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APEL.Q pathways to lifelong learning


Turkey has taken steps to develop validation procedures relating to various sectors of society. By strengthening its National Qualifications Framework (NQF) in line with the European Qualifications Framework, Turkey has set the basis for the development of a lifelong learning strategy and validation of non-formal and informal learning.

Turkey is experimenting with new methods for validating skills people have acquired in non-formal and informal settings. Many of these projects are funded by the European Commission within the framework of the Lifelong Learning Programme. The partners comprise a wide range of entities from NGOs to private and public organizations.

Procedures and processes

The following procedures and processes were initiated regarding the validation of competences in non-formal and informal settings.

In the context of the VITA project (Validation of service-oriented learning outcomes with an innovative IT-based assessment and evidencing system)[1] an innovative ICT-based system was used to validate competences gained in different, more or less formalized learning contexts such as schools, higher education institutes, VET and workplaces, with links to formal certification based on the European Qualifications Framework. Evidence of social, personal and organizational competences (SPOC) acquired in non-formal and informal learning deemed essential in the service sector was assessed against level five of the National Qualifications Framework using Information and Technology (IT)-based assessment methods.

In another example, a mentoring kit for cultural managers and professionals in less stable jobs were developed to validate their non-formal and informal skills and competences and to foster their employability. The project ‘Creative Blended Mentoring for Cultural Managers’ (CREAM)[2], funded by the EU between 2011 and 2013 was developed in three main phases: In the first phase, partners developed a new cultural curriculum for the training of professionals in the cultural labour market. In the second phase, partners designed and tested the training procedure based on blended mentoring method aimed at fostering creative thinking. Finally, partners developed a validation process for competences acquired after the testing phase, which was shared at the EU level.

The ‘Mobility in the Automotive Sector through European Credit Transfer in Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) initiative (2011-2013)[3] aimed at promoting the mobility of learners and workers. It was funded by the European Commission and it targeted educational and VET-related institutions, students and employers. Furthermore, the project intended to enhance the transferability of occupational skills and standards through the validation and recognition of learning outcomes acquired by individuals in the formal, non-formal and informal learning contexts of different countries.

The ‘Validation of immigrants’ vocational skills and competencies in tourism and services’ (2010)[4] was also funded by the European Commission and was implemented in the VET systems of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey. The project aimed at developing a pilot methodology for the recognition and validation of competences acquired through non-formal and informal learning and vocational skills gained through work experience in the new member states or candidate countries of the European Union, as a means to foster the integration of immigrants and foreign workers, to enhance the flexibility of the education systems and the mobility of the foreign workers and to increase immigrant participation in the European labour market.

Outcomes and ways forward

From the examples given, we see that Turkey has taken some remarkable steps in promoting validation in relation to sectors in society with the potential for innovation, creativity and lifelong learning, such as the cultural sector that promotes the mobility of workers and learners and the transferability of skills.

Turkey aims to become an EU member by achieving sustainable development and transforming itself into a knowledge-based society with an internationally competitive economy. In actualizing these targets, lifelong learning and the validation of prior informal and non-formal learning can play a decisive role in giving individuals access to education and training opportunities and increasing their employability. To this end, factors of great importance are a more comprehensive NQF, a clearer action plan for the implementation of the lifelong learning strategy and a more effective cooperation between stakeholders from the public and private sectors and the labour market.


CEDEFOP. 2014. European inventory on validation of non-formal and informal learning 2014: Country report Turkey.http://libserver.cedefop.europa.eu/vetelib/2014/87078_TR.pdf

UIL, European Training Foundation(ETF) and CEDEFOP. 2015. Global inventory of regional and national qualifications frameworks, V. II: national and regional cases. Hamburg, UIL. http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0023/002351/235123e.pdf


Integrating migrant women into Swiss society


Bilateral agreements on the free circulation of the workforce between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) and full entry into Switzerland, in force since 2004, has led to an increasing flow of migrants – both skilled and unskilled workers. Migrants now account for more than 23 per cent of the Swiss population and about 30 per cent of the workforce. Many migrants occupy manufacturing and low-skilled positions, which has led to increased social segregation between newcomers and the original Swiss population. In particular, qualified women from non-EU countries, often entering the country due to family reunification, are facing increased challenges in obtaining a work permit and for making their prior experience and learning visible. Thus, Switzerland is seeking to develop new strategies to overcome this challenge. Validation of non-formal and informal learning is seen as an important element in relation to integrating these women into the workforce or letting them access continuing training and tertiary education.

