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Create a body of knowledge for a follow-on critical analysis of the underpinning philosophy of the Reggio Emilia approach in relation to a nursery classroom of a UK primary school.

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Introduction

The aim of this essay is to create a body of knowledge for a follow-on critical analysis of the underpinning philosophy of the Reggio Emilia approach in relation to a nursery classroom of a UK primary school. For this purpose, information was gathered through observations, as well as through the study and analysis of materials presented in books, research journals and professional publications, so as to compare main features of pedagogical theories and models behind the Italian and the British systems of early years education. As we enter an exciting time of development in early years provision, practitioners from a wide variety of settings, bringing a range of strengths, training and experience to the foundation stage, are linked by a common aim - to offer young children learning opportunities and experiences of the highest possible quality, while ensuring that the care and curriculum they receive are appropriate to their needs and stage of development. Throughout history, Europe has represented an intense source of many influential educational ideas. In early childhood education, one of the best-known approaches with European origin is Reggio Emilia, which is seen as a strong educational alternative to traditional education and as a source of inspiration for progressive educational reform. Research shows that there are many themes and elements regarding children and their development, which are common to both Italian and British educational systems. What exactly are their respective historical origins and foundational philosophical concepts about child development and learning? How do they compare with respect to organizational structures, curriculum and school environments? What are their parallels and contrasts? The foundation for the Reggio Approach started in Reggio Emilia, Northern Italy, at the end of the Fascist dictatorship and the Second World War. ...read more.

Middle

In contrast to Reggio curriculum fundamentals emphasising the priority of learning process itself against the final product, early years educators in Britain feel great pressure to promote particular and pre-specified learning outcomes, many of which focus on literacy and numeracy. A crucial moment in the recent developments of early childhood curriculum in Britain was represented by the introduction of the framework for early years education in a form of the Desirable Outcomes for Children's Learning, which in 1999 were replaced with Early Learning Goals. In 2000, Curriculum Guidance for the Foundation Stage was published, which intended "to help practitioners plan to meet the diverse needs of all children so that most will achieve and some, where appropriate, will go beyond the early learning goals by the end of the foundation stage" (QCA, 2000: 5). It is notable that although the curriculum guidance claims to describe integrated learning within six areas of development, it also emphasizes literacy and numeracy as distinct curriculum areas, as opposed to the basics of Reggio approach. As Malaguzzi accentuates, Reggio schools "do not have a planned curriculum, as the behaviourists would like. These would push us towards teaching without learning, humiliating the children by entrusting them to forms and handbooks"(Cornwell, 2001: 25). This point of view designates a considerable contrast with the Early Learning Goals, which specify particular achievements to be expected of 4- and 5-year-olds, such as learning to count up to 10 or recognizing letters by shape and sound. The environment in Reggio schools serves as a valuable source of learning, intended not only to "underpin and support daily routines but also as an aesthetic" (Penn, 1997: 55). As Malaguzzi affirms, teachers of Reggio value space "because of its power to organize, promote pleasant relationships between people of different ...read more.

Conclusion

Most British teachers feel the pressure to cover required contents: they rush from one activity to another, pushed by the schedules that fit children's activities into music, P.E., lunch, maths and so forth. In Reggio Emilia children seem to "flow" from one activity to the next: they are not urged to hurry to complete a project because teachers are not trying to initiate a different activity. However, this aspect can be explained by the idea that perception of time in Reggio is strongly influenced by ethnic traditions and Italian culture itself. Taken as a whole the described set of principles of Reggio schools seems to offer an ideal model for early childhood education, but is it realistic to apply these concepts to the British educational system? One of the most difficult aspects seems to be the process of combining the infinite number of ideas suggested by teachers, parents and children, and in presenting these ideas in a form of a "spontaneous curriculum." The research has little to suggest that the lack of structure and time limitation would be productive in the UK early years practice. Furthermore, following personal observations it seems to be an inconsistent community involvement, as well as a lack of parent participation, which would contribute to difficulties in translating Reggio approach to the British educational system. However, there are many ways UK educators can benefit from the Reggio model, such as challenging formal schemes and practices, considering positive features of an unplanned curriculum, welcoming child-initiated activities, practicing flexible timetable, encouraging parents' cooperation, and most importantly, LISTENING to children. Listening to children will help teachers to understand better how a child's potential is implemented, how he explores the world, how he understands the world, and how he chooses to communicate with the world, which therefore will assist teachers to put into practice the most successful methods of learning. 1 ...read more.

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