From the very first moment when we open our eyes in this world till the time we take our last breath, we learn every day. For learning to take place, there is no need to have a defined place or institute. In fact, we can learn anywhere and anytime through different means. However, the skill and knowledge which is acquired outside the formal education and training system is not generally counted/credited. In our society, people who acquire competency through informal learning never get their skills recognized. This has created strata in society and divided us based on work/occupation.
ILO defines “Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) as a process of identifying, documenting, assessing, and certifying formal, non-formal and informal learning outcomes against standards used in formal education and training”. There are three stages in RPL which are listed below. Among the 17 sustainable goals of SDG, goal number 4 is related to quality education, and there are several targets in goal number 4. The access to technical education is one of them, and the concept of RPL is closely related to it. The theory of recognition also tends to explain the characteristics of RPL.
RPL Stages (Internationally Accepted)
Counseling: Counseling is the very first stage of an RPL assessment. Interested candidates come to the RPL desk for the inquiry regarding the assessment. Trained counselors guide the candidates for preparing their portfolios, and the candidates will also get support from the counselor for self-assessment.
Assessment: In the second stage, candidates will present their portfolios to the assessors. After evaluating the portfolios submitted by the candidates, the assessor conducts an RPL interview. If the assessor is satisfied with the performance of the candidate, a certificate of competency can be awarded to the candidate. However, the assessor may suggest the candidate for practical assessment if he/she is not satisfied with the outcome of the portfolio and interview.
Post-Assessment: The decision of the assessment will be recorded in the post-assessment stage. The RPL process ends with a post-assessment moderation step which gives a good indication of what happened during the assessment and how it could be improved. Certificate of competency/unit of competency is provided to the candidate and the record is kept in the National Skill Testing Board (NSTB) database. In addition, the tools used in the RPL assessment process will also be revised in this stage.
Benefits of RPL for an individual: Firstly, the skills and knowledge obtained through the experiential learning is recognized. As self-learning of an individual gets accredited, not only does it shorten the period of study but also saves effort and money. In addition, certification increases the confidence, motivation, and self-esteem of an individual.
Benefits for Employer: RPL will be helpful for identifying the existing skills and the skill gap of an employee. So, the appropriate training package can be designed for capacity development of employees. Skill certification through the RPL approach will minimize the time that an employee has to spend away from the workplace as various units of competency will be covered in the assessment. Furthermore, when an individual knows the workplace practice is considered for certification, it increases the motivation and interest of an employee in the workplace. RPL could be a tool for improving human resource alignment with organizational management which improves employee retention, prevents duplication, and reduces recruitment and training costs.
Benefit for the country: Graduates certified through the RPL approach contribute to higher productivity which ultimately attracts investors thus increasing the business and work volume in given occupations. Furthermore, foreign remittance will be increased as the certified competent workers may get higher pays in the international labor market. It will also help to reduce the cost of training of people thus more people can be certified, prepared. It is also an opportunity for the government for the inclusion of disadvantaged people of society to get assessed and certified through a recognized system.
How does RPL differ from current skill-testing systems?
While talking about the major difference between the RPL Assessment approach and the current systems of skill assessment, RPL assessment is administered to candidates who claim competency obtained mainly outside the formal system whereas regular assessment is administered to completers of formal TVET program. Another significant difference between these two-assessment approaches is that, in RPL, the result of assessment leads to issuance of a unit or full qualification certificate. On the other hand, in the regular assessment approach, the result of assessment leads to issuance of full or no competency certificate.
The National Skills Testing Board (NSTB) is the only authorized government body in Nepal for assessing and certifying the skill of an individual. An RPL desk has been established in NSTB for looking after the issues related to RPL. As RPL is a very new concept in Nepal, NSTB has organized awareness generation activities and conducted capacity building training to CTEVT/NSTB staff and private sector as well. The National Vocational Qualifications System Project (NVQS-P) has been providing technical assistance to NSTB in various issues related to skill assessment and establishing a fully functional RPL assessment system is surely one of them. With the help of NVQS-P, NSTB has conducted a couple of pilot skill assessments through the RPL approach for the graduates of the construction and hospitality sector. For now, NSTB is more focused on assessing the skills that Returnee Migrant Workers have brought with them.
Rollout of RPL
Based on the experience of piloting RPL in certain occupations, NSTB is now ready for a nationwide rollout of the RPL system. To start the RPL approach of assessment and certification, returnee migrant workers who have got the skill and competency in any of these six occupations (Welder Level-2, Plumber Level-2, Painter Level-2, Masonry Level-2, Garment Fabricator Level-1 & Tile & Marble Fitter Level-1) can apply for the skill test through RPL approach. In this stage, two provinces (Province 1 and Bagmati Province) have been selected for the RPL assessment. NSTB has a plan to make the RPL system available for all the people who wish to have their skills tested and certified through all 7 provinces. Within this fiscal year, NSTB is planning to conduct piloting of RPL for 1,600 returnee migrants. CTEVT/NSTB has also been planning to include RPL in its 5-year strategic plan after observing the piloting process closely.
Human resources are being prepared and at the same time, print, electronic and social media platforms are being used for the dissemination of information to the audience to make people aware of RPL and its benefits. Planning is underway to conduct the RPL skill assessment in Province 1 and Bagmati Province in the months of June and July. Interested candidates can contact or visit their nearest CTEVT provincial offices or visit the NSTB website www.nstb.org.np for more detailed information regarding the RPL assessment. It is believed that a successful implementation of the RPLwill be crucial for giving identity to the people who learn informally, and it will play an important role to minimize the division in society.