPL candidate may be further disadvantaged….).  

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  • #33284

    Skills Universe
    Keymaster

    Hannes are you saying that the  private provider/assessor/ subject matter expert  would not be able to design and set up assessment instrumenst for a RPL assessmnt. That this will rather be managed designed  and endorsed by the  QTCO? I always thought that this was the gap good assessment instrument designers in the private sector would fill with the QTCO acting simply as verifiers and  a standards generating body. Thanks for a great article. 

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  • #43017

    Skills Universe
    Keymaster

    Hannes are you saying that the  private provider/assessor/ subject matter expert  would not be able to design and set up assessment instrumenst for a RPL assessmnt. That this will rather be managed designed  and endorsed by the  QTCO? I always thought that this was the gap good assessment instrument designers in the private sector would fill with the QTCO acting simply as verifiers and  a standards generating body. Thanks for a great article. 

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  • #44058

    Skills Universe
    Keymaster

    Hannes are you saying that the  private provider/assessor/ subject matter expert  would not be able to design and set up assessment instrumenst for a RPL assessmnt. That this will rather be managed designed  and endorsed by the  QTCO? I always thought that this was the gap good assessment instrument designers in the private sector would fill with the QTCO acting simply as verifiers and  a standards generating body. Thanks for a great article. 

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  • #33283

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    AQPs will design and develop assessment instruments. Providers will still be responsible for formative assessment, though. This includes RPL assessment instruments, which inevitably is different from the traditional exam paper. However, I can already see that some AQPs might not have the capacity to design and develop assessment instruments and I will not be surprised if they outsource this. I can’t say why they apply to become AQPs if they can’t do the work. Hannes Nel

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  • #33282

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    It is a pity that I did not attend your presentation. You raise an issue that I did not even think of, seeing that we (Mentornet) still offer RPL almost solely workplace based. I took it for granted that the QCTO would follow this route because, as you correctly say, assessing all three units of learning in a QCTO curriculum separately would not be possible. I took it for granted that they know this, but perhaps one will need to confirm. Hannes Nel 

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  • #33281

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Perhaps SAQA should tell us. Hannes Nel

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  • #33280

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Good to hear from you again, Zerelda. I actually am a faithful supporter of SAQA, even though they owe me some answers …

     Hannes Nel

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  • #33279

    karen deller
    Participant

    HI Hannes, I have confirmed it.  I pointed this out to them quite a lot  when I saw the draft RPL policy they did and it still had the three separate dis-aggregated assessments resulting in three separate SoRs (and the FLC as an exam which is not RPL-able at all, unless you consider the IEB exam a form of RPL).   At the last discussion I had with them they were adamant that this would be how it remains.  And the EISA is not RPL-able, so even if the RPL candidate is able to write the FLC exam and pass, find three separate providers to RPL them in the three separate components (including a workplace if they are unemployed) the candidate will still need to write the EISA.  And we suspect this will be mainly theory based (as it is an exam) so the RPL candidate will have a real battle to get the qualification.    It does not look good for RPL moving forward under the QCTO.

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  • #33278

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Fine, we will cross this bridge when we reach it. First they need to write and register stacks and stacks of curricula.

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  • #33277

    karen deller
    Participant

    My sentiments exactly!  Employers seem to like the idea of the QCTO (i guess intuitively it is appealing) but once they get a fuller picture of what it will mean in practice they have second thoughts.  It may work fine for ‘blue collar’ and artisans (as it is very similar to the old apprenticeship system), but for ‘white collar’ employers it is not going to be easy to implement I suspect.  Especially for  the already employed.  

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  • #33276

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Ah, jee, Karen, you triggered thoughts in my mind that I cannot just ignore. You see, I will be surprised if the QCTO does not, at some point in time, come to realise that knowledge and skills are integrated in the workplace, initially leading to foundational competence and, later, reflective competence. In RPL, curricula and the qualifications that they represent are increasingly enriched by the additional knowledge of candidates that was acquired outside of formal learning, and the ways in which this knowledge may make the qualification more relevant and responsive to the needs of the workplace. It is here where critical ‘negotiation of the world of experience and the world of the academic’ becomes evident. As the emerging learning system matures and as learning practitioners and assessors become more confident of the integrity of the system, it becomes possible to give credit to learning that is so interrelated that it is difficult to find exact matches with requirements for standards and qualifications. So, how do you split the demonstration of workplace competence into classroom acquired knowledge and skills and workplace skills?
    The obvious way in which to utilise workplace competence and evidence of prior learning is by having candidates prepare a portfolio of evidence. The portfolio may include practical demonstrations, and this emphasises the stupidity of insisting on three separate sets of evidence. The SAQA RPL Policy favours a holistic approach, and a holistic approach may include a reflection on all the contexts and areas of experiential, community and workplace learning. So, how do your measure classroom learning, classroom-acquired skills and workplace-acquired skills separately? Or why should you?

