Why informal experience matters

As phase three of the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS3) was being finalised in December, one of its most contentious provisions — that all principal sectoral and national learning programmes would have to include recognition of prior learning access routes by 2016 — was quietly scrapped.

The move has drawn widespread comment, both positive and negative — but the department of higher education and training insists that recognition of prior learning (RPL) is not dead and buried.
A draft of NSDS3 circulated for comment last year proposed that “people without standard entry qualifications who seek to enrol on learning programmes need to be afforded the opportunity to have the skills they have acquired through experience measured against those they require to attain”.

So it seemed that RPL would be a strategic focus of NSDS3, due for implementation from April 1 this year until end-March 2016. But Percy Moleke, head of the skills development division in the department of higher education and training, said the matter was moved to the back-burner.

“Few people really understand what recognition of prior learning entails. Employers often send staff members to our trade-testing centres for assessment, not realising that six years of changing light bulbs does not qualify them as electricians,” Moleke said.

“It also often leads to unreasonable expectations on the part of workers who submit themselves for assessment: many of them think they are competent in their professions but are shocked when they fail their trade tests.”

Neither party, Moleke added, seems to appreciate that an RPL assessment very rarely results in an applicant immediately receiving an official qualification of competence, such as a certificate, diploma or degree.

Rather, it tends to provide a snapshot of current capabilities, revealing theoretical and practical skills gaps that need bridging.

RPL will continue to underpin a number of NSDS3 goals, albeit implicitly, Moleke said: “While structures such as the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations will investigate the ways and means of RPL, implementation will be directed through service level agreements between Setas and the department. These will be updated regularly throughout the strategy.”

Max Makhubalo, chief executive of the banking Seta, said he was hardly surprised that the explicit focus on RPL was dropped from the final NSDS3 document.

“Government was probably hesitant because of the paucity of work that the Setas have done on RPL. There are only two or three of us who are doing something about it. The rest either haven’t got a clue, or the time or resources,” he said.

But Gill Connellan of the Association for Skills Development Facilitation in South Africa said that “dropping RPL as an explicit element of NSDS3 is a disaster. If you don’t make it one of the Setas’ targets, they will continue to ignore it.”

Because RPL centres on acknowledging workplace learning, which is the domain of the Setas, they are “responsible for the facilitation of RPL implementation in their sectors”, said Karen Deller, academic director at the Prior Learning Centre.

Only one of the 23 Setas Deller polled last year was actively engaged in RPL. The rest felt it was inappropriate for their sectors or too complex or too expensive, she said.


Unions slam move to cut wage bill

Cosatu rejects job losses and a wage freeze for public servants, calling this ‘a declaration of war’

Coronavirus: South Africa will evacuate citizens from Wuhan

The government is expected to evacuate citizens from Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak originated

Primedia CEO Essack leaves following internal battles

Omar Essack leaves the 702 and 94.7 owners after a protracted standoff with the board

‘We’re satisfied with SA’s land reform policy’— US Ambassador

Top US official is lobbying multinational firms to invest in South Africa

Press Releases

Over R400-m given to businesses since launch of three-minute overdraft

The 3-minute overdraft radically reduces the time it takes for businesses to have their working capital needs met

Tourism can push Africa onto a new path – minister

The continent is fast becoming a dynamic sought-after tourist destination

South Africa’s education system is broken and unequal, and must be fixed without further delay

The Amnesty International report found that the South African government continues to miss its own education upgrading targets

Business travel industry generates billions

Meetings Africa is ready to take advantage of this lucrative opportunity

Conferences connect people to ideas

The World Expo and Meetings Africa are all about stimulating innovation – and income

SAB Zenzele Kabili B-BBEE share scheme

New scheme to be launched following the biggest B-BBEE FMCG payout in South Africa’s history

Digging deep

Automation is unstoppable, but if we're strategic about its implementation, it presents major opportunities

TFSAs are the gymnasts of the retirement savings world

The idea is to get South Africans to save, but it's best to do your research first to find out if a TFSA is really suited to your needs