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Waldorf education 100 years on: 1919–2019

| January 22, 2020 | 0 Comments


If you have visited the German city of Stuttgart, you will know that the city and the surrounds are a landscape of varying levels, due to the hills and troughs of the land.

It was on one of these hills, with a view into the far distance, that the first Waldorf School was established. One hundred years ago, the FreiWaldorfschule Uhlandshöhe came into being. But this impulse for the education of the individual child was not just going to be a German collective of schools, nor a European one, although there are many in Germany and Europe. No, this impulse was going to circumnavigate the

The first Waldorf School was a school that welcomed a diverse range of children, and this was the point. The coeducational school was the hope of a German factory owner, who wanted to offer the children of his workforce a meaningful place to be educated. Emil Molt, the factory owner, approached
Rudolf Steiner, an academic, researcher and visionary,1 to help him to establish this school and to prepare a curriculum to meet the developing child.

Who would have known that this significant collaboration, all those many years ago, would have been the seed of a worldwide approach to education, which has touched so many lives, inspired a myriad of ideas and attended to the healthy development of children in 73 countries?

Famous alumni and eager student-teachers

Waldorf Education is the largest independent education movement in the world. With more than 1 182 schools and 1 911 early childhood kindergartens, and many more coming into being, this future-orientated education approach is clearly an idea whose time has come.

Jens Stoltenberg, Norwegian politician and the 13th secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), movie star Sandra Bullock and biochemist Thomas Südhof (who, in 2013, won a Nobel Prize) are among the global Waldorf alumni who have been encouraged by an education
that offers an enquiry into the world and also invites an inquiry to know yourself.

Here, in South Africa, we have 16 schools that have contributed to an ever-growing number of students, as they begin to bring their gifts to bear in the South African context. Not only do Waldorf students excel in the arts, but increasingly in science, engineering, law and new forms of social and environmental initiatives. And the real joy in this story is the number of past students who are now training at the Centre for Creative Education, in Cape Town,2 to become Waldorf teachers themselves. So inspired are they with the enriching education they experienced, they want to make sure they can continue to teach in this manner going forward.

Why is Waldorf so wonderful?

What is at the crux of this education, which has been inspiring so many for 100 years? It is that children and students offer learning back from their actual personal abilities and not memory content proficiency? Waldorf students are selfinitiating individuals, aware of their contribution to the learning process as a whole.

It is the experience of the whole that all Waldorf students engage with through craftmanship and artistic activity, together with academic proficiency, until they are around the age of 17 or 18, with very little subject selection to narrow their learning experience. Then they bring their breadth of learning to fruition, and write their school-leaving certificate exams. This expansive view of the world, their peer learning and the
opportunity to consider their dynamic selves in their final year at a Waldorf school makes for exceptional education. During this year, Class 12, they perform a modern drama piece together and stand as individuals on a wide stage, presenting their Class 12 projects to a wider community. The key words that resonate from this work include adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive and resilience. They bow to
the applause and then they take that brave step into the world, more than often with deep gratitude.

From Stuttgart to South Africa and beyond

As educators, we can all learn from the incredible dedication it must have taken for the first vision of a Waldorf school, all those many years ago in Stuttgart, to take hold – to the moving stories we hear of Waldorf school initiatives taking root in poverty-challenged areas in Brazil,3 to a surprising emergence of schools in China and our endurance here in South Africa
and many other places in the world. A mention must be made of the parents and their voluntary investment in the Waldorf movement.

There is something in this collaborative story that offers a true picture of striving to work together for the children of the world.


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Category: Summer 2019

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News posts added for Independent Education by Global Latitude DMA

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