The validation of migrants’ prior learning needs to be seen within the context of the Swiss validation system, which is a comprehensive, overarching model with a strong legal basis. Moreover, it is multi-dimensional in the sense that the results of a validation process can be used in various ways. Results can be used to claim a certification in a growing number of qualifications – both in Vocational Education and Training (VET) and some higher vocational education and training (PET) paths – and to gain credits in a higher education pathway.

This case study focusses on the validation of learning completed by migrant women in Switzerland and includes the findings of research carried out through semi-structured interviews with fifteen migrant women regarding their experiences with validation in Switzerland (Bednarz and Bednarz 2014). These interviews focus on the women’s migratory routes and personal attributes.


Bednarz and Bednarz’ research (2014) takes the following three dimensions of validation of non-formal and informal learning into account: 1) Validation as a means for individual empowerment by making prior learning visible; 2) Validation as a means to achieve a qualification and thereafter enter the workforce (employability); and 3) Validation as a means to access higher education. In relation to these three dimensions, the research examines a number of validation projects carried out in Switzerland.

Procedures and processes

  1. Validation as a means for individual empowermentThe study took into account one formative project, ‘World Wide Women’, in which the role of validation serves the purpose of empowering immigrant women. The project tested how to recognize prior learning through the exchange of experiences with others, individual sessions, and through the use of virtual networking, as well as how to use these methods to develop the women’s career plans.ProAct, another formative empowerment project organized by the training and coaching association Découvrir, has also been considered in the study. The association arranged several training modules as well as individual and group discussion sessions for qualified migrant women in Switzerland. These sessions were focussed on topics such as how to establish a professional network. Moreover, the association sought to make the women aware of their skills and competences, in order to restore their confidence and encourage a proactive approach to employability. The overall aim of the project was to support the qualified women’s social and professional integration into the Swiss society.
  2. Validation as a means to achieve a qualification and enter the workforceThe second study considered two different settings. In the first setting, the EFIS project (Employability of Italian Female immigrants in Switzerland) sought to foster the employability of migrant women. Promoted by the ECAP foundation in 2010, this project offered migrant women extensive job searching guidance, as well as guidance on how to improve their computer and language skills. The aim of the project was to integrate or reintegrate migrant women in the local labour market.In the second setting, also concerned with employability, the ‘Val-Form’ procedure set up by the Department of Education, Culture and Sports of the Canton of Valais was used. The ‘Val-Form’ procedure takes into account the the National Validation Guidelines, which comprise a five-phased validation process combining validation and preparatory or continuing training. The aim was to enable women to obtain a locally recognized certificate: either a qualification in the VET sector or a federal certificate in the PET sector.
  3. VPL as a means to access higher educationFinally, the study considered the pilot procedure promoted by Geneva University, together with the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland, aimed at implementing the validation of prior learning in an higher education setting. The study examined a diverse group of qualified women who were undergoing a summative validation process. This process dealt with the delivery of exemptions and credits based on the preparation of a personal dossier defining the women’s previous formal educational attainments and experiential learning from their home countries. This dossier was presented by the women in front of a jury. The aim of the project was to enable the women to enter a formal education pathway.

Outcomes and ways forward

The study shows that the process of validation of non-formal and informal learning is often undertaken by migrant women as a way to improve their social and professional integration in Switzerland.

According to the interviewed women, the validation process contributes to the awareness of their own skills and competences, which enhances their self-confidence and helps them feel visible and recognized in the new country. Without this awareness and enhanced self-confidence, there could be a risk of marginalization from the labour market and from society in general. Moreover, they articulated that the process contributes to the design and implementation of a personal development or career plan, which encourages them to undertake a qualification or follow an educational path. From the interviews, it appears that entering a validation process always produces a concrete outcome for individual women – either in the form of personal or professional development.

The words that recurred during interviews with migrant women were ‘recognition’, ‘personal development’, ‘making sense’, and ‘confidence’. These words were often used in cases where women described their experiences with validation processes leading to certification or credits. Validation per se is a learning process often requiring an individual to update competences and undertake additional education or training. Thus, women need to be supported in the discovery of the various available paths. Adequate support encourages women to overcome challenges encountered and to persevere with the validation process.

