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'A New Revolution'

April 18, 2019 2:18 P.M. (Updated: April 18, 2019 2:19 P.M.)
By: Doaa Shamroukh
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) --  "Miss Ikram, let's make a measuring tape for our class," a six-year-old schoolgirl tells her teacher - she thinks of producing a tape to measure things in her class. 

This conversation took place during an educational experience at Tal al-Rabee school, in the village of Husan (south of Bethlehem) where we interviewed Mrs. Ikram, a teacher at the kindergarten. 

The school of Tal a-Rabee has been one of the pilot schools chosen by the Palestinian Ministry of Education to be involved in the AEPIC project (Alliance for an Inclusive & Qualitative Early Childhood Education in West Bank), implemented by RTM non-governmental organization in Palestine. During the 3-year long project, the school, the teachers and the children experienced a change in the educational process, getting a first-hand knowledge about Reggio Emilia Approach to Education, which is an educational philosophy born and developed in municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia (Italy) and which also inspired RTM projects in the Early Childhood Education sector in Palestine that received financial support from the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).

About this and about the teacher's experience of change, we talked during the interview.

Mrs. Ikram, could you tell us about your exchange of experience with Reggio Emilia?

Infant-toddler centers and preschools Reggio Emilia were able to develop a child-centered approach, allowing children to express their thoughts and giving their ideas the chance to be heard and transformed into reality through their own experiences. This approach is also based on the idea of learning through interaction with the outside spaces. Children are also given the chance to share their experiences through painting and to explore the different opportunities provided by the learning spaces. 
 

The traditional learning limits the children's thinking, while, I have understood, how important it is to open their minds and familiarize them with research, creating new ideas, looking for information, and creativity. Following the exchange with Reggio Emilia preschools, we now teach children letters and numbers indirectly through experiences and by allowing them to use different languages to express themselves. 

It is important to help the children maintaining their own ideas through listening to them and trusting them as sources of information with their own knowledge, world, and education which teachers can benefit from. This also helps children to discuss, negotiate and work together. 
 

What changes have you experienced in the teaching-learning process?

In the past, I used to schedule what I should teach children every day, but overtime everything has changed and now we start the day with open discussion letting the students express themselves and tell their ideas which we listen to and discuss with them to help transform those ideas into reality through their own experiences.

How did parents react to these changes?

Parents appreciated the changes because they had the chance to live together with their children noticing also a positive impact on their children's personalities like being able to express themselves, to become problem-solvers and decision makers.

How do children explore and live the different learning spaces you developed?

Children get along at learning spaces according to their different affinities. They engage in discussions and dialogues until they reach agreement. We also rely on natural, formal and non-formal materials for learning spaces.

Which kind of difficulties have you faced in changing your approach to education?

Meeting the educational experience of Reggio Emilia was a paradigm shift as it was different from the approach we used.

I have been trying to use and develop all the knowledge and skills I have learned, and in case of any difficulties, I seek follow up from RTM to keep developing my skills. The current generation learns fast and develops fast and learning should keep pace with that.

However, with practice and experience everything becomes easy.

How do you document the learning process of children?

We document in different ways including taking photos of the children during classes, taking notes of the experienced they suggest, and painting.

What are the most interesting experiences you developed with children? 

For instance, we had an experience about our village Husan, and the students unanimously agreed on the concept of "grandfather's home". Children expressed their grandfather's home through painting. One child drew two separate paintings of his own home and his grandfather's home with two children in each painting. "My brother Ahmad and I at our home and at our grandfather's home”, he explained.

On another occasion, we implemented an educational project about autumn and how leaves fall. When children went out to see the falling leaves in the garden, they started to measure the leaves. "This leaf is as long as my finger," one of them said. Another said "this plant is as tall as me”. A third said "this plant is too long to measure by fingers, and I saw my father measuring by span of the hand”. They finally concluded that a measuring tape should be used, and they designed their own measuring tape for the kindergarten. 

How will you continue your change?

I acquired a lot of experiences and knowledge through training and exchanges for three years, and I will do my best to share my experiences with other teachers so as to encourage developing a new perspective on the learning process for both teachers and children.

Can you describe your experience in one word?

A new revolution.

The school of Tal al-Rabee in Husan and the teacher Ikram are currently involved in the new RTM-run Project called “PACE- Partnership for a new Approach to Early Childhood Education”. PACE commits to provide a holistic support to the early childhood education sector in West Bank. It is implemented by RTM in collaboration with the following partners and entities:

- Palestinian Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE;

- Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem;

- Greek-Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem;

- Greek-Catholic Patriarchate of Jerusalem;

- IBDA’A Cultural Centre of Dheisheh Refugee Camp- Bethlehem;

- Municipality of Reggio Emilia – Institution for preschools and infant-toddler centers;

- Reggio Children Foundation – International Centre Loris Malaguzzi;

- Reggio Children Srl.

- Al- Quds University

PACE is funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS).

This publication “A New Revolution” has been funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation within the Project P.A.C.E. AID 011.424

  
The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflects the views or policies of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. 

The Italian Agency for Development Cooperation is not responsible for any inaccurate or libelous information, or for the erroneous use of information. 
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