Reggio Emilia Education Philosophy and Global Citizenship

Introduction

Education is a very important element for the development of the human race.

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Accordingly, many of the countries dedicate a bigger portion of their budget to the education sector. There are various approaches adopted by the education system to ensure that the population attains intellectual development. Since the human race is so dynamic, various educational philosophies exist, all of which attempt to justify a certain approach to education. One of these approaches attempts to target early childhood education and the role it plays in creating a strong foundation for the mental growth of a child. There have been moves towards global integration. However, most of the appeals are concerned with the economy rather than other issues. For global citizenship, there is a need for an education system that is applicable in any part of the globe. Reggio Emilia’s approach has qualities for being a global education system.

Overview

There are various early childhood education approaches and philosophies. However, the most acclaimed approach is the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy. This approach differs from other approaches in its integration with the curriculum, an educator, the child as well as the learning environment. All these are important elements that are necessary for the establishment of an educational approach that appeals to the needs of a child. The Reggio Emilia educational philosophy endeavors to make early childhood education invoke interest in a child and by extension, add fun to the learning process. Educators regard the approach as the best educational approach for pre-school children. Little wonder then that the approach has attracted interest from educational researchers, educators and education policymakers across the globe. As a result, various countries have adopted the approach as a whole, while others have integrated the approach with the existing curricula for pre-school children. Some of the countries that have adopted this approach include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Based on the increased acceptance of the Reggio Emilia Educational Philosophy by various countries, there is the likelihood that the approach may eventually become a global educational standard for pre-school and early childhood students and would promote a lot to global citizenship.

The Reggio Emilia educational approach to early childhood education originated from Italy after Second World War. Loris Malaguzzi from Emilia city in Italy is the pioneer of this educational approach. The approach was a response to the effects of the world war, which had left severe effects on the educational system in the region. There was an interest in an educational approach capable of bringing recovery to the education system. Malaguzzi viewed the region Emilia approach as very effective, leading to its acceptance by the community in this city. Later, the approach spread in other regions of the country and became the most preferred approach to early education. The approach was based on the belief that people develop most of their character when they are young. Thus, there was a need for a good approach to education in the early years that would lead to the development of good character and intellectual ability in later years of a child.

The destruction resulting from war necessitated a need for an educational approach that would lead to a quick recovery. The ideal educational approach needed by the community was one that would instill a sense of respect and responsibility in a child. The Reggio Emilio approach led to approach not only instilled principles of respect and responsibility but also integrated well with the environment and curricula. The approach appreciated the importance of a supportive environment centered on children’s interests and based on the self-guided curriculum.

Reggio Emilia Education philosophy

Reggio Emilia’s educational approach integrates the natural development of a child and the education environment. The natural development of a child has a profound influence on the ability of a child to process and store information. An educational approach should not separate the educational development of a child from its natural development (Brainy-child.com par 2). Thus, the approach hinges on principles that appreciate natural development and environment to education. In the approach, the belief is that children should have some control over their learning and that the approach should be taken into consideration children’s interests. There is a belief that children should not only learn through word of mouth but also through such experiences as touching, seeing, moving and listening (Edwards and Gandini 56). It is also based on the belief that children should have relationships with other children within the learning environment. Further, the Reggio Emilia approach assumes that children relate to other material things. Therefore, it is important to allow children to explore material things in order to learn. Finally, Reggio Emilia’s approach believes that children need endless means of expressing themselves.

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To the Reggio Emilia educational approach, parents, the environment, teachers and projects are very important to the education of a young child. In this approach, parents are partner to education and they take an active role in the education of a child.

Parents collaborate with the teachers and children to ensure that the education of their children is successful (Reggio Emilia approach par 5-6). Teachers are significant in the implementation of the Reggio Emilia approach in schools. However, a teacher appreciates and respects a child’s parent, as the first teacher. In a Reggio Emilia school, parents volunteer as teachers; this is a testament that they are the primary teachers of their children. Also, parents in Reggio Emilia schools are encouraged to implement the Reggio Emilia principles in their parenting at home. This integrates a school and the home to make one learning environment (Fraser and Gestwicki 47). For global citizenship, an education approach that is compatible with every part of the world is needed. Reggio Emilia’s integration of natural developments with education makes it the best global education approach.