Several important success factors emerged from the research regarding the decision of migrant women to enter and complete a validation process.

The first factor concerned transparency and relevance of the information provided by validation advisors/counsellors and family members with prior experience with the Swiss validation system. In particular, relational networks were shown to be important, since success requires a constant move between professional advice and proximal relationships to gain the necessary information and concrete help. The women deemed the individual and collective coaching helpful, especially in cases where their varying situations and backgrounds were taken into account, and when they were assisted with finding the right mode and target for recognizing, validating and, ultimately, making their prior learning visible.

The second factor concerned the requirement of certain personal attributes such as personal motivation, pride and a strong desire to claim social recognition and dignity. The need for recognition arises from the desire to establish a professional identity, one that is often developed in the home country and later valued in Switzerland.

Another attribute deemed important was flexibility and the ability to seek alternative methods. Individual action plans often change depending on available opportunities on the labour market, constraints imposed by institutions and access to formal qualification prerequisites.

The study showed that it is essential to focus determinately on a clear goal, linking it to the achievement of personal or social recognition to balance the struggle with difficult conditions encountered by the women and their ambitions.

The third factor concerned the relationship between the appeal of validation and the social value of certification in the host country. In Switzerland, it is necessary to have a certificate that has been issued according to Swiss rules or by accredited institutions to be recognized as a professional. In many cases, it is even seen as more advantageous to have a Swiss qualification obtained at a lower level than one obtained at a higher level in a foreign country. Validation is therefore seen as an attractive opportunity to achieve a Swiss diploma without having to repeat a complete cycle of education or training.

Despite these success factors, it is worth mentioning some of the weaknesses, such as complexity of procedures and a lack of information and clear guidance. These elements all require a certain level of awareness with the local language and norms as well as a good understanding of validation logics in general. Since migrant women often lack these attributes when first arriving in the country, it is essential to increase the transparency of information and the quality of guidance.


Bednarz, F. and Bednarz, G., 2014. Multidimensional and multi-target approach to VPL in Switzerland. Valuing learning and competences of qualified immigrant women: three case studies. In: R. Duvekot, B. Halba, K. Aagaard, S. Gabršček and J. Murray. eds. The Power of VPL – Validation of prior learning as a multi-targeted approach for access to learning opportunities for all. Vught, Inholland University AS and European Centre Valuation Prior Learning.


Public services sector


Although a formal Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) policy had long been in existence in the public services, the actual implementation of the policy and RPL interventions were few due to the time-consuming and restrictive nature of the collection of portfolios of evidence. In 2012 the decision was taken to streamline the process as far as possible and to consider new assessment techniques in order to make the process feasible for RPL candidates.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) revised the RPL policy and also received inputs from the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). DPSA and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), together with Edutel (an accredited private provider), were commissioned to launch a pilot project with 23 RPL candidates employed by various government departments across South Africa. The RPL candidates were assessed against the qualification Further Education and Training Certificate: Generic Management, Public Administration, NQF Level 4. This initiative was extremely well received by candidates and the process was speedily initiated.

Procedures and processes

From the outset, attempts were made to make the process straight-forward and comprehensible for both the candidates and their line managers. Candidates had to apply formally for the RPL assessment by providing a written statement of motivation for their inclusion and by supplying all relevant documents prior to the process. The necessary documents included copies of previous performance appraisals.

All candidates were invited to an orientation session, where they were briefed with regard to the requirements of the qualification, its purpose and the RPL approach that would be followed. A skills audit was conducted to benchmark the relevant assessment criteria of the full qualification against each employee’s current skills and knowledge base. This exercise resulted in identifying the gaps which would warrant further training and assessment interventions. Such interventions were planned well in advance and each candidate received a rollout plan of the relevant formal training which they would need to attend. Line managers were also given training in their roles as facilitators of evidence collection.

The RPL assessment instruments were integrated into the public services environment and addressed the specific needs of the RPL candidates. The issue of time was considered and the most cost effective assessment methods were utilised. Assessment techniques encompassed questioning that makes use of case studies, knowledge questionnaires, and checklists to be completed by line managers after behavioural observation in naturally occurring workplace circumstances. These instruments were benchmarked against the known best practice assessment principles and were found to be valid and reliable for use within the public services environment. The observation checklists particularly indicated the currency and authenticity of the evidence gathered, which, in an RPL context, is of significance.

