Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) -The What, How and Why.

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) -The What, How and Why.

In the world of education and employment, there exists a growing recognition of the diverse pathway’s individuals take to acquire knowledge, skills, and competencies. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) emerges as a crucial instrument to acknowledge and validate the learning attained through various experiences, irrespective of formal educational settings. In this blog we will explore the essence of RPL, clarifying its definition, principles, processes, and most importantly, its various benefits in development of inclusivity, enhancing employability, and promoting lifelong learning.


So what is RPL?

 Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), also known as prior learning assessment (PLA) or prior learning recognition (PLR), refers to the formal recognition and validation of an individual's existing skills, knowledge, and experiences acquired through non-formal and informal means. These means may include work experience, volunteer work, self-study, military service, hobbies, or any other life experiences. RPL acknowledges that learning is not confined to traditional classrooms or structured programs but permeates various facets of life.

At its core, RPL operates on the principles of fairness, equity, transparency, and authenticity. It aims to provide individuals with equal opportunities to have their prior learning assessed and recognized, regardless of their backgrounds or pathways to learning. Transparency ensures that the assessment process is clear and understandable to all stakeholders involved, while authenticity guarantees the credibility and validity of the assessment outcomes.


Now, for how it works and the processes involved in RPL

The steps below are typically what’s followed to begin the RPL process.


The individual reflects on their skills, knowledge, and experiences to identify areas that may align with formal learning outcomes or competency standards.

To break it down further an individual performs this self-assessment by:

  • Understanding the RPL Requirements:
    Familiarize yourself with the RPL requirements set by the institution or organization where you intend to seek recognition. Understand the criteria against which your prior learning will be assessed.
  • Identifying Learning Outcomes:
    Review the learning outcomes or competency standards associated with the qualification or credential you aim to attain through RPL. These outcomes serve as benchmarks against which your prior learning will be evaluated.
  • Reflecting on Experiences:
    Reflect on your past experiences, including work, volunteer activities, hobbies, informal learning, and any other relevant activities. Consider how these experiences have contributed to your knowledge, skills, and competencies.
  • Documenting your Learning:
    Document your learning experiences, focusing on specific skills, knowledge areas, and competencies relevant to the qualification or credential you seek. Include any certificates, awards, work samples, projects, or other evidence that demonstrate your proficiency.
  • Matching Learning to Criteria:
    Compare your documented learning experiences against the criteria or learning outcomes specified for RPL assessment. Identify areas where your prior learning aligns with the required standards.
  • Assessing Gaps:
    Identify any gaps between your prior learning and the desired qualification or credential. Determine whether additional evidence or learning activities are needed to meet the RPL requirements fully.
  • Seeking Feedback:
    If possible, seek feedback from mentors, supervisors, or colleagues who are familiar with your skills and experiences. Their insights can help validate your self-assessment and identify areas for improvement.
  • Organizing Evidence:
    Organize your evidence and documentation in a clear and structured manner. Ensure that each piece of evidence is relevant, authentic, and adequately supports your claims of prior learning.
  • Reviewing and Revising:
    Review your self-assessment and evidence carefully, ensuring that they align closely with the RPL requirements. Revise and refine your documentation as needed to strengthen your case for RPL assessment.
  • Preparing for Assessment:
    Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the RPL assessment process. Be ready to discuss and provide further clarification on your documented learning experiences during the assessment interview or evaluation.

By following these steps, you can conduct a comprehensive self-assessment for RPL, laying a strong foundation for the formal assessment of your prior learning. Remember that self-assessment is an ongoing process, and you may need to revisit and update your documentation as you progress through the RPL journey.


An assessor, usually a qualified professional or subject matter expert, evaluates the evidence provided by the individual against established criteria or standards.

This is done in 4 stages:

Stage One-

Pre-Assessment Preparation:
The assessor familiarizes themselves with the RPL requirements, including the learning outcomes, competency standards, and assessment criteria specified for the qualification or credential sought.

Documentation Review: The assessor reviews the documentation submitted by the candidate during the self-assessment phase, including evidence of prior learning such as work samples, certificates, testimonials, or portfolios.

