APEL.Q Case studiesNamibia APEL.Q case study in education

The Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) and Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)


The Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL) has developed an institutional policy on the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) to broaden access to its post-secondary programme at certificate and diploma levels. The policy defines RPL as “the process of identifying, matching, assessing and crediting the knowledge, skills and experience that candidates have gained through formal, informal or non-formal learning” (NAMCOL, 2008). RPL helps learners to transfer flexibly between Open and Distance Learning (ODL) providers and conventional formal schools.

Legislation was enacted in 1997 to establish the NAMCOL. The college is required to provide study opportunities for adults and out-of-school youth to upgrade their professional and vocational skills as well as their level of general education (Government of the Republic of Namibia, 1997). Similarly, institutions of higher learning are required to facilitate access for some students through ODL programmes. The Centre for External Studies at the University of Namibia and the Centre for Open and Lifelong Learning at the Polytechnic of Namibia also offer tertiary education programmes through distance learning.

Procedures and processes

Applicants for RPL enter into an assessment agreement with the college before undergoing a series of assessments that assist them in displaying their competence.

The assessment process involves pre- and post-interviews, portfolio development and proficiency tests.

At the end of the assessment process candidates are given written feedback on the outcome of the assessment.

Outcomes and ways forward

There still appears to be considerable resistance against RPL. One of the challenges to overcome in future is the perception that learning attained through conventional formal systems is superior to those attained through open and distance learning (ODL), workplace experience and general life experience.

Another concern is the tendency for publically funded institutions to award their own qualifications as per the statutory provisions in the founding acts. This is leading to duplication of educational provision and qualifications.

The directive from the Namibia Qualifications Authority (NQA) to have all qualifications registered in the Namibian Qualifications Framework by 2015 has led to a better integration of RPL into a better coordinated education and training system for Namibia.


Government of the Republic of Namibia. 1997. Namibian College of Open Learning Act, Act 1 of 1997. Windhoek, Government Printers.

Namibia College of Open Learning (NAMCOL). 2008. Policy on Recognition of Prior Learning. Windhoek, National College of Open Learning.


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