Welcome to the International Indigenous Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Collective

Historical Context

PLA was introduced in the USA in the mid 1970’s by the Council for Adult & Experiential Learning (CAEL) to help experienced adults gain access to formal study at the post-secondary level and as a way to formally recognize learning that had taken place outside of formal settings. Gradually PLA practice spread to other countries such as the UK, Canada and South Africa. Its application broadened to include credit and recognition for workplace skills and knowledge to enhance employability and enable mobility within occupations.

In 1985, PLA was introduced to indigenous learners enrolled in a two year Social Service Worker Diploma program at First Nations Technical Institute (FNTI) in collaboration with Loyalist College in Belleville Ontario. The Institute is an aboriginal owned and operated college located on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in the Province of Ontario.

This was one of the first applications of PLA principles as an integral component of an Indigenous post-secondary program in which Indigenous knowledge and cultural teachings were key components of the curriculum.


In 2003 a training manual for PLA Advisors was developed by the PLA Department of FNTI for South Africa’s Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Education and Training Authority (MERSETA). This manual was used to train PLA advisors for the MERSETA in several locations throughout South Africa. The manual drew extensively on existing mainstream PLA practice. It also included a section entitled “Recognizing the Importance of Cultural Knowledge and Language Skills in the Portfolio Development Process”.

In 2004-05, a culturally-based PLA initiative by the federally (Canada) funded Indigenous Peoples Partnership Program (IPPP) was implemented in Chile between Taiñ Adkimn, a community based Mapuche organization and FNTI. In 2006, a similar portfolio-based initiative also funded by the Canadian IPPP took place between FNTI, Taiñ Adkimn and the School for Indigenous (Kichwa) Governance in Ecuador.

In 2010 FNTI partnered with Nunavut Arctic College to develop and implement another federally funded PLA initiative which integrated PLA, portfolio development and adult learning principles with Inuit teachings.


Over the past three decades the assessment of prior learning has been described using a variety of terms. Initially as Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) and eventually as Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) and more recently as the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For the purposes of this site all three acronyms are used in various sections.


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