East African bloc moves to develop RPL policy

Published 25/04/2022

The seven member East African Community, a trading block with more than 300 million people, is working on a regional strategy to guide the implementation of Recognition of Prior Learning, a concept that is slowly gaining momentum across Africa.

The regional universities body, the Inter-University Council of East Africa, is leading the process which will recognise skilled and talented people without professional academic papers, across the region. The strategy will be anchored on the East Africa Qualifications Framework for Higher Education said Gaspard Banyankimbona IUCEA executive secretary.

“The policy and procedures that we shall be developing is intended to provide guidelines on ensuring equivalence of Prior Learning Outcomes with Standards set by EAQFHE,” he told a recent expert meeting called to kick-start the process in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

“This policy will apply to all those who will seek recognition of their prior learning outcomes from other educational systems, from professional work experiences or life experience.”

While member states of the bloc had developed “some level” of RPL, the concept he noted is understood differently across the region.

“To some, it is about exemptions and waivers, while to others it is about Technical Vocational Education and Training qualifications. In as much as we could be correct in our own rights, RPL is beyond that, should focus on both Prior Certified Learning and Prior Experiential Learning among others,” he added.

The RPL, he emphasised, is based on the realisation that learning is always taking place and but in different forms, and is the acknowledgement of skills, competencies, knowledge and work ethos obtained through informal training. It was also about on site job experiences measured against specific learning outcomes, based on the principle that knowledge and skills are valuable, irrespective of how they are acquired, he noted.

“Our qualifications should be able to speak to each other using comparable standards”

For the process to succeed, it is expected that national commissions of higher education would issue specific national guidelines requiring individual awarding institutions to make their RPL policies public, the secretary explained.

The RPL as an integral component of the EAQHE should be tailored to further the aspirations of regional integration facilitating labour and student mobility. It should also be geared to removing barriers to access, quality and to free movement, said Eliamani Sedoyeka, Tanzania’s Education permanent secretary.

“Our qualifications should be able to speak to each other using comparable standards. It is therefore important that the policy we develop is comprehensive and covers all aspects of RPL,” he added.

The bloc is made up of Kenya, Uganda Tanzania, Rwanda Burundi, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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