The Beginning of the Revolution: How did it all begin?

LORIS MALAGUZZI: THE STORY BEHIND THE REGGIO EMILIA APPROACH: Loris Malaguzzi was born in Correggio, Italy in 1920 and grew up in an environment that was badly affected by the consequences of World War II. In 1939, Malaguzzi decided to enroll in a teacher training course after being encouraged by his father. During the war he studied pedagogy at the University of Urbino and psychology at the Italian National Research Center in Rome. He was also involved in teaching primary and secondary schools in the city of Reggio Emilia at the same time.

A few days after the end of World War 2, a group of women in the town decided to build a school to ensure education for their children so that the next generation would not suffer any form of injustice. They sold two military trucks, nine horses and an abandoned German tank to build the school. Soon the rumors spread throughout the country, and Malaguzzi, intrigued by the news, rode into town to find out the truth. After speaking with the mothers, Malaguzzi was greatly influenced and decided to stay back and help them in their mission to reconstruct the city.

In the words of Loris Malaguzzi: “It was the first victory for women after the war, because the decision was up to them. Men may have used the money differently.”

The early days were difficult and parents contributed everything they could to ensure that the school survived against the odds. The following two decades saw the spread of the Reggio Emilia philosophy throughout the country and many new schools were founded. In 1963, the first chain of urban kindergartens was founded and Loris Malaguzzi was appointed director. Until his retirement in 1985, Malaguzzi was deeply committed to his cause and continued to expand the network of preschools along with infant and toddler centers. The Reggio Emilia approach still reflects the promise he made to mothers when they first asked him to teach their children: “I will learn as I go, and the children will learn everything I learn as I work with them.”

From Italy to Malaysia: How did Odyssey, The Global Preschool come about?

Founded in 2008 in Singapore, Odyssey was the brainchild of Ms. June Rusdon, CEO of Busy Bees Asia. At the time, there were very few pre-school programs in Singapore that focused on children’s innate curiosity, differentiated learning, creative expression and character development.

In 2007, the team went to Reggio Emilia, where Loris Malaguzzi was inspired to make a difference, studying the approach and bringing the best practices they had experienced there. These inspirations from Reggio have been incorporated into local expectations of early childhood education in Singapore. This formed the basis of Odyssey’s philosophy and pedagogy, becoming a preschool that makes a difference in children’s lives.

Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia approach, believed that every child is powerful and can have a hundred different ways of learning, discovering and thinking. This means that they can express their understanding, curiosity and thoughts in many different ways or “hundred languages”. Odyssey’s ethos of ‘Learning Without Borders’ encompasses what parents in Singapore and Malaysia are looking for in early childhood education.

This approach is a balanced combination of play, skills and interactions based on a set of learning objectives for each level of children from 18 months to 6 years. The innovative curriculum evolves and adapts to the interests sparked by children’s responses while meeting the expectations of formal school readiness.


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By Sumit

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