Last Updated on: 24th May 2023, 01:52 pm
Kampala, May 24, 2023: The arts-based, project-focused, child-initiated method known as the Reggio Emilia approach or pedagogy is widely considered and known as the best preschool system in the world.
It originates from Northern Italy, a town called Reggio Emilia (it derives its name from). It is considered an exemplar of social constructivist pedagogy and built on the shoulders of the work of John Dewey.
John Dewey emphasized concepts such as play-based learning, hands-on learning experiences, and project-based curriculum. His constructivist beliefs were noted when he discussed the teacher as a researcher and co-constructor of learning in collaboration with children, within a social and community setting.
With this concept, he valued children as active agents in the social construction of knowledge and promoted child-initiated learning experiences.
The Reggio Emilia pedagogy is known around the world to be the most high-quality model in early childhood education, however, no formal school in Uganda is known to be implementing it as many schools prefer to push teacher-driven lessons based on state and national standards.
Uganda’s approach has culminated in high-stakes annual assessments where even the youngest students face pressure to perform, use technology effectively, sit and get information through procedures.
Here children have very little choice in the curriculum they’re offered and eventually become disengaged and disinterested. Our education system and curriculum don’t give students space to explore, inquire and experiment. This is opposed to the Reggio Emilia approach which offers students choice, collaboration and project-based learning around topics that are contextually inviting.
In Uganda, there is a great focus on standards and what is taught within the four walls of a classroom; money is spent on instructional materials, prepackaged curricula, professional learning and training to assist best practices for students and pupils’ growth and learning.
The founder of Reggio Emilia, Lloris Malaguzi asserted that what children learn does not automatically follow and result from what has been taught. Instead, children learn in large part due to the children’s own doing, as a consequence of their actions, activities and resources.
Malaguzzi believed in a blend of theory and practice that challenges educators to see children as competent learners in the context of group work. The Reggio Emilia approach shifts the focus of the classroom away from the teacher and onto the students and views children as capable, creative, curious and intelligent.
This approach looks at the environment as the third teacher and encourages educators to take great thought and care when designing learning spaces.
The approach relies on teachers to become researchers and documentation experts of learning by making observations of interaction, ideas and materials used in classrooms. A reform such as this will add more flesh and breathe fresh air into our education system; especially the early years-remember foundation matters.
The writer, Obua Allan is an educational researcher and currently working as Headteacher at Dream Africa School, Kireka in Kampala.