Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is defined in the National Standards Bodies Regulations (No 18787 of 28 March 1998, issued in terms of the SAQA Act 58 of 1995) as follows:

“Recognition of prior learning means the comparison of the previous learning and experience of a learner howsoever obtained against the learning outcomes required for a specified qualification, and the acceptance for purposes of qualification of that which meets the requirements.”

This definition makes clear a number of principles in the development and execution of RPL:

  • Learning occurs in all kinds of situations – formally, informally and non-formally;
  • Measurement of the learning takes place against specific learning outcomes required for a specific qualification; and
  • Credits are awarded for such learning if it meets the requirements of the qualification.

Therefore, the process of recognizing prior learning is about:

  • Identifying what the candidate knows and can do;
  • Matching the candidate’s skills, knowledge and experience to specific standards and the associated assessment criteria of a qualification;
  • Assessing the candidate against those standards and;
  • Creditingthe candidate for skills, knowledge and experience built up through formal, informal and non-formal learning that occurred in the past.

RPL Is put forward as one of the key strategies of the emerging education and training system to ensure equitable access to education and training and redress of past unjust educational practices.

Assessment for the Recognition for Prior Learning is, as mentioned before, and as for any assessment, subject to the following principles:

  • Credible assessment
  • The quality of the evidence
  • An assessment planned and designed on he basis of understanding the requirements of the unit standard, part qualification or whole qualification
  • The use of various methods and instruments
  • The requirements for a credible assessment process
  • Moderation and quality assurance of assessments and
  • Moderation and quality assurance of assessments

RPL requires a careful analysis of the knowledge, skills and values that will prove competence in a particular field of practice. As a result, curricula and qualifications will increasingly be enriched by the additional knowledge of candidates that was acquired outside of formal education and training, and the ways in which this knowledge may take the qualification more relevant and responsive to the needs of the workplace. It is here where the critical negotiation of two worlds – the world of experience and the world of the academic becomes evident.