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  • #33275

    karen deller
    Participant

    Because the QCTO has come up with a new curriculum model and they are trying to force RPL into it.  Great for the novice learner (except for the workplace component – how many banks will let unemployed people in to act as tellers so that they can be signed off?  or even receptionists?  or call centre agents – these unemployed learners will need a mentor/a logbook and a place to sit/PC, etc. etc. – i am not sure that is workable either).  The QCTO RPL policy is still draft (not released) but i have got it and they recognise none of what you talk about.  Its seems to just be ‘how can we make RPL fit our new curriculum model for novice learners’….. 

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  • #33274

    Zerelde Uys
    Participant

    I am following the comments by two very competent and informed Academics with excellent experience in the private provision sector. It does nothing to make me less concerned about the implementation of the QCTO in general! Great philosophy, but implementation questionable? Drilling into the RPL issues just confirms that. Don’t even think there is an answer to ‘The way forward’.

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  • #33273

    Charlene Peens
    Participant

    Hi Karen
    Well said and I definitely agree with you.  I will in front of the row when we petition against the proposed QCTO system.  In itself, it will bring about loads of issues  but for RPL it will be a disaster.  There will be no RPL at these levels where it is so desperately needed in our country.

    The issue of knowledge, practical and workplace learning being three totally separate entities as such is also a huge bone of contentment with me.  You cannot separate these three – not in theory or in practice.  The QCTO is such a good one, but just like with the OBE, they have grabbed onto straws and tried to make a picture – once again the system will let our people down and create further chaos – not to mention that fact that we may push out dysfunctional learners as they have learnt in silos……

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  • #33272

    Des Squire
    Participant

    Thank you Hannes for the very interesting  feedback.

    The impression I get from reading the abstracts is that so many people appear to be on their “own little bandwagon” to the detriment of the learners and beneficiaries of RPL. The three points you make in the second last paragraph are very true and serve to demonstrate the need to educate all employees on what RPL is all about. I wonder if anyone has ever asked their (the beneficiaries of RPL) opinion?   

    I think I must disagree with Karen regarding employers liking the idea of the QCTO and for that matter the new qualifications format. I spend quite a bit of my time interacting with HR practitioners, skills development practitioners and skills development forum members and the majority are anything but in favour.

    As Tracy says – where to from here?? Is there a way forward? Can SAQA and QCTO bring this off to the satisfaction of the key recipients and beneficiaries – the employers and the learners. After all they are really the only ones who matter in the long run.    

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  • #33271

    karen deller
    Participant

    Hi Des….. once the employers understand what the new QCTO curriculum means in practice they are less happy with it :).  And those who have engaged with it even on the periphery are not in favour, but most have only ever been exposed to the QCTO at their SETA roadshows and these mostly highlight the positive, with little practical understanding of what it means back in the workplace.  

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  • #33270

    Thank you Hannes and Karen for all the information shared here.

    I have to say that I am extremely perturbed by the regression made in terms of RPL! In all honesty, RPL under SAQA never really got off the ground. I was really hoping for more clarity and “vooma” from the QCTO, because one would expect a “new” body to improve on it’s predecessor, otherwise what is the point of change? 

    In researching for an assignment for assessment tool design, I came across this very useful Australian learner guide (attached) and used it extensively. 

    I have a couple of questions that someone here could help me with.

    1) How will the AQP be able to develop assessment tools (at a prohibitive cost to those who wish to get involved in this process)?

    2) We already know that the ETQA’s in their current format only accredit training providers with materials; a QMS, etc. My problem is who accredits the developers to ensure that they deliver a quality product to the SDP? I posed this question to Services – ETDP and MerSETA  as I believe that this is a fundamental service they HAVE to offer their SDP’s who they accredit. Given that the ETQA’s don’t offer this service currently, what assurance do we have that the AQP will be able to? 

    Please keep this discussion going? This is invaluable!

