An example of Italian educational excellence in the world.
An Italian city has given its name to an educational method for children: the internationally renowned Reggio Emilia Approach, which has now become a distinctive sign of Italian quality in foreign schools.
What is it?
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an educational philosophy that was created in the 1950s, based on the view that children have strong development potential and rights, able to learn through multiple languages and grow as part of relationships with others.
One of the main educational concepts underpinning the Reggio Emilia Approach focuses on the ‘hundred languages’ possessed by children, a metaphor for their extraordinary potential, cognitive and creative processes and the many ways in which life is represented and knowledge is built. The role of educators is to enhance all verbal and non-verbal languages on an equal footing.
Another distinctive and original feature of the Reggio Approach is the presence of an ‘atelierista’, a teacher with artistic training, and of ‘ateliers’: creative learning environments open to children, families and adults. These ateliers are dedicated to different themes, such as working with paper or clay, the language of photography and digital productions; they link knowledge and multidisciplinary exploration, creating learning strategies and new skills .
This method also underlines: the importance of teamwork and the relational approach of all staff; the promotion of the learning environment as a real educational tool and a place of research and coexistence for children; educational documentation to render creative knowledge processes visible through the selection, preservation and sharing of educational work.
The Reggio Emilia Approach has its roots in the post-war reconstruction of the city of Reggio Emilia. In order to satisfy the need for recovery and social renewal, an educational project was launched, supported by the ‘Unione Donne Italiane’ (Italian Women’s Union), which saw the creation of sixty nursery schools: a cultural and social asset that would become an integral part of the future Reggio project’s identity, forming the basis for the processes and forms of involvement that would go on to develop over time. At the beginning of the 1960s, the municipality of Reggio Emilia became an advocate for projects to improve the quality of life, to accompany economic and social recovery: these included the opening of the first municipal kindergarten, to which Loris Malaguzzi contributed, an educationalist and key figure in the future development of the project. The evolution of the Reggio Emilia school system went on to see the opening of the first municipal nursery in the early 1970s, ahead of its time compared with the rest of Italy, and the welcoming of international contributions thanks to the exhibition ‘L’Occhio se salta il muro. Ipotesi per una didattica visiva’ (What you can see beyond the wall. Ideas for visual education). Starting from the 1980s, the exhibition bore witness to the continuous research process underpinning the educational project, based on the collaboration and shared contribution of children, teachers and educationalists.
In 1994, following the death of Loris Malaguzzi, the Municipality of Reggio Emilia supported the establishment of ‘Reggio Children’, an international centre for the defence and promotion of children’s rights and potential, born from an idea by Malaguzzi himself. At the same time, the ‘Associazione internazionale Amici di Reggio Children’ (International Friends of Reggio Children Association) was established, thanks to the voluntary work of its members. The most recent developments in the project’s history include the opening of the Loris Malaguzzi International Centre in 2006, dedicated to enhancing the creativity of children and young people, and the transformation of the International Friends of Reggio Children Association into the ‘Reggio Children Foundation – Loris Malaguzzi Centre’ in 2011, the aim of which is to promote quality education in Reggio Emilia and around the world, through the key concepts of research, internationality and solidarity.
Today, the Reggio Emilia Approach is an example of educational innovation and a tool for cultural promotion, adding value to Italy’s education system in the world. The Reggio Emilia Approach has been adopted by Italian schools around the world, such as the International School of San Francisco (Alamo Square and Dogpatch Campus) and the Italian Embassy School in Beijing.
Further information at www.reggiochildren.it