Responses to higher education reform
Entrenchment, stonewalling and ignorance
The previous chapter concluded with a brief discussion on the lack of RPL implementation in professional education, despite the supportive legislative changes of the democratic era and the urgent need for the transformation of the professions. This unwitting anti-transformative inertia is caused by two principal underlying factors: first, a lack of communication from the promulgators of RPL to the stakeholders and. second, the absence of well-defined, quality-assured RPL models. This book brings to the fore that the lack of implementation of alternative learning pathways, afforded by frameworks such as the NQF, stems from the historic character of institutions of higher learning and the entrenched attitudes of privileged professionals, albeit within a redefined higher education landscape in post-apartheid South Africa.
The South African higher education system has been predominantly formal; professional education and training are no different. Attitudes of the public and professionals alike stem from perceptions of education based on experiences of a linear process of formal schooling followed by work in practice/industry. This defines the prevalent norm and standard measure of quality in professional education and practice. There was generally no place for informal learning in higher education, as it was cast into the domain of the “lower” levels of framing at technical schools/colleges while universities defined the domain of the privileged elite. Most professionals would have been educated at universities, while subordinate skilled assistants would have learned their trades at technical institutions or in the workplace. This was unquestionably deemed to be an acceptable system of post-school professional education within the bifurcated system in South Africa.
Against this brief background, it is understandable that the recognition of learning through alternative pathways would be difficult to accept by the public in general, let alone the professionals. Therefore, any suggestion of an alternate pathway would naturally create uneasiness and resistance, a
Responses to higher education reform 27 shock to the very entrenched perceptions of what higher education should be, resulting in stonewalling as a consequential reaction. It is therefore important to identify and interrogate the stumbling blocks to the effective implementation of RPL to clearly define and communicate the qualify standards of a workable transformative alternative learning model for socioeconomic redress in post-apartheid South Africa.