Once the actual RPL commenced, a Project Steering Committee was established. This Committee met on a monthly basis. At these meetings, progress reports were tabled, identified challenges were discussed and possible solutions determined.

Outcomes and ways forward

Managers reported that candidate’s attitudes towards the RPL process were positive and that the RPL process was feasible for the organisation. The process contributed to the credibility of the assessment. However, managers also reported that the timeframes were too tight and that more time was needed because of the workloads of both candidates and their line managers.

A full RPL documentation pack, including detailed instructions, was compiled for use within many public services departments in South Africa, with the intention that the RPL initiative will grow and more employees will be able to make use of these effective methods of gaining acknowledgement for skills and knowledge acquired non-formally and informally.


South African police service


The history of the South African Police Service (SAPS) music bands goes back to 1903 with the establishment of the SAPS Tshwane Band. The establishment of the SAPS Tshwane Band was followed by the establishment of more bands namely, the SAPS Police Bands started in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Soweto in the 1960s. In 2000, SAPS Bands were established in all nine provinces of South Africa. A tenth band was established at the SAPS Tshwane Head Office. Al music bands play the same style of music and each consists of 45 musicians.

Music band members have a variety of backgrounds. Some studied music at degree level; others lectured in music and some obtained the skill to play one or more music instruments as a hobby. The challenge of the SAPS bands is to unite these individual band members and train them to play music within the typical military genre. SAPS developed training material spanning a range of music levels and trains band members to obtain a high level of performance. The music training performed was however not accredited by the relevant quality assurance body. This non-accredited training culminated into a situation where band members have developed skills without formal recognition, which had a negative effect on promotions.

Procedures and processes

RPL Advocacy Process. Between the end of 2011 and beginning of 2013 an RPL advocacy process started to inform music band members across all nine provinces of what RPL is and what RPL requires of candidates. The result of the workshops was that band members supported the envisaged process to be followed.

Benchmarking exercise. As the level of the SAPS syllabi followed in music training was unknown, it was clear that an RPL process could not commence without a benchmarking exercise. Benchmarking would provide information on the current level of performance and informed the RPL process for each of the band members. The SAPS music syllabi were benchmarked broadly against their national and international recognised counterparts developed and used by the University of South Africa, Trinity College London and the Royal Schools of Music.

Establishing partnerships to put the RPL process in place. In a partnership between SAPS, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) and Trinity College London, a process of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) for SAPS Tshwane Band was put in place, including the related qualification development process that will take place with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

Assessing the level of performance. In a benchmarking exercise, the level of performance of SAPS Tshwane Band was sought in relation to Trinity College London music grades. The SAPS Tshwane Band performed five pieces of music in front of an audience. They were officially assessed by staff from Trinity College London.

It was found that SAPS Tshwane Band was performing at Associate Trinity College London level, which is registered at the South African National Qualifications Framework (SNQF) Level 5, which is one level above Trinity Music Grade 8. Lower-level band members were found to be performing at Trinity Music Grades 6-8 levels.

Outcomes and ways forward

Following this benchmarking exercise, SAPS music bands in South Africa’s nine provinces can enter a SAQA-facilitated RPL process with Trinity College London. This work will be done within a partnership that includes SAPS, SAQA, the QCTO, the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority (SASSETA), and the Culture, Arts, Tourism, Hospitality and Sports Sector Education and Training Authority (CATHSSETA).

Recognised music qualifications will be developed for SAPS, and assistance will be provided for RPL practices in the future.

This example has shown that the RPL process is not only an individual process but also a collective process in which the entire band was helped to move up the qualifications pathway.


The Artisan Sector


Artisan Recognition of Prior Learning (ARPL) has an important role to play in South Africa’s skills development agenda. This can be seen as represented by the New Growth path, the National Qualifications Framework Act 67 of 2008, the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) III, and the Human Resources Development Strategy.

Procedures and processes

A partnership between the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), the National Artisan Moderation Body (NAMB) and Indlela, a public Trade Test Centre, facilitated the implementation of ARPL to assist with enhancing skills development in South Africa. An ARPL steering committee was established to manage and drive the implementation of ARPL.