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  • #33269

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Thank you for the Australian manual, Celeste. I will study it and see of we can learn something from them, except how to play cricket. I can’t help but to feel sorry for the QCTO and I mean this in a positive way. They are trying so hard to act in a professional manner, and in the process they have been trying out complicated systems since about 2007 that simply cannot work. Every time that they stumble across the next obstacle, they put things on hold. I have some questions for them, but the first time that one of their more professional managers can speak to me is a month from now. RPL? They don’t understand that the SAQA National Policy supports a holistic approach. An important element of a holistic approach is that assessment focuses on the ability to demonstrate the main purpose of a qualification or part qualification. I would like to see it applied to units of learning, but this is where you encounter a new challenge, namely an integrated approach will no longer be possible. But hey, at least they don’t resist RPL like the CHE does. I actually feel sorry for SAQA as well, because if the quality assurance bodies don’t align their systems with the National RPL Policy the whole thing might just fail. Des has the right attitude – let them sort out their own problems while we carry on with business as usual. Hannes Nel

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  • #33268

    Dear Dr Nel

    Thanks for placing the RPL Conference agenda on this platform. It seems that you have a dislike for “prominent speakers and government officials”. Non of the “prominent speakers and government officials” in my opinion was unprepared or less prepared than any of the other speakers in the conference. We have invited Mr Firoz Patel to speak on the recently released White Paper on Post School Education and RPL, and he did an excellent job in outlining how the White Paper (and by extension the minister of higher education and training and cabinet) views RPL. The second prominent speaker was Ms Michelle Buchler that was the chairperson of the Ministerial Task Team on RPL and again gave the audience a very good account of the debates this task team had on a national RPL strategy. Mr Ahmed Essop’s position was that higher education institutions largely focuses on  RPL for access into programmes. He also stated that all universities have RPL policies which they are implementing. He pointed out that few public institutions will RPL the whole qualification. It was also important for the entire NQF family to participate in the conference and as a panel hence the CEO’s of SAQA and all the Quality Councils speak about the RPL on a systems-wide and within each of the subsectors or sub-frameworks. This shows the unity of purpose regarding RPL across the entire NQF family including the Ministry and Department of Higher Education and Training. I think it is important to be fair in our criticism and as you pointed out we take constructive feedback and try to respond accordingly to improve.  I agree with you on the matter of powerpoint slides – we have really come to accept mediocre presentations and we should collectively try to route this out. Thanks once again for your contructive contribution to the discussions and debates about RPL! 

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  • #33267

    Dear Karen

    One must make the distinction between draft policy and policy. To my knowledge the QCTO don’t have a RPL policy yet but is in the process of developing one. The NQF Act is very clear that the Quality Council policies must be in-line with the national RPL policy. I spelt it out in the presentation that I made at the RPL conference, but it seems that there is an aversion to presentations from  “government officials and prominent people” in some private sector quarters. I think it is important that you continue to raise your concerns as we move to the actual policy phase. I am also hopeful that your and other concerns will be given due consideration.  

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  • #33266

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Hello Mr Samuels, Thank you for communicating with us. It is, already, a huge and most refreshing improvement on the, sometimes secretive or non-existent approach by other government officials. I can assure you that I do not have anything against government officials or government bodies. I do, however, have a serious problem with lack of professionalism and integrity, and this applies equally to private and public bodies. You might have noticed in previous discussions on Skills Universe that I also attack private institutions if I feel it is warranted. Not that I, or my company, are perfect. We most certainly are not, but you can rest assured that we do our best to make a positive contribution to the future of our country. You see, I believe our biggest obstacle is this little issue of trust. Government officials don’t trust private institutions because they are perceived to be scavengers, as a member of a trade union labelled us at the conference. Public bodies are perceived as being … well, you know this. Then again, nobody is entitled to trust – you need to earn it by showing that you can be trusted. I believe a positive and trustworthy attitude will already help. Hannes Nel

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  • #33265

    Hi Hannes

    What answers do we owe you!

     

    Regards

     

    Joe

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  • #33264

    Dear Hannes

    The answer to the question about “where to from here?” was contained in the presentations at the conference by “prominent people and government officials!” I outlined that SAQA has a five year plan wih the implementation of the RPL policy that was made public at the conference. My full presentation can be viewed at http://www.saqa.org.za. The next steps are clearly outlined in the five year plan. Participants were also interviewed and the videos posted on youtube under the hading of RPL Conference 2014.http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=rpl%20conference%202014&sm=1 This will also give interested parties a more balanced view of the ongoings on at the RPL Conference 2014. 

    Regards

    Joe

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  • #33263

    Hannes Nel
    Participant

    Hello Mr Samuels, Dr Heidi Bolton did respond to my enquiry, as did Dr James Keevy. They responded in a most mature manner and I am happy that everything is fine. Regards, Hannes Nel

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