What is Waldorf Education?
The first Waldorf School
It was founded in Stuttgart in 1919 by Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and was the first school to put the principle social justice in education into practice. Young people are educated together, irrespective of social background, abilities and vocation. The Waldorf school wasthe first comprehensive school to replace the principle of selection by a pedagogy of encouragement and support.
Repeating a year is not an option
All students go through 12 school years; the whole curriculum of Waldorf schools is based on the development needs of the pupil, taking their emotional, intellectual and personal abilities and needs into account. The curriculum is integrated, inter-disciplinary and artistic. Thus imagination and creativity which are most important for the individual as well as for society are awakened and developed.
Arts and Crafts
All kinds of crafts stimulate a differentiated development of the will and a practical orientation of the student towards life.
Education of the imagination
During the school years when the students develop their own power of judgement imaginative education is an important principle of education. Facts are dealt with in a way that enables the student to understand and see them on the basis of their laws and characteristics as living images that are based on experience.
The scientific character of many subjects from the 9th to the 12th grade is seen in close connection with the pursuit of individuality and the increasing power of judgement which start to develop around the age of fourteen. Waldorf schools understand their educational task not as pre-university-education but they want to teach young people in a way that has something to do with their needs and which can lead them to find answers to their questions.
The method of teaching in blocks enables the teaching to be economic. It is applied to subjects such as the mother tongue History, mathematics, natural sciences etc. Subjects which need to be practiced continuously like arts and foreign languages are taught in subject lessons – the latest development being that some Waldorf schools have switched over to block teaching even in those subjects.
School reports and final exams
The Waldorf system does not need the principle of selection. It has also developed a completely new system of school reports. They consist mainly in detailed characterizations which are meant to bring transparency into school achievements, progress, capability and efforts made in the individual subjects. The students are able to sit all the available levels of school graduation exams, the results of which are above the national average.
The Waldorf schools have replaced the hierarchically organised administration of state schools by a free constitution of their own in which parents and teachers work together. Pedagogical management and control are carried out through the weekly conference of teachers in which all teachers have equal rights. The common basis is understanding of the developing human being seen from an anthroposophical perspective.
Despite worldwide recognition and despite equality under constitutional law there is constant need of political and administrative endeavours and efforts in order to finance Waldorf schools. In Germany they are supported by government grants which, however, cover only partly the running costs. Contributions paid by the parents are graded according to incomes.