How did Waldorf education get started?
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany.
As a result, the factory’s owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory’s employees. Steiner agreed to do so on four conditions:
– the school should be open to all children;
– it should be coeducational;
– it should be a unified twelve-year school; and that
– the teachers, those who would be working directly with the children, should take the leading role in the running of the school, with a minimum of interference from governmental or economic concerns.
Molt agreed to the conditions and die Freie Waldorfschule (the Free Waldorf School) was opened on September 7, 1919.*
Who was Rudolf Steiner?
Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and well published scientific, literary and philosophical scholar who was particularly known for his work on Goethe’s scientific writings.
His background in history and civilizations coupled with his observation in life gave the world the gift of Waldorf Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.
Consistent with his philosophy called anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children’s imaginations. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.*
- Steiner schools form the largest group of independent non-denominational private schools in the world. They thrive on every continent, in every culture and within a wide range of ethnic contexts, including US, UK, Russia, Germany, Israel, Egypt, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Taiwan, Japan, Brazil, China etc.
- Rudolf Steiner (or Waldorf) education is the fastest growing education movement in the world.
- The first school opened in Germany in 1919, the first in the UK in 1925.
- There are currently over 1,200 Steiner schools worldwide and 2,000 Early Years settings in over 60 different countries.