Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

Recognition of prior learning (RPL) implementation in library and information science (LIS) in South Africa: principles of good assessment

Ike Khazamula Hlongwane


The assessment and crediting of RPL has raised serious questions about the quality of RPL outcomes in higher education and training. Owing to perceived lack of stricter controls to maintain rigorous and defensible standards in the implementation of recognition of prior learning (RPL) in higher education in South Africa, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) developed guidelines and criteria for the implementation of RPL in 2004. Certain key aspects and principles need to be considered to ensure the quality of assessments and provision of RPL services to learners.

The purpose of this study was to establish whether RPL assessment processes in Library and Information Science (LIS) schools were carried out in accordance with principles of good assessment to ensure the quality of RPL outcomes. This study used a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods to collect data from all the 10 LIS schools in the South African higher education and training landscape. The questionnaire was used to collect quantitative data through a survey method. In addition, the researcher employed content analysis to collect qualitative data from institutional RPL policy documents. The study found that key aspects and principles of good practice were largely taken into account in LIS schools across the higher education and training in South Africa to enhance the quality of RPL assessment process and services to learners.


Library and Information Science (LIS) schools, principles of good practice, recognition of prior learning (RPL) policy, South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).

Full Text:



Andersson, P. and A. Fejes. 2005. Recognition of prior learning as a technique for fabricating the adult learner: a genealogical analysis on Swedish adult education policy. Journal of Education Policy , 9 (5): 595-613.

Baartman, L.K.J., T.J. Bastiaens, P.A. Kirschner and C.P.M. Van der Vleuten. 2006. The wheel of competency assessment: Presenting quality criteria for Competency Assessment Programmes. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 32: 153–77. Cohen, R., R. Flowers, R. McDonald and H. Schaafsma.1994. Learning from experience counts. Sydney: University of Technology, Sydney.

Colley, H., P. Hodkinson and J. Malcolm. 2002. Non-formal learning: mapping the conceptual terrain. Leeds: University of Leeds Lifelong Learning Institute. Available from informal learning.htm. (Accessed 15 Jan 2016).

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). 2003. Prior learning assessment workshops. Available from: (Accessed 12 Jan 2016).

Dierick, S. and F.J.R.C. Dochy. 2001. New lines in edumetrics: New forms of assessment

lead to new assessment criteria. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 27: 307–29. Evans, N. 1993. Making sense of lifelong learning: Respecting the needs of all. London:

RoutledgeFalmer. Evans, N. 2006. Experiential learning: Its assessment and accreditation. London: Routledge. Fiddler, M., C. Marienau and U. Whitaker. 2006. Assessing learning: standards, principles, procedures. 2nd ed. Chicago: CAEL. Hagar, P., A. Gonczi and J. Athanasou. 1994. General issues about assessment of competence. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 19 (1) 3-16. Harris, J. 2000. The recognition of prior l earning, poverty, pedagogy and possibility. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press.

Harris, J. and J.A. Saddington.1995. The recognition of prior learning (RPL): international models of assessment and their impact on South African education and training. Department of adult education and extra-mural studies, Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

Joosten-ten Brinke, D., D.M.A. Sluijsmans and W.M.G. Jochems.. 2009. The quality of

Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) in university programmes: Perceptions of candidates,

tutors and assessors. Studies in Continuing Education, 31(1): 61–76. Kizito, R. 2006. The future is not so bleak: challenges with recognition of prior learning (RPL) systems and processes at the University of South Africa (UNISA). Progressio, 28 (1/2): 127-139.

Michelson, E. and A. Mandell (eds.). 2004. Portfolio development and the assessment of prior learning: perspectives, models, and practices. Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Murphy, A. 2006. From personal to public learning: philosophical, policy and pedagogical challenges of APEL in higher education. [PhD thesis] The Department of Adult and Community Education, Faculty of Arts: National University of Ireland Maynooth. Osman, R. 2006. RPL: An emerging and contested practice in South Africa. In Re-theorisingthe recognition of prior learning, (ed.) Andersson, P. and J. Harris, 51–76. Leicester: National Institute of Adult Continuing Education.

Pokorny, H. 2006. Recognising prior learning:What do we know?’ in P.Andersson and J. Harris (eds) Re-theorising the Recognition of Prior Learning. Leicester:NIACE.

Sluijsmans, D., G. Straetmans and J.J.G. Van Merriënboer. 2008. Integrating authentic

assessment with competence-based learning: The protocol portfolio scoring method. Journal of Vocational Education and Training, 60: 157–72. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 1998. National Standards Bodies (NSB) regulations under the SAQA Act. Pretoria: Government Printers. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 2001. Criteria and Guidelines for Assessment of NQF Registered Unit Standards and Qualifications. Pretoria: Government printers. South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 2004. Criteria and guidelines for the implementation of the recognition of prior learning. Pretoria: Government printers. South Africa Qualifications Authority (SAQA). 2002. The recognition of prior Learning in the context of the South African National Qualifications Framework. Pretoria: Government Printers. Van Rooy, T. 2002. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL): From Principle to practice in higher education (HE). South African Journal of Higher Education, 16 (2): 75-82. Whitaker, U. 1989. Assessing learning. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). Wood, M.1995. Assessment of prior learning (APL) and the bilingual learners. London: Routledge.



  • There are currently no refbacks.