Curriculum

Reggio Emilia’s early childhood approach considers a child as a competent learner able to participate actively in the education process. Therefore, the curriculum is strictly child-directed and considers a child as central to its components. Scope and sequence is not as important in the Reggio Emilia approach as a purposive progression that follows the educational needs of children (Edwards and Gandini 56). Teachers are supposed to follow the interests of children in their curriculum. Thus, the approach does not just focus on instructions in reading and writing but is primarily dependent on the interests of the child. Teachers are supposed to invoke a learning interest in children as well as recognize and respond to children’s interests. Since this approach appreciates the role of the environment, parent, staff and other peers, the curriculum is prepared to ensure interaction with these components, in effect aiding the process of learning.

The emergent curriculum used in Reggio Emilia’s approach makes it appropriate as a global education approach. The emergent curriculum relies mostly on children’s interests. Teachers in the Reggio Emilia approach receive training on being able to recognize and respond to the interest of their students and prepare ongoing projects that arouse children’s interests. To identify topics of study in a Reggio Emilia school, the children are closely observed and their interests noted. The talks of children, family and community events are very important in helping identify the interests of children and incorporating them into the curriculum (Fraser and Gestwicki 68). At every place or time, there are those issues that interest a child. For example, the past election aroused a lot of interest in most children. Thus, the subjects of study or projects assigned in the course may include components of ideas from the election. Issues that are known to arouse children’s interests such as puddles and shadows are also incorporated in the curriculum. There are no boundaries to the curriculum in this approach as there would be no boundaries in global citizenship. The use of this approach does not confine a child to a particular country or region but prepares it for global citizenship.

Another essential issue in the emergent curriculum to the Reggio Emilia education approach is team planning. Reggio Emilia’s approach appreciates the role of experience and active participation of every child in learning; thus, team planning becomes an essential issue to the curriculum. Collaboration of teachers in Reggio Emilia schools promotes curricula development (Brainy-child.com par 3-5). Teachers work together to identify the objectives and hypotheses of projects used in learning. For global citizenship, each individual should feel responsible for education. This is made possible through Reggio Emilia as it appreciates contributions from all stakeholders.

Role of teachers

Reggio Emilia has a unique global definition of the role of teachers. Unlike other approaches to education, Reggio Emilia’s education approach views a teacher as a co-learner to students (Dower 66). Teachers are central to the success of this approach through their ability to link children’s interests, the environment and educational needs in the curriculum. Teachers are expected to commit themselves to identify and respond to children’s interests. In fact, the long-term commitment of teachers is one of the assumptions made in the Reggio Emilia approach (Brainy-child.com par 7-8). The independence of teachers in this approach is evident in a lack of a teaching manual, achievement tests and curriculum guide to assist in teaching. The approach requires teachers to respond autonomously to the needs of children. These new roles of teachers promote global citizenship since no specific qualities are needed other than the ability to observe and respond to students’ needs. The expectation is that teachers will facilitate a child’s learning by planning learning activities and lessons that arouse children’s interest. However, the teacher does not just facilitate but must be actively involved in all learning activities of the children.

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The Reggio Emilia approach views teachers as researchers. Teachers collaborate with both the parents and learning environment to work as co-teachers to parents and the environment. To come up with lessons, activities and projects that are appealing to children, teachers have to be involved in research (Morrison 145). As researchers, teachers must carefully observe and listen to the children. They need to observe the communities where children come from carefully in order to develop projects that are most relevant to children. As researchers, teachers are also expected to stimulate thinking, which is the most important element in global education.

Reggio Emilia’s approach assumes the autonomy of the teacher in their roles. Thus, teachers have a sense of responsibility for the development of the children they teach. To do this, teachers have to reflect on their own teaching and learning to ensure that it responds to the interest of the children and leads to progressive learning of children (Fraser and Gestwicki 87). Unlike other approaches to early childhood education, teachers in Reggio Emilia’s approach work in pairs and collaborate to ensure the needs of education are met.

Role of Environment

The Environment is the third teacher in Reggio Emilia’s approach. Thus, there is a lot of concern by educators on what the environment teaches the children. The feel, look and components in the environment are considered to influence learning and also send messages to children. Thus, the classroom environment is worked on to ensure that the feel and look promote learning and also act as a teacher. The aesthetic feel of the overall school environment is ensured and is viewed as a way of respecting a child and their learning environment (Edwards and Gandini 71). Naturally, children are playful. In this approach, the environment is made to create a playful environment for children.

The interest of the children is central to Reggio Emilia’s approach. Thus, the environment is organized to arouse interest from children and also provoke children to undertake exploration and problem-solving. Small groups used in these explorations enable children to cooperate and intermingle playfully (Morrison 144). Also in the environment, is the display of documentation of the children works both a children’s and adult’s perspectives. In some schools, there is a common display for works from different classes.

