Chapter 34: Assessment of Prior Learning: A South African perspective

AUTHOR: R. Osman

ABSTRACT: Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as a policy goal in higher education in South Africa has emerged in a context of educational change and wider social transformation.  Among other changes RPL is posited as a key mechanism for educational redress for those whose education was disadvantaged under apartheid.  RPL is identified in a number of different national policy documents and is represented as a significant mechanism that facilitates equity, access and redress for unequal educational practices of the past, and simultaneously, as an assessment instrument to increase the knowledge and skills base of the workforce in the interest of global competitiveness.    RPL’s prominent place on the national policy agenda links it to globalisation, as well as to pressure to transform the education and training system locally, making it one of several imperatives competing for attention in the terrain of teaching, learning and assessment in higher education. While RPL is proposed as a cornerstone of change and transformation in an emerging education and training system as a whole, it is new and remains an untested policy in higher education in South Africa.  Very little is known about RPL practices either within or across institutions.  Drawing on original research in South Africa this chapter will argue that the portfolio process is a useful assessment approach in the recognition of prior learning not only because it acknowledges academic knowledge as a powerful form of capital, which students need, but it also creates a space for prior knowledge to become visible in higher education and the workplace.

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