Education is a Political Act

Education is a Political Act

In April Kasie spent a week in Reggio Emilia Italy, participating in an international study tour with "Reggio Children" learning more about how the Municipality of Reggio Emilia run their early childhood services. 

Reggio Emilia services are world renowned for their organisational practices and social justice values. Every year hundreds of people come from all over the world to observe and learn what they do so well. I first learnt about their reputation and practices at university and have wanted to visit for over 10 years. This year I was fortunate enough to be one of 400 people from over 58 counties in the group. Out of the 65 participants in our Australian group, hosted by "Reggio Emilia Australia Information Exchange", most of the Australian participants were from independent primary schools who have early learning centres on premises.

With everything that was shared with us this week, it can’t be ignored that this was another example of how other countries can do things extremely well without all the rules and regulations that our nanny state (Australia) imposes on us, not just in the early childhood sector, of course, but nation wide.

The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education originated after World War II, through collaboration between early childhood educator and psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages surrounding Reggio Emilia, Italy. The early childhood services were born to support the community through a difficult financial and political time.

The Reggio Emilia approach is built on social justice, and the premise that all children are competent and capable people with rights, thereby the experiences they engage in should challenge them to think for themselves, research and discover, based on their competency, not on an age group milestone. The teachers engage in robust and collaborative documentation to develop the children - particularly from a holistic viewpoint. Not just about academics, but largely about the arts.

And it’s not just the early childhood services job to respect the children, the Mayor of Reggio Emilia says they shape society starting with the children. They value education from the beginning. Consequently they believe children are educated by everyone in the community, not just teachers, thus raising children with a more holistic, social and community approach. The child’s environment is their third teacher. The services in the municipality not only aim to offer a high quality education service, but to build a culture of education as a whole.

What our Australian society needs to embrace is the importance of education. Early childhood education is not baby sitting. Early Childhood services are vital early education, not daycare. Education is a right that starts at birth and children deserve the right for that education.

Education is a political act because it plays a critical role in either maintaining or challenging the status quo. By determining what is taught and how it is delivered, educational systems can either promote equity and critical thinking or reinforce existing inequalities and ideologies.