Recognition of Prior Learning gives us wings

People learn anytime, everywhere. Outcomes of prior learning in all contexts of life can be validated, recognised, certified to give people wings to new perspectives and opportunities in education and training, employment, entrepreneurship, better jobs. Across the world, countries and regional communities increasingly recognise the value of non-formal and informal learning and many are establishing systems to acknowledge competencies gained through non-formal and informal modalities. This brief report on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) / Validation of Competences gives an overview on RPL, viewed as component of national qualifications systems. Ten examples from African countries presented in this brief show some diversity in terms of scope, and design of RPL / Validation systems, but also several common traits: Angola, Cape Verde, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Zambia.




ACQF brief report on RPL / VAE / RVCC

Ten examples from African countries presented in this report show some diversity in terms of scope, and design of RPL / Validation systems, but also several common traits: Angola, Cape Verde, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Zambia. In 2021 Cape Verde, Kenya and Mozambique have started practical implementation in a range of sectors, and certificates were awarded. Kenya’s pilot sectors are textile, car mechanics and welding (with a total of 38 certified candidates). Mozambique conducted the first RPL (RCA) processes in the sectors of electricity, plumbing and welding and certified 25 candidates. Cape Verde started RPL (RVCC) processes in different branches of services, administration and management and in construction, certified several groups of RPL professionals (assessors, facilitators) for the organisation of high-quality RPL.

Making visible non-formal and informal learning

People learn anytime, anywhere throughout life, not only in formal education and training systems and pathways, but also in non-formal and informal learning contexts. The growth of digital and online learning and access to digital skills assessment tools are new dimensions and potentialities of RPL, which can benefit candidates, and the effectiveness of RPL systems.

  • Significant numbers of young people are early school leavers, due to socio-economic conditions, but they have the right to validation of prior learning outcomes and to adequate pathways to return to learning and acquire qualifications.
  • Labour migrants learn in their migration experiences and bring back to their countries of origin a range of new knowledge, skills, and competences – e.g., languages, social and inter-cultural, technical, and job-specific – which can be identified, documented, assessed, and certified.
  • Informal sector workers – rural and urban – acquire and apply a range of important practical skills, which often are under-valued. Attention to the informal economy has given rise to renewed interest in RPL and its potential to help move informal activities / artisans to formal economy, and jobs with decent conditions. Recognition of competences and certification is a major right and lever to support inclusion and dignity of informal workers, artisans, farmers.
  • Workers, job seekers, young women / adults returning to active life may have valuable skills and competences but not a qualification – and RPL may be a life changer. RPL may offer a path to validate skills and facilitate access to further education and training or to obtain a qualification.
  • Volunteers and youth activists build social and communication skills of high value for careers in civil society and social spheres. These skills can be made visible through RPL.

Non-formal and informal learning matter for lifelong learning

Non-formal and informal learning are fundamental parts of lifelong and life-wide learning.

“Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)” / “Validation of non-formal and informal learning (VNFIL)” / “Validation des Acquis de l’Expérience” (VAE) / “Reconhecimento e certificação de competências adquiridas” (RVCC)/  are terms with equivalent meaning, used internationally across countries and regions with some differentiation of concepts, scope and methods. “There is no universal RPL system, rather different systems that best fit the needs of specific countries” (ILO, 2018).

Value of RPL / validation – global views

The International Labour Office (ILO, 2018: iii) sustains that “People are always learning, everywhere and throughout the course of their lives. However, learning that takes place outside the formal education and training system is often not well understood or valued. On-the-job training, informal apprenticeships, managing a household, caring for the sick and for elderly relatives are all activities that result in learning outcomes, but which often do not come with a certificate of competencies recognising the knowledge, skills and experience acquired. Recognition of all types of learning can result in benefits in the labour market, formal education and training, financially and in terms of self-esteem.”

The ‘European Guidelines for Validating Non-Formal and Informal Learning’ (Cedefop, 2015: 4) mentions that “Validation arrangements can be of benefit to all citizens and help combat unemployment by improving skills matching and social cohesion. Validation can offer crucial support to the unemployed or those at risk of losing their jobs by enabling citizens to communicate the value of their skills and experiences either to potential employers or when returning to formal education to earn a new qualification. Validation can also form part of the response to the current refugee crisis through identification, documentation, assessment and certification of migrants’ previous experiences, to support quicker and smoother integration into host countries. For individuals that need to redirect their careers, validation can open a door to new occupations. It can also play a major role in combating youth unemployment by making skills acquired through voluntary work, or during leisure, visible to employers.”