The environment in Reggio Emilia’s approach is customized to be appealing to children. Children have a feel of ownership to the environment; the playful environment created makes the schools naturally compatible with children. Global citizenship should start with children by making them enjoy their environment and different relationship in the environment. This condition created by Reggio Emilia’s approach, thus, is a prerequisite to global citizenship.

Symbolic Languages

Symbolic language is encouraged for children to express their thoughts. The use of multiple symbolic languages is referred to as the Hundred Language of Children in the Reggio Emilia approach (Edwards and Gandini 23). This approach appreciates that children have many ways of expressing themselves other than words. Thus, children are encouraged to express their understanding of a concept through the use of such symbols as drawing, writing, sculptures, moldings and dramatic plays. Every part of the globe has its symbols of communication. The use of this approach across the globe would allow children to effectively express themselves with freedom.

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Symbols are a way of expression and a tool in education as well. After teachers facilitate learning, they are expected to allow children to debate on topics of the day. Children may be encouraged to express the ideas they have acquired in form of one of the symbols. For example, after a lesson on animals, children may be asked to draw a picture of a certain animal to gauge their understanding. Children discuss what they have expressed through the various symbols among themselves (Edwards and Gandini 87). They are also allowed to revise their work of that of other children’s in the class. Since symbols are dynamic, Reggio Emilia’s approach takes on new symbols in graphics arts and incorporates them in learning.

For global citizenship to be possible, there should freedom of expression by all citizenship. For freedom of expression to be possible, a different form of expression by different people around the globe should be encouraged. Reggio Emilia’s approach appreciates the principle of freedom of expression, where children have the freedom to express themselves in many forms.

Learning projects

Both short and long-term projects are used in Reggio Emilia’s educational approach. The curriculum adopted by teachers involved various projects that invoke interest from children and encourage creativity (Brainy-child.com par 5-9). Projects are arranged in small groups encouraging members to participate actively and cooperate. Topics to these projects are chosen depending on children’s curiosity and divided into portions that would lead to progressive participation over a given period of time. The success of a project is based on its ability to sustain students’ interests and ensure progressive children’s creativity. There are varieties of projects that are compatible with children across the globe. The use of Reggio Emilia across the globe is, thus not limited but makes use of various interesting projects for education.

Documentation

Documentation is very important to Reggio Emilia’s approach to early childhood education. This approach is based on respect for children and also on instilling a sense of responsibility to children. Documentation is one of the ways that respect the children and their works. Documentation is important in the progressive nature of this approach. It creates an opportunity for children to revisit their earlier works and experiences. Since the driving force of the Reggio Emilio approach is children’s interest, documented work help students to remember ideas (Edwards and Gandini 113). It also helps children review their ideas as they progress in learning. Various forms of documentation used include photography, notes, transcript, drawing, audio and videotapes (Morrison 147). Respect for children’s work is very important. Appreciating these works across is a great step to improve children’s morale in education. Learning institutions across the globe can share documentation as a way to encourage global citizenship.

Conclusion

Early childhood education is very important for the social and intellectual development of a child. Various approaches are used, but the Reggio Emilia approach has become one of the most appreciated and influential approaches. The approach integrated the natural development features of a child with education. Parents, the environment and teachers are considered to be co-teachers that contribute to the overall education of a child. Emergent curriculums that take into consideration of students’ interests are used while documentation is used to store and display children’s works. Overall, the approach respects a child as capable of learning and responsibilities. Since the children’s interest determines the curriculum, the curriculum is flexible to different children’s interests across the globe. The other principles in the approach such as documentation, the role of teachers and the environment are compatible with socials, cultural and economic differences across the globe. In fact, Reggio Emilia is applicable in most parts of the globe already and is a great move towards global citizenship they are.

Works Listed

Brainy-child.com. (n.d.). Reggio Emilia Approach.

Edwards, Carolyn, Gandini, Lella, and Forman, George. The hundred languages of children: the Reggio Emilia approach–advanced reflections. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Fraser, Susan, and Gestwicki, Carol. Authentic childhood: exploring Reggio Emilia in the classroom. New York: Cengage Learning, 2002

Morrison, George. Fundamentals of early childhood education. Massachusetts: Merrill, 2000.

Nigel, Dower. An Introduction to Global Citizenship. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

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NerdyTom. (2021, November 29). Reggio Emilia Education Philosophy and Global Citizenship. Retrieved from https://nerdytom.com/reggio-emilia-education-philosophy-and-global-citizenship/

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