Loris Malaguzzi and The Reggio Approach to Early Childhood
It was Loris Malaguzzi (1920-1994) who became the inspiration
behind the educational experiences in Reggio Emilia. Malaguzzi
was a primary school teacher who later went on to study psychology
and brought to his lifetime work in education, his interests
and experience in theatre, journalism, sport and politics.
He is remembered by his colleagues as a very strong character
but highly collaborative. Malaguzzi described himself as stubborn,
with an iron will. He wanted to win and to carry along with
himself everyone who thought like himself, better than himself
or differently from himself. As a result, Malaguzzi worked
tirelessly with colleagues in Reggio to further his understanding
of how children learn, and to publicize his passionate belief
in his image of the competent, confident child.
The first preschool in Reggio Emilia originated after Liberation
Day in 1945. Reggio Emilia is a modern, dynamic city that
combines economic prosperity with social and ecological responsibility.
In the village of Villa Cella, close to Reggio, money was
made available from the sale of a tank, a few horses and a
truck abandoned by the retreating Nazis. The men of the village
suggested building a theatre but the women wanted to build
a preschool to provide a new form of education that would
ensure that they would never bring up a generation of children
who would tolerate injustice and inequality.
The earliest preschools were built by local families and communities
in a period of adversity and hardship. Over the next 40 years
a network of preschools and infant-toddler centres developed.
Up until the 1970s, in Italy, preschools had been the responsibility
of the Catholic Church and now more parents were demanding
secular education for their children. In 1970, the first infant-toddler
centre for children aged three months to three years was opened
in response to the demands of working mothers. The centres
became providers of early childhood education in environments
that were appropriate to the child’s level of development
in order to overcome resistance of the Church and the fear
that these centres would lead to the breakdown of the family.
Political opposition remained until 1976 when preschools were
opened up to public scrutiny. The parents and the community
confirmed their support for the guiding principles of the
Reggio Approach to early childhood education, creating a strong
relationship between the preschools and the community.
Over time, Malaguzzi and other educators in Reggio gathered
their ideas and opinions from many sources. In developing
their approach they sought information from theories and philosophies
of education, most notably the work of Montessori.
Fundamental to the Reggio philosophy is the image of the child
as ‘rich in potential, strong, powerful and competent.’
The child is recognised as having his or her own values, who
wants to be respected and valued for himself as well as holding
respect for others and who embodies a curiosity and open-mindedness
to all that is possible. Children are encouraged to develop
their own theories about the world and how it works through
Crucial features of this approach include:
- Active involvement from parents in the development and management
of early childhood services.
- Contributions from parents towards the cost of their child’s
education depending on their income level.
- All children are catered for – those with disabilities
are considered to have ‘special rights’ rather
than ‘special needs’.
- Teachers are viewed as enthusiastic learners and researchers
and not as imparters of knowledge.
- Each group of children has two teachers who remain with
them throughout their time at school.
- The role of the aterlierista – a practising artist
who supports the development of children’s learning,
creativity and imagination – is central to the Reggio
In 1980 international interest in this approach gained momentum
with exhibitions throughout Europe. In 1991, the American
magazine Newsweek named the Diana preschool as the most avant-garde
early childhood institution in the world, leading to huge
interest from the United States and the rest of the world.
After Malaguzzi’s unexpected death, the community of
Reggio Emilia resolved to carry on and implement his dreams
and fulfil the Reggio mission ‘to enhance the potential
of all children’. A foundation named Reggio Children
was established as the International Centre for the Defence
and Promotion of the Rights and Potential of All Children.
Copyright@2007 Bali Educator
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