Five misconceptions about RPL and the CAT system

ANGER 4Written by Dr J.P. Nel, MD Mentornet

It is important to keep objectivity, flexibility and fairness in mind when conducting recognition of prior learning (RPL). Here are five misconceptions that people sometimes harbour about RPL:

  1. Credits earned for one qualification cannot be transferred to more than just the one qualification. People do not understand that credits are given in recognition of learning, no matter when and where the learning took place. They are so rigid and jealous of students achieving more than one qualification through careful planning of their studies that they actually include such preclusions in their RPL policies. All that is needed is a proper understanding of learning and the structure of qualifications. Once people understand that credits for one qualification can also count towards other qualifications, they accept this. That is the actual purpose of the credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) system. It does change the status of qualifications, but why is it a problem? A more flexible approach will improve efficiency in learning and is that not what we want?
  2. RPL is only accepted for gaining access to further studies. Using RPL exclusively as an entry requirement for further studies reduces RPL, and qualifications achieved through RPL, to something inferior to formal studies. This is an unfair and conceited attitude that should not be allowed.
  3. RPL is not a process of assessment. RPL is said to be a specialised pedagogical process. To begin with RPL is almost never an option for children, so it cannot be a pedagogical process. Secondly, it is an assessment process. People who claim that it is not an assessment process do not understand that RPL almost always consists of two processes, namely assessment and closing gaps in the candidate’s knowledge and skills. Closing the gap, i.e. additional learning, is sometimes not necessary, but assessment is always needed.
  4. Prior learning is measured against credits. This is probably because people recognise RPL only for access to further learning. They do not understand that RPL should be a holistic assessment process in which the candidate’s knowledge and skills are measured against the purpose of the qualification, not learning outcomes in a curriculum, contact time, self-study, work integrated learning, assignments previously done or examinations. All these things can, of course, be used as evidence of prior learning if available.
  5. RPL applies only to informal or non-formal learning. Any learning can count towards RPL, including RPL of formal learning. Furthermore, CAT only applies to formal learning exclusively because informal, coincidental, experiential social and any other non-accredited learning do not lead to credits that can be transferred. Not allowing credits to count towards more than one qualification renders the CAT system worthless.

In closing, it is rather alarming that some quality assurance bodies and learning providers are completely closed to any arguments that differ from their rigid stance. We need to discuss issues like this and we need to have open minds to the arguments of others. Not one of us knows everything and rigidity causes serious damage to any learning system.

Continue Reading