Stage Two-

Assessment Planning:
Assessment Plan: The assessor develops an assessment plan outlining the methods, tools, and timelines for evaluating the candidate's prior learning. The plan may include interviews, observations, written assessments, or practical demonstrations, depending on the nature of the learning and the RPL requirements.

Validation of Evidence:
The assessor verifies the authenticity and relevance of the evidence provided by the candidate, ensuring that it aligns with the RPL criteria and standards.

Stage Three-

Assessment Conduct:
Interview or Discussion: The assessor engages in an interview or discussion with the candidate to explore their learning experiences, skills, knowledge, and competencies in depth. This allows the assessor to gather additional information and clarify any uncertainties regarding the evidence presented.

Performance Evaluation:
Depending on the RPL requirements, the assessor may observe the candidate's performance in real-life or simulated scenarios to assess their practical skills and competencies.

Written Assessments:
In some cases, the assessment may involve written assessments or tests to evaluate the candidate's theoretical knowledge in specific subject areas.

Stage Four-

Assessment Decision:

Evaluation of Evidence:
The assessor evaluates the evidence collected during the assessment process against the established RPL criteria and standards. They consider the relevance, authenticity, sufficiency, and currency of the evidence in determining the candidate's level of proficiency.

Decision Making:
Based on the assessment outcomes, the assessor makes a decision regarding the recognition of the candidate's prior learning. This decision may involve granting credits, exemptions, qualifications, or certifications, either in full or partial accordance with the RPL requirements.

By following these steps, the assessment process for RPL ensures that individuals' prior learning is evaluated rigorously and fairly, leading to the recognition and validation of their skills, knowledge, and competencies.

Feedback and Recognition:

By providing valuable insights and validation to candidates regarding their prior learning experiences:

Following the assessment, candidates receive constructive feedback from assessors regarding their performance and evidence presented. This feedback highlights areas of strength, acknowledges achievements, and offers guidance for improvement where necessary. It serves as a learning opportunity, helping candidates understand how their prior learning aligns with the RPL criteria and standards, and identifying areas for further development.

Upon successful completion of the assessment, candidates are formally recognized for their prior learning achievements. This recognition may take various forms, such as credits, exemptions, qualifications, or certifications, depending on the RPL requirements and outcomes. Recognition validates the value and validity of candidates' prior learning experiences, affirming their skills, knowledge, and competencies in a formal context. It enhances candidates' confidence, opens doors to further education or employment opportunities, and encourages lifelong learning and professional development.

So we know what RPL is and how to do it but why would one consider this option.

Recognition of Prior Learning offers a countless number of benefits to individuals, educational institutions, employers, and society as a whole:

RPL facilitates access to further education and training for individuals who may not have followed traditional academic pathways. It promotes inclusivity by recognizing and valuing diverse forms of learning, thereby breaking down barriers to educational attainment.

For individuals, RPL can lead to significant time and cost savings by exempting them from repeating learning experiences for which they already possess proficiency. This is particularly beneficial for adult learners or working professionals seeking to upskill or gain formal qualifications.

RPL enhances individuals' employability by validating their existing skills and competencies, making them more attractive to employers. It enables individuals to demonstrate their capabilities beyond formal credentials, thereby increasing their chances of career advancement or transition.

 From an employer's perspective, RPL can be instrumental in identifying and nurturing talent within the organization. By recognizing employees' prior learning and providing opportunities for further development, employers can enhance job satisfaction, morale, and retention rates.

RPL also plays a crucial role in addressing skills gaps within industries by recognizing and leveraging the existing expertise of individuals. It enables organizations to fill positions more efficiently and adapt to changing market demands.

Embracing RPL fosters a culture of lifelong learning and continuous personal development. It encourages individuals to reflect on their learning journey, set goals for improvement, and take ownership of their professional development.

RPL validates the value of informal learning experiences, such as volunteer work, community engagement, or self-directed study, which may not be formally recognized but are nonetheless rich sources of knowledge and skills.


Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) stands as a pivotal instrument for acknowledging and validating the diverse learning experiences of individuals. By embracing the principles of fairness, transparency, and authenticity, RPL promotes inclusivity, enhances employability, and adopts lifelong learning. Its benefits extend beyond individuals to educational institutions, employers, and society as a whole, contributing to a more skilled, adaptable, and equitable workforce.

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