Reggio Emilia, Italy

A Living Laboratory of Lifelong Education

A medium-sized city in the northern Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, Reggio Emilia’s population of 170,000 is among the fastest-growing of all European cities. It’s small wonder, given more than 15 percent of the town’s municipal budget is earmarked for support of the more than 80 early childhood services that thrive there. Within these services are more than 30 municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools. As public education, all children in the municipality have access to this inspired way of viewing the rights, potential, and lives of children, regardless of ability to pay.

Ask early childhood education professionals anywhere on the globe to describe the contributions of Reggio Emilia to their field, and you’ll hear about what can be achieved when a community gives credit to young children and views them as citizens with full rights, the accessibility of excellent early education to all citizens; the low turnover of teachers and the reinvestment of talent via engaged retired mentor-educators; the “never finished” attitude of the approach, one that highly values ongoing research and experimentation; and the uniquely productive relationship between schools, families, and the community. But they would absolutely describe the richness of the Reggio experience for children and the obvious examples of children’s bottomless capacity for insight, complex thought, problem-solving, learning, peer relationship building, expression, and joy.

Foundational principles taken from “Indications,” a 2010 publication of the municipality of Reggio Emilia, Italy.

  • Education is a right of all children
  • Children are active protagonists of their growth and development processes
  • Children have a hundred languages
  • Participation is the value and the strategy that defines the way in which the children, the educators, and the parents are stakeholders in the educational project
  • Listening is vital in participated education
  • Learning is both an individual and group process and construct
  • Educational research represents one of the essential dimensions of life of children and adults alike
  • Educational documentation is an integral and structuring part of the educational theories and teaching practices
  • Progettazione is the method by which educational action takes shape and not a means of applying predefined curricula
  • Organization of the work, spaces, and the time of the children and the adults is a structural part of the values and choices of the educational project
  • Environment, spaces, and relations are integral parts of the Reggio philosophy
  • Professional development is a process that takes place individually and system-wide.
  • Assessment is a structuring process of the educational and administrative experience.

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