The strategy followed was to identify key trades that could serve as pilots for ARPL. These were boiler making, fitting, electrical trades, welding and diesel mechanics. The strategy to prepare for ARPL implementation comprised four activities:

  • the development of an RPL model suitable for artisans;
  • recruitment of ARPL candidates with the cooperation of workers’ unions;
  • the recruitment and training of 20 ARPL advisors; and
  • the development of ARPL Toolkits for each of the selected five trades.

The ARPL model which was developed is based on the requirements of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO). This Council is responsible for assuring the quality of the Occupational Sub-Framework of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). The process involves advice and support, assessment and moderation of the theoretical, practical and workplace components of the trade.

In 2013, the recruitment of ARPL candidates took place in collaboration with workers’ unions and 86 small enterprises. A total of 3,995 applications were received of which only 200 could be selected for the pilot study. The candidates were selected to represent gender balance.

Outcomes and ways forward

One of the outcomes of the activity was the importance given to the training of ARPL advisors. A total of 18 RPL advisors were recruited that met the requirements in terms of knowledge and experience, holding Engineering qualifications at NQF level 4. They were trained as ARPL advisors.

Another outcome was the development of ARPL Toolkits that were tested in a workshop to see whether they were user friendly. Moreover, ARPL Toolkits were developed by experts in each trade.

The training of ARPL advisors entailed the use the toolkits to support candidates.

Figures for 2013 showed that 80 per cent of the ARPL candidates had completed the theoretical component of their trade by the end of the year.


Sports coaches


Sport coaches provide positive experiences in sport for millions of South Africans every year. Coaching is in a pivotal position to support transformation in that it promotes engagement and inclusion, contributes to health and wellbeing as well as contributing to sporting success on the international stage. Following the launch of the South African Coaching Framework in November 2011 an agreement was reached between South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) for a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) pilot project for coaches and coach developers.

Coach developers are defined as ‘trained facilitators’ who work directly or through more experienced coaches and experts to develop, support and challenge coaches to go on improving their knowledge and skills, in order to provide positive sport experiences for all participants. They come from all walks of life and have expertise in one or more disciplines such as sport specific technical coaching, coaching pedagogy, sport science/medicine, coaching contexts. The selection of these key personnel is vital to the success of the implementation of the South African Coaching Framework.

This RPL project focuses on recognising and validating the knowledge, skills and competences of coaches who will be the SASCOC coach developers, and who will function as part of the nationwide workforce to design and deliver coach education programmes at national, provincial and district levels.

Procedures and processes

Credit accumulation. The focus of this RPL project is on credit accumulation towards the achievement of credits for the Occupational Educator, Trainer, and Development Practitioner qualification. RPL takes place against some of the unit standards related to facilitation, assessment and moderation at levels 5 and 6 of the NQF. The target group for this project are national and provincial coaches of 11 national sports codes in South Africa.

Combining RPL and further learning in coach education. The project aims to provide access to RPL and further learning towards the achievement of part qualifications and qualifications for sport coaches and coach developers. Initially 11 national federations have been involved based on their state of readiness and their engagement within the SASCOC National Coach Developer Programme. A key first step in the process was the alignment of national federation programmes in coach education with the South African model for Long Term Coach Development (LTCD) and the NQF. National federations had been identified as being in a position to progress with the first phase of the pilot project.

Developing Coaching Framework. The SASCOC National Long Term Coaching Framework is developed in line with international benchmarks. The framework comprises designation from assistant coach to master coach. Each designation has a clear outcome and experience statement, which form the basis of the outcomes from which the RPL process can be conducted. This was done to ensure that the coach developers would be able to understand the context of what they would need to do, when they assessed the various coaches against the designations listed on the coaching framework.

Outcomes and ways forward

Both SAQA and SASCOC view this project as a very important step in promoting learning pathways, qualifications and transformational opportunities for coaches and coach developers in South Africa. To become effective across a range of roles and in a dynamic environment, coaches need high quality training and support.

A fundamental success factor is that RPL services are consistently priced.

SAQA guides strategy and planning through expert advice and support ensuring: (a) the direct and indirect physical, infrastructural, human and financial capacity to build and maintain RPL; (b) the creation of opportunities for equitable access to RPL; and (c) the integrity of processes and protection of outcomes.


