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OBE, RPL and adult education: good bedfellows in higher education in South Africa?

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As its title suggests, this paper explores the compatibility of outcomes-based education (OBE), the recognition of prior learning (RPL) and adult education in higher education in South Africa. OBE and RPL entered the consciousness of South African educators in the 1990s, when policymakers, responding to economic and political imperatives to develop a more skilled and flexible workforce, turned to overseas models of integrated education and training systems. OBE and RPL are often described as 'learner-centred practices', meaning that learning goals, teaching and assessment processes, content and pace of learning are mutually determined by the tutor and student. Such practices are grounded in a humanistic approach to adult education which places emphasis on the person as a holistic being and allows for considerable differences which characterize mature adult learners. The paper explores the relationship between OBE, RPL and the andragogical model of adult education proposed by Malcolm Knowles, whose theories have acquired the status of established doctrine in South Africa. The paper points to areas of compatibility and difference between OBE, RPL and adult education, and concludes that problems which arise in introducing OBE and RPL in higher education have more to do with features of the context, and the processes of design and implementation, than with inherent defects in the theories underpinning them.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02601370110088463

Publication date: November 1, 2001

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