A brief overview of challenges and potential opportunities for RPL implementation


South Africa is in a critical phase of its development: while it has achieved political freedom, economic freedom remains a challenge. Economic disparity is rife and inequitable wealth distribution prevails albeit 26 years into democracy. At the core of the struggle is a critical underdevelopment of professional skill sets in historically disadvantaged communities. Despite all the talk and policy development for the transformation of higher education, entrenched and historically Global North approaches continue to define the strategies for the transformation of South African challenges (Global South problems). Formal education continues to define the mindsets, perceptions and expectations of future success.

The reality in the current socio-economic context is that only a privileged minority of the population are able to complete formal studies in the minimum time, while others are deprived through various socio-economic challenges and systemic barriers in professional education. A critical population of “missing middle” practitioners remain excluded while students who cannot sustain full-time studies drop out to seek employment without alternative options to re-enter the system. In both cases, knowledge skills and competencies achieved in the workplace are disregarded by an idealistic, disconnected, systematic form of pedagogic exclusion; alternative learning pathways are of critical importance to these excluded persons in need. A much more concerted effort is therefore required to develop and promote RPL, an intrinsically inclusive pedagogic system.

The implementation of RPL is the responsibility of various structures, bodies and institutions as well as stakeholders and persons in need of upskilling. Each of these has a different role in advancing the potential and effectiveness of RPL implementation. A brief critical reflective analysis in this chapter will formulate suggestions to meaningfully implement RPL

Challenges and potential opportunities 89 from a broad national level to the needs of the individual learner or practitioner. Research has identified the following factors as the most pertinent to the effective implementation of RPL:

  • • Funding
  • • Alignment of policies
  • • Assumptions, perceptions and attitudes pertaining to knowledge and the knowledge society
  • • Reform of historically entrenched systems of exclusion
  • • Quality assurance
  • • Training of academic staff and assessors of RPL
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