Fruit growing industry


The candidates in this Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) project are from the agricultural sector and are farm workers, pack house workers, youth on farms, and seasonal workers. Due to the seasonal nature of the work they do, most do not currently have a permanent employment and function as migrant farm workers across the farms in areas of the Western Cape. The skills development challenge is to provide RPL to them, and to enable them to achieve recognition and reward in the form of awards of credits. This will enable them to progress to further learning opportunities and focused occupational learning programmes, aligned to career path development in the fruit growing industry. Most of the workers are semi-literate and between the ages of 16 to 65.

A successful project was undertaken by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) with the grain silo workers in 2010. RPL in the fruit growing industry described below follows the same process.

In order to provide critical skills to the workers described above, and to provide them with significant redress and articulation opportunities, the South African Fruit Industry, AgriSETA, Deloitte and SAQA have joined in a partnership to provide a RPL programme and eventual certification.

A particular need of the industry is to ensure that these workers can gain credit towards further learning, become compliant with legislation and standards in the fruit growing industry, and formalise their knowledge, skills and competence as part of the redress and transformation agenda.

The farm owners hope to ensure that all workers are certified against nationally recognised qualifications as evidence of their competence to pick, handle and store fruit according to international industry standards, and health and safety industry/workplace standards.

Based on low staff turnover – in general workers remain in the sector for their full working life – the industry made a strategic decision to embark on a process to recognise the prior learning (including formal, non-formal and informal training) and workplace experience of the farm workers, pack house workers, and seasonal fruit pickers.

The South African fruit industry, together with SAQA, Deloitte and AgriSETA will coordinate a solution to the industry’s critical skills needs through this RPL project.

Procedures and processes

Transferring successful experiences with RPL from one industry to another. Based on the experiences from a successful project with the grain silo industry, a consultative process resulted in RPL being opted as the best solution to meet the industry’s skills development needs. A suitable solution had to meet challenges such as: the size of the industry; the seasonal nature of the business environment; the geographical spread of the farms and workers; a large percentage of illiterate/semi-literate and older workers; socio-economic issues; and a highly regulated working environment affecting skills development in the industry.

Deloitte was contracted to design a customised skills development solution, fully aware that an RPL programme in the agricultural sector could be particularly challenging, especially in terms of adaptability, industry readiness, time-to-adjust to change and finally accessibility to all learners.

Quality assuarance. SAQA’s role is to ensure that overarching enabling policies are in place. Furthermore it gives technical support (in the form of guidance), provides guidance in terms of quality assurance issues with the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO), and lobbies for support for the project.

AgriSETA is required to provide some funding for quality assurance and certification through the QCTO. The Fruit Industry will provide infrastructure, RPL resources and the candidates.

Evidence collection process. Deloitte designed a unique computer-based “e-RPL” model which includes a methodology to collect evidence across occupational skills and cognitive levels integrating other “assessment instruments”. It can also be replicated across economic sectors and industries. The e-RPL model was built using the most up-to-date multimedia in the design and development process including audio, written and visual aids – all efforts are aimed at supporting candidates and RPL practitioners (including employers) during the evidence collection process.

Outcomes and ways forward

The design of the Deloitte e-RPL and Assessment Model allows for portability to deliver recognition of prior learning programmes to large numbers of candidates at multiple sites across a wide geographical range within a shorter time, and is a less costly process than traditional RPL programmes.


Private broadcaster


This case study describes how initiatives of single individuals can lead to broader Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) implementation within an organisation.

A middle-aged black woman who has been employed at e.tv (a private broadcaster in South Africa) since 1998 was responsible for starting the RPL there. This employee of e.tv obtained a matriculation certificate and has been employed in various junior administrative positions over the last 15 years. She has dedicated her life and finances to ensuring that her child receives a good education. Now in her mid-forties, with her child at university, she took a look at her life and her career, and decided that she wanted to develop her own skills. She applied for a more senior position within the company, also in the administrative field, despite the fact that she did not have the qualification as per the job requirements. After an interview, she was told that she was unsuccessful. She decided to address her own needs and spoke to the company’s training department and asked what her options were. It seemed that the lack of a formal qualification was the only hurdle standing in her way of climbing up the corporate ladder. She realised that all her years of work experience must count for something.

This was the starting point of the introduction of RPL at e.tv. Apart from being a private broadcaster, e.tv is also an accredited provider offering programmes related to the media sector, including RPL processes.

