First Horouf Reggio Education Conference Sharjah
A host of experts discuss the famous alternative approach to schooling
Teachers and education professionals from across the UAE are attending a three-day conference in Sharjah, dedicated to exploring an expression-based learning approach. The first ever ‘Horouf Reggio Conference’ is being organized 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 was attended by HE Marwan Ahmad Al Sawaleh, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Education (MoE) for Academic Affairs; HE Ali Ahmed Yaqoob Al Hosani, Secretary-General of the Sharjah Education Council (MEC); HE Mohammed Abdullah, CEO of Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB); HE Mohammed Khalaf, Director General of Sharjah Media Corporation (SMC); HE Tariq Saeed Allay, Director of the Sharjah Government Media Bureau (SGMB); Ayda Armali, Director of the Bank of Sharjah; Mohammed Ahmed Ameen, Assistant Director General of Communications and Business Sector at Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI); Michael Guzder, Vice President of GEMS Education; Claudia Giudici, President of Reggio Children; Dr. Rana Tamim, Acting Dean at the College of Education at Zayed University; Nitin Anand, COEC of Skyline University College; Eman bin Shuhail, Eman bin Shuhail, from Sharjah Cooperative Society (SCS); Majd Al Shehhi, Director of 1001 Titles initiative; and Ahd bin Jrais, from Knowledge without Borders (KwB).
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 civilization 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 emphasized 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, HE 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 His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council 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 recognized in more than 140 countries. In all these years we have understood that changing the lives of children means changing our own lives, generating well-being and quality of life for the whole of society.”
A specialized 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.
At the end of the inaugural day, Kalimat Group CEO awarded the conference Strategic partners, the UAE Ministry of Education and the Sharjah Education Council, the Official Sponsor, Sharjah Islamic Bank, GEMS Education Group, Zayed University and Skyline University College for Educational Sponsorship, the ‘1001 Titles’ initiative and Knowledge without Borders for sponsoring Atelier (the workshop), Sharjah Media Corporation and Sharjah Government Media Bureau for Media Sponsorship, Al Qasba as the Venue Sponsor, and other sponsors of the conference: the Bank of Sharjah, Sharjah Cooperative Society and Sharjah Chamber of Commerce.
Established in 2013, Horouf, an imprint of the Sharjah-based Kalimat Group aims to create contemporary and innovative educational methods for children in Arabic. Its portfolio has numerous print and digital works, in addition to interactive applications. Prior to its official launch, Horouf worked on research projects with 30 schools in Sharjah to explore, develop and understand best practices in educational publishing, and children’s development.