In the modern world, career success can be influenced by your educational qualifications, whether you possess a college degree, a diploma, or a certificate. It is often the case that one has to take formal classes and complete units of study in order to be awarded qualification for one’s chosen field. For people in Australia who already have the necessary skills, knowledge, or work experience needed in their profession, this process can prove to be a waste of time, money, and effort.
Fortunately, the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Council does offer an alternative in the form of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), an assessment pathway that allows for competencies gained through work experience and other types of training to be evaluated and be officially recognized.
What is Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)?
From the AQF’s manual “Recognition of Prior Learning: An Explanation,” RPL is described as a “process that involves assessment of an individual’s relevant prior learning (including formal, informal and non-formal learning) to determine the credit outcomes of an individual application for credit.”
The RPL process basically allows issuing organisations to award credits to an individual who is able to demonstrate or provide evidence of competence that meet the standards required for the assessment. Credit can be given regardless of where the knowledge comes from, be it foreign training institutions, online courses, apprenticeship programs, or self-directed learning. The credit outcomes can then be applied to gain entry into a qualification or provide credit towards the qualification.
Acquiring credit can considerably lower the amount of time that an individual needs to devote to additional training in order to achieve a qualification. This is because their already-existing skills, knowledge, and experience can be evaluated and considered as nationally recognised qualification.
Organizations issuing RPL certifications have the responsibility of offering and performing RPL assessments. They can implement RPL assessments that are in line with AQF’s policies.
The RPL assessment must meet the following conditions:
- It must be conducted by an academic or teaching staff member who is an expert in the component where credit is being sought. The assessor must be able to demonstrate knowledge and mastery of the RPL process.
- It should recognise all previous learning that is relevant to the qualification.
- It must confirm the validity and authenticity of the evidence provided by the student and their sufficiency to meet the set standards.
- It must be fair, flexible, and able to consistently and accurately assess a student’s competence.
Additional AQF guidelines on the RPL assessment methods:
- They must be flexible and allow for reasonable adjustments based on the literacy levels, cultural backgrounds, and individual experiences of the students.
- They should be able to specify what evidence is required of students so that they’ll be able to effectively demonstrate prior learning in relevant areas of qualification for which they are hoping to get credit.
- They should provide multiple methods for the students to meet the evidence requirements of the qualification. This can include interviews, third party-reports, the student’s portfolio, observations of the students’ performance in work-based or replicated environments, and other types of documentation.
Making Qualifications Easier to Achieve
In industries like the engineering and automotive sectors, tradesmen often learn skills and pick up knowledge relevant to their fields while on the job. They are then able to demonstrate competencies in the required learning outcomes of nationally recognised qualifications like Certificate III in Automotive Refinishing Technology, often without even having taken any lessons.
Without RPL, it becomes harder for a tradesman to achieve a nationally recognised qualification for the trade that they are working in. They will have to spend time, money, and effort to take lessons that they don’t need just to earn credits for the qualification.
With RPL, tradesmen can get official recognition for their already existing skills and knowledge, matching the learning outcomes of the qualifications that they are working for. This is convenient for a lot of tradespeople, and because they are able to actually demonstrate their proficiency in areas required of them, the integrity of the qualification is not reduced.