Perceptions, experiences and attitudes of key stakeholders

A brief introduction to the study methodology

This chapter, arguably, defines the primary motivation and justification of my research on RPL. While the previous and succeeding chapters focus on literature review and conceptual inquiry, this chapter focuses on primary sources to understand the perceptions, attitudes, needs and challenges pertaming to RPL in various contexts.

The primary motivation for the research was my own experience as a student and practitioner of ar chitecture. I gr ew up hi a historically disadvantaged community and completed schooling in a racially segregated apartheid model, after which I applied to study architecture. It is important to note at this point that I had never met an architect, except for a talk that an architect, Rodney Harber, gave at a career day at the tail end of my high school years. The talk inspired me to study architecture as I realised that it was a broad field that integrated art, science, literature and philosophy within an established profession. The reality of the majority of historically disadvantaged communities dining the apartheid era was that most families would never have met an architect. Architects generally served a much more elite, affluent society except for public-funded projects in disadvantaged communities. Due to social and economic challenges, I could not access the tr aditional university to study to become an architect. While a typical student of architecture would graduate after six years and commence working under mentorship, my studies spanned 17 years through different learning pathways interspersed between studying and working, hr all these years, I could only afford a single year of full-time study, which was paid by a company that I worked for. Through these year s, I studied through both str eams of tire bifurcated system, commencing at tech-nikon in 1991 and completing at university in 2008. Dining this period, I completed two technically focused qualifications, a design-focused technology qualification and eventually a professional architect’s qualification. This experience, combined with the years of work experience at every category of

Perceptions, experiences and attitudes 33 professional designation in architecture, exposed me to the realities of deeply entrenched attitudes, perceptions and opportunities related to formal qualification. Wlaile years of formal studies within formal learning envir onments were deemed acceptable to the development of high-quality professional skills, work experience and informal learning were met with a high level of scepticism. The entire system was based on a linear approach to education and training. This revealed a disturbing reality that worth was directly related to the privilege of qualification, based on access related to socio-economic realities, which determined the respect and opportunities associated with it.

The justification of the study, on the other hand, relates to my experience since 2010, which exposed me to long-serving academics, professors and professionals though my active participation on professional body validation/accreditation panels, involvement with the evaluation of qualifications for the CHE, and curriculum development at different NQF levels. This experience triggered a series of critical reflections on the nuances of professional education and training, while it also revealed a diverse community of stakeholders with different perspectives, experiences and attitudes of RPL in the context of professional architectural education and the broader context of higher education in South Africa. The key informants of this research are, therefore, those with whom I had many contentious conversations and debates that deepened my own understanding of the perceptions, attitudes and experiences related to RPL.

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