"The pleasure of learning, of knowing and of understanding one of the most important basics feelings that every child expects from the experiences s/he confronts alone, with other children, or with elders. It's a crucial feeling which must be reinforced so that the pleasure survives even when reality may prove that learning, knowledge and understanding involved difficulty and effort. It is in this very capacity for survival that pleasure is transformed into pure joy", says Loris Malaguzzi
In India, our traditional concept of a pre-school is a play school. Through play way or activity method, a tiny-tot learns, comprehends or grasp some knowledge or understand something about his/her immediate environment. There are more than one hundred pedagogies that exist in early childhood care and education. But in India few of the most popular one are Montessori, multiple intelligences, play way, Waldorf and Reggio Emilia. Among these preschool curriculum models, the Montessori methodologies dominates Kindergarten market in India. Most of the preschool chains like Nationwide Euro Kids, Petal Pre Schools (Delhi), Alpha Kids or Kangaroo Kids in Mumbai and the American model of preschool curriculum FasTracKids etc. follows an amalgamation of these main curriculum in practice. A new entrant in Indian preschool category is Reggio Emilia approach.
Reggio Emilia(RE) curriculum is an innovative curriculum, and an inspiring curriculum approach to early childhood care and education which believes that a child is strong, capable and resilient and enriched with wonder and knowledge. This concept is based on HUNDRED LANGUAGES OF CHIDREN which implies that children have multiple ways of thinking playing, exploring, speaking, writing, acting and doing. This practical methodology is very popular in North America and European Union countries particularly in Italy. This early child care facilitation model was initiated (founded) by Loris Malaguzzi, who was a primary school teacher and educational psychologist. This child centered curriculum was first introduced in an Italian town of Reggio Emilia by local administration in collaboration with parents and community in the post second world war scenario in the late 1950s. In the war devastated suffering situation, the community at large explored the new way or the alternative way to educate children of the post war era. This is the foundation story of Reggio Emilia method of pre schooling.
The Reggio Emilia philosophy is based on the inherent potential of every child to grasp and comprehend. In this system of learning, parents play a vital role because home is the first school and parents are the first masters who can easily recognize and identify the potential of their children. So, school encourage the participation of parents and community in the teaching learning activities of children. The buzz words of RE curriculum are advocated in three words: Wonder, Curiosity and Capability.
Teachers as facilitators: RE philosophy is built on the basics of facilitation rather than teaching. It assumes that child as central to their own learning, not simply an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge and information. Another interesting feature of RE methodology is that classes are facilitated by the same teacher for 2 or more years. Imagine a case like the same teacher engage in Nursery, LKG and UKG (3 years). This enables the teacher to plan for long the term projects which develops as the child learns the appropriate concepts. The teachers are having multiple roles as a co-learner, collaborator, guide, mentor, researcher and nurturer. The success rate of RE inspired schools largely depends on the skill level and proficiency level of the teachers.
Environment as the third teacher. Children learns and grasps from their immediate environment. They learn through various activities, projects, question-answer sessions or interactive discussions with the teacher (facilitator) both inside and outside classroom. Field trip and exploring the nature is a core learning activity. Whatever they learn or discover it has to be documented. The documentation implies all teaching learning inputs or activity inputs like medias, photographs, pictures, videos, scrapbook, painting, drawing and other art and craft work. This RE methodology is a regular practice in most Indian preschools.
A preschool is a child's first social experience away from parents. We, the educationist knows that each child ask hundreds of probing questions every day in different life situations. It is the first social responsibility of the teachers as mentors to answer or inspire the students to draw answers while giving clues, which in turn triggered further curiosity and enthusiasm among the kinds. What we observe in Indian early child care education is that most schools often combine the elements of RE curriculum with other pedagogies like play way or multiple intelligence theory.
Dr. M. Ramachndran is Principal Doon International School, Srinagar