Procedures and processes

  • With assistance from the e.tv training department, the woman employee at e.tv enrolled in a learning programme with potential to give her the recognition that she needed.
  • She attended one day of classes every six weeks for a year and submitted work-related formative assignments between classes.
  • At the end of this process, she completed a summative assessment which determined her overall competency.
  • E.tv set up a team of mentors and the resources required helping her to achieve her goals.
  • After a year she obtained the qualification through an RPL process.
  • The RPL function was funded fully by the training department at e.tv.

After taking note of this success RPL story, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) liaised with e.tv to roll-out an RPL project for the whole organisation. A workshop was held to discuss concepts related to RPL and the processes that needed to be followed.

Outcomes and ways forward

Managers of e.tv decided to roll-out the RPL project for all staff in need of RPL including companies that are part of the e.tv group (e.sat TV (t/a eNews Channel Africa), Yired-FM (t/a YFM), Sabido Distribution, Lalela Music and Natural History Unit).


South African Qualifications Authority’s own staff


South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) has started an internal pilot project with two candidates. In both instances, the candidates have good working experience, sound knowledge, skills and competences for an appointment to a higher level in SAQA than the current employment level they occupy. Both the candidates have excellent possibilities to be promoted into the higher level posts, but neither has the stipulated qualification level for the job. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) will help to recognise and validate their experience and other learning in order to enable them to be interviewed once the posts are advertised.

This pilot project places SAQA in an interesting position as it is one of the first organisations to pilot the new national RPL policy within its own organisation to the benefit of staff who wish to be able to compete in an open interview process for higher level jobs. SAQA had an RPL policy previously, which has since been replaced by the new 2013 national policy. This new policy has placed focus on RPL for access, advanced standing and credit. In SAQA’s experience, most of the RPL projects which were conducted using the first RPL policy, focused to a large extent on assessment and RPL for access to further study. The new policy emphasizes the benefits of RPL across a range of areas, with assessment being only one of the components recognized in the RPL process.

Procedures and processes

  • The process starts with mapping the outcome statements in the qualifications to the job descriptions of the positions for which the candidates wish to apply.
  • The candidates are then guided in the process to produce the relevant evidence (matched to the outcome statements and job description requirements) for assessment and validation.
  • The assessment is moderated by external field specialists.
  • Initially, the outcome will be the recognition of the candidates’ required knowledge, skills and competence in order to be considered for the higher post.
  • The candidates may also apply to an accredited provider for formal recognition and award of credits.

Outcomes and ways forward

One of the results of SAQA’s initiative to apply RPL on its own staff has been that the SAQA RPL policy has matured to include teaching, learning and assessment. This moves the SAQA RPL policy into the important global trend of recognising that ever more workers and learners will work and learn and through this iteration, they will gain experience and knowledge which should or could be recognised and validated at any given stage – for credit, access or advanced professional standing.


Community development practitioners


Community development is of strategic importance and relevant to all South African government departments and national programmes such as the War-on-Poverty, the Local Economic Development Programme, the Extended Public Works Programme, and the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme.

To provide South Africa with expertise in community development, community development qualifications were registered on the NQF Levels 4, 5 and 8. These qualifications aim at promoting sustainable, holistic National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and integrated community well-being. Two of these qualifications registered on NQF Levels 4 and 5 have now been re-developed following the processes for the development of occupational qualifications[1]established by the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO).

Procedures and processes

The route taken aims to provide the community development sector with three pathways:

  • a pathway towards professionalization of community development services;
  • a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) pathway that will support professionalization; and
  • articulation possibilities between all the community development qualifications (NQF Levels 4, 5 and 8), as well as articulation between these community development qualifications and all other related certificates and degrees.

A Logic Model[2] was used to develop and align processes to provide all three products to the Community Development sector.

The RPL process includes the development of an RPL model based on multi-disciplinary content together with a Fieldwork Practice Guide that will enable community development practitioners and workers to engage with the RPL process. As it was recognized that many community development workers and practitioners have either gained knowledge through completing qualifications related to community development work and/or through work experience, the RPL model includes RPL both for access to a professional course leading to a community development qualification and for credit with the possibility of credit accumulation and transfer respectively.

Outcomes and ways forward

Based on audits performed by the Department of Social Development, it is estimated that from around 50, 000 to 70, 000 persons currently working in the community development sector could benefit from the RPL process towards professionalization within the sector within the next two to three years (2014-2017)


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