Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) originates in the 1980s and is very much dominated by the NQF discourse. In New Zealand, RPL is also known as Accreditation of Prior learning (APL and credit transfer).
Challenges and opportunities
The Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) in New Zealand is closely tied to challenges and opportunities on the policy level. These relate to areas such as skilled employment, education, equity and immigration. By promoting an individual’s self-knowledge, recognition may encourage individuals who have not previously taken part in the formal education system to do so. It also provides individuals with the evidence to meet any entry standards for vocational or higher education. A planned approach to the recognition of informal workplace learning can lead to employees taking part in workplace training or enhancing capabilities and competence and obtaining a qualification.
National standards, policy and framework activity
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) is responsible inter alia for maintaining mechanisms for the recognition of prior learning (RPL), for example, the recognition of learning against qualifications and standards.
The NZQA supports lifelong learning through the administration of the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). The NZQF provides the foundation for lifelong learning because its enables flexibility in learning pathways. Individuals are able to make informed pathway choices because NZQA’s quality assurance requirements ensure that the qualifications listed on the NZQF can be compared across sectors.
Furthermore, RPL is an important requirement for qualification developers to take account of before a new NZQF qualification can be approved by NZQA. One of the requirements is that the credit awarded as a result of either RPL or recognition of current competency (RCC) is of equal standing to the credit awarded through other forms of assessment and the credit should be transferable across sectors once the learner has been awarded the credit through RPL or RCC.
The governing policy for RPL is NZQA’s Supporting Learning Pathways: Credit recognition and transfer policy (NZQA, 2002). It requires Tertiary Education Organisations to have arrangements in place for the assessment of prior learning. Quality assurance then occurs in relation to assessment that leads to recognised standards and qualifications. Both the industry and educator sectors follow the same governing policy for recognition.
Education providers are required to adhere to the Credit recognition and transfer policy and have their own administrative and practical arrangements in place for RPL. The policy, therefore, relates to individual learners, educational organisations, employing organisations, industry and professional bodies, as well as a number of institutes of technology and polytechnics in New Zealand designated as centres for the assessment of RPL
Competency International Limited (CIL). 2011. Ensuring Consistency of Qualification Outcomes – a discussion paper. Wellington, CIL.
Education Act. 1989. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1989/0080/latest/DLM175959.html (Accessed 11 July 2013).
New Zealand Qualifications Authority. 2002. Supporting Learning Pathways – Credit Recognition and Transfer Policy. Government of New Zealand, NZQA.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority. 2013. The New Zealand Qualifications Framework. Government of New Zealand, New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Version 3.0, November 2013.
Vaughan, K. and Cameron, M. 2009. Report prepared for the Industry Training Federation Research Network, Assessment of Learning in the Workplace: A Background Paper. September 2009. New Zealand Council for Educational Research.
New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA)
 Based on section 246A (1) of the Education Act 1989.
 The concept is called by many names including RPL (Recognition of Prior Learning) and APL (Assessment of Prior Learning).