Challenges and opportunities in professional bodies

Attitudes to quality assurance/knowledge assumptions

Professional bodies traditionally benchmarked competence to practise against academic qualification, a norm in existence for over a century. The respective gazetted legislation attests to this. The SAQA has been actively promoting RPL via its Professional Body Forum; however, this is also a relatively recent development. Professional bodies in South Africa are required to monitor and accredit/validate academic programmes at the learning sites to ensure that the core knowledge, skills and competencies for professional practice are being achieved: they also produce guidelines for such validation.

A review of legislation, frameworks policies and guidelines across the different built environment professions does not present any convincing strategy for a quality-assured implementation of RPL. As the primary' mandate of professional bodies is to protect the public, there needs to be a concerted effort in the development of an effective RPL strategy in collaboration with the respective learning sites at institutions of higher education. The dialogue between the professional body and learning site is critical in the development of an aligned strategy for the benefit of many practitioners who could not access professional education due to past injustices; this is vital to a real transformation of the professions.

Lack of consistent policy development

Evidence reveals that the RPL policies at the different professional bodies are in a similar state to that of the higher education institutions: inconsistent and differently defined. It is critical that the professional bodies under the different sectors collaboratively interrogate possibilities and develop aligned RPL policies. In the context of the built environment in South Africa, the Council for the Built Environment can play an important role in facilitating the collaboration of the built environment professional councils in collaboration with the programme heads/leaders at the respective learning sites.

Training of RPL assessors

The training of assessors in respect of professional articulation via RPL is a key area of consideration to achieve the desired quality standards and to reduce bias or unfair prejudice to the candidate. This can only happen after the policies and guidelines for RPL implementation are developed. It is critical that a consistent method of RPL assessment is adopted. RPL evaluation rubrics/models can effectively overcome some of these challenges.

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