Lack of consistent policy development

RPL policy development at higher education institutions in South Africa reveals a high level of disparity and inconsistency. Respective handbooks reveal that at many institutions, there are no policies at all; some have policies that were written prior to legislative revisions and others have very differently defined policies on RPL in comparison to national policy. While the NQF is an enabling framework allowing for various possibilities of mobility and portability of leaming/qualifications, RPL as an alternate pathway does not adequately feature in the institutional strategies and policies related to articulation. In this regard, the alignment of RPL policy development to a national benchmark is critical; it is therefore beyond urgent that the national governing structures, discussed further later, align their policies and procedures for RPL implementation.

Training of academics for an alternative pedagogic paradigm

Due consideration and discussion of RPL can open new ways of thinking about pedagogic and andragogic practice, research and publication, which could be immensely beneficial to the reform of existing curricula to become more contextually relevant within the 21st century.

The training of existing academic staff is critical to the effective implementation of RPL, especially given that academics engaged in professional education are usually discipline-focused; core knowledge, content, methods and procedures related to the respective profession define academic focus in this context. The hectic pace of having to cover these core areas leaves little or no time to consider different pedagogic approaches; reliance on “the tried and tested” is the norm.

Academic staff will requir e support and training to be able to implement RPL as it intrinsically challenges deeply rooted behaviours and attitudes to teaching and learning. While knowledge of alternative pedagogies will be required, the assessment of RPL is an area that will require intensive training due to the diversity of knowledge and skill sets of potential RPL candidates. Guidelines for RPL assessment are critical to the rigour thereof while being fair to the diversity of candidates.

The respective leaders of teaching and learning at institutional, college, school and faculty levels will require training to lead the implementation of RPL at the programme level, while they can also importantly provide feedback for RPL, teaching and learning and quality assurance policy development. It is critical, however, that a clear thread of RPL policy and strategy development runs through the different implementing structures, starting at the national level and working all the way down to module level.

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