First Horouf Reggio Education Conference discusses alternative approaches to schooling

DUBAI,Teachers and education professionals from across the UAE are attending a three-day conference in Sharjah beginning Tuesday, dedicated to exploring an expression-based learning approach. The first ever ‘Horouf Reggio Conference’ is being organised jointly by Horouf, a subsidiary of Kalimat Group, and the Italian Reggio Children Centre.

The conference began in the presence of Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, at Sharjah’s Multaqa Al Qasba. It aims to help teachers and education experts rethink traditional concepts of learning that prevail at schools, and draw their attention to the importance of making the most of children’s potential and their inherent expressive language.

The conference focusses on the ‘Reggio Emilia Approach’ to education and addresses its innovative teaching systems which move away from traditional subjects and curricula, with the belief that youngsters learn the basics of mathematics and language through play, interaction and dialogue during their daily activities.

Shaikha Bodour said: “Education is the foundation of civilisation and cannot advance without a system that adapts to creativity and innovation, providing students with knowledge that will help them contribute to building their countries and communities.”

Sheikha Bodour emphasised that the ‘Reggio Emilia’ approach focusses on individual creativity, skills and capabilities, and enhances children’s confidence to express their ideas. “This aligns with the development process that UAE schools seek to achieve in the future, replacing traditional approaches. In doing so, we will ensure that younger generations are able to progress in all disciplines that the UAE will benefit from most in the future, and motivate them to study the innovation that a progressive world requires,” she added.

For his part, Marwan Ahmad Al Sawaleh, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Education for Academic Affairs, said: “Enlightened thinking in the Emirate of Sharjah reflects its exceptional confidence in terms of culture and knowledge. Under the vision of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the emirate is promoting the importance of education in building the future. His Highness has always seen education as the cornerstone of great culture.

“The Reggio Emilia Approach is relevant to all teachers and education experts in nurturing children’s knowledge in a modern way. The focus on early childhood is essential which is why it is crucial to develop alternative education for the future.”

Ali Ahmed Yaqoob Al Hosani, Secretary-General of the Sharjah Education Council, reaffirmed that the UAE is adopting and developing new educational projects to build a knowledge-based society with balanced and well-educated youngsters.

“This requires all educational institutions and entities in the UAE to expand their efforts and take advantage of global expertise. The Reggio Approach is an extremely valuable asset that will undoubtedly benefit future generations” he said.

“When we look at the realities of early childhood education, we feel that there is a gap that we must do something about as soon as possible. In keeping with our dedication to bridging this gap, we have developed all fields of education in Sharjah. Exchanging expertise is essential in progress and by sending UAE education delegations to explore the success of other countries, we can further improve our services,” Al Hosani added.

Claudia Giudici, President of Reggio Children, told the delegates: “My colleagues and I sincerely appreciate the depth of Sharjah’s welcome, and have had the privilege of meeting and knowing your culture, which has ancient roots but projects far into the future. This has allowed us to increase our respect and gratitude for your research into quality in the early years of education.

“Over the next few days we will share with you the values and the experiences of the Reggio Emilia Approach to education, which is more than fifty years old and is recognised in more than 140 countries. In all these years we have understood that changing the lives of children means changing our own lives, generating wellbeing and quality of life for the whole of society.”

A specialised workshop will be held during the conference which aims to give teachers and educators insights into the relationship between students, arts and words through drawing and writing. The workshop will also enhance communication to enable teachers to discover children’s patterns of thinking, and how to enhance the educational process.

Source: Emirates News Agency