Recognition of prior learning

Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) is a process of identifying, assessing and recognising what a person knows and can do. It assesses the skills and knowledge a person may have developed as a result of formal and informal learning.  Rather than simply recognising qualifications or experience, RPL is based on evidence of learning that may have taken place as a result of life experience and work experience and compares it with the requirements of, in this case, the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree.

It involves an institution making a fair and valid assessment of an applicant’s abilities, then matching the assessment against the learning outcomes of its own teacher education programme. The assessment may result in the applicant receiving credit for some portion of the programme which leads to the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree. Both the content and the level of previous learning are assessed (the content is the curriculum that has been learned, while the levels of the learning must match the NZQA levels 5-7 that all Diplomas and first degrees are taught at). As a result of RPL assessment the applicant may be exempt from parts of the programme.

RPL processes can include:

  • Cross-credit: when learning has already been assessed and credited for another qualification, usually by another tertiary education provider, and the applicant seeks credit toward a different qualification.
  • Credit transfer: when the same paper (or unit standard) is used in two qualifications.
  • Other assessment of prior learning: where a process is used to identify, assess and recognise what a person knows and can do from a range of informal or formal learning.  Material can be presented and assessed in different ways e.g. portfolios, challenge assessment (written or oral) and observations of practice by a qualified representative of an approved teacher education provider.

1. What qualifications are now recognised in the early childhood sector?

People who hold the following qualifications and who are registered teachers meet the ECE service requirements for qualifications, licensing and funding:

  • A Diploma of Teaching (ECE), a Bachelor of Teaching (ECE) or other early childhood teaching qualification from a teacher education provider approved by the New Zealand Teachers' Council for teacher registration purposes.
  • An overseas early childhood teaching qualification assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority as a comparable to the level 7 Diploma of Teaching (ECE).
  • A New Zealand Free Kindergarten Diploma
  • A qualification or qualifications equivalent to a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) as a result of an application to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority before 1 January 1995.
  • An early childhood teaching qualification which, at 4 December 2000, was held by a person responsible and had been recognised by the Ministry of Education or the New Zealand Qualifications Authority as equivalent to a Diploma of Teaching.

2. Who will do the RPL assessments and when?

All institutions that offer an approved Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree have approved RPL processes and are able to undertake RPL assessments.   RPL is usually undertaken prior to enrolment in the programme, but can sometimes also occur after enrolment.  Seek specific advice from the teacher education provider about when RPL should be applied for.

Before you begin the RPL process with an institution, it is important that you discuss the programme offered by the institution with a programme adviser to ensure that the type of delivery (e.g. on-campus, by correspondence or centre-based) will suit your lifestyle and commitments. .

3. Is it possible to shorten the time I have to study towards the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) through RPL?

In some cases yes, you can apply for Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL), which means that your skills and knowledge can be assessed against the Diploma of Teaching (ECE).  Then, when you apply to enrol in the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) programme you may not have to complete the full programme.  The amount that you will have to do will depend on the evidence of your existing skills and knowledge.  For more information about the Recognition of Prior Learning Programme see previous notes.

4. Can I be exempt from the whole of the Diploma of Teaching (ECE) via RPL?

No. The New Zealand Teachers Council policy is that everyone must complete at least one full year of the Diploma of Teaching (ECE). This is to make sure everyone completes a coherent programme including the final practicum component.

5. Will my years of experience be taken into account?

The skills and knowledge that you have gained during those years will be assessed rather than just counting the years you have completed working in the early childhood sector. Years of experience, in themselves, are not a guarantee that you have the necessary skills and knowledge to be a qualified and registered teacher. You will be asked to provide or display evidence of previous learning.

6. If I undergo RPL will I get automatic entry to a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) programme?

No. You will still need to meet the entry and selection criteria for the programme you wish to enrol for.

7. How much credit can I get towards a Diploma of Teaching (ECE)?

The amount of credit you may get will depend on the results of your RPL assessment.  Some people may be unsuccessful in gaining any credit at all.  The maximum credit you can receive is two years of a three year Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree.

The New Zealand Teachers' Council requirements mean everyone wishing to gain a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree must complete a full year of the programme.  Other requirements mean that practicum experience and assessment for one full year of a teaching qualification cannot be given through RPL, and RPL cannot be double counted.

8. How much credit will I get for my licensing points?

Licensing points were not a qualification, but were used as a mechanism for funding early childhood services. The licensing point system was gradually phased out for licensing purposes over the years 2002-2005.  Licensing points alone do not automatically gain you credit toward a diploma or degree, as they are not directly related to qualifications.  However, it is wise to provide evidence of the learning you undertook to gain licensing points, as it may earn credit through RPL towards a Diploma of Teaching (ECE) or equivalent degree.

9. What if I hold a qualification awarded outside of New Zealand?

First you must establish whether or not the qualification you hold has been assessed by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority as being valid, authentic, and comparable to a Diploma of Teaching (ECE).

Qualifications Recognition Services
PO Box 160
Phone: (04) 463 3000
Fax: (04) 802 3401

If your qualification is deemed comparable then you do not need to pursue another qualification. If it is not comparable, you will need to approach a teacher education provider to have your previous learning recognised and enrol to complete the NZ qualification.


Last updated: 6 July 2011