Relationship with mainstream education
A UK DfES report suggested that Waldorf and state schools could learn from each other’s strengths: in particular, that state schools could benefit from Waldorf education’s early introduction and approach to modern foreign languages; combination of block (class) and subject teaching for younger children; development of speaking and listening through an emphasis on oral work; good pacing of lessons through an emphasis on rhythm; emphasis on child development guiding the curriculum and examinations; approach to art and creativity; attention given to teachers’ reflective activity and heightened awareness (in collective child study for example); and collegial structure of leadership and management, including collegial study. Aspects of mainstream practice which could inform good practice in Waldorf schools included: management skills and ways of improving organizational and administrative efficiency; classroom management; work with secondary-school age children; and assessment and record keeping.
American state and private schools are drawing on Waldorf education – “less in whole than in part” – in expanding numbers. Professor of Education Elliot Eisner sees Waldorf education exemplifying embodied learning and fostering a more balanced educational approach than American public schools achieve. Ernest Boyer, former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching commended the significant role the arts play throughout Waldorf education as a model for other schools to follow. Waldorf schools have been described as establishing “genuine community” and contrasted to mainstream schools, which have been described as “residential areas partitioned by bureaucratic authorities for educational purposes”
Many elements of Waldorf pedagogy have been used in all Finnish schools for many years.
Ashley described seven principal ways Waldorf education differed from mainstream approaches: its method of working from the whole to the parts, its attentiveness to child development, its goal of freedom, the deep relationships of teachers to students, the emphasis on experiencing oral traditions, the role of ritual and routine (e.g. welcoming students with a handshake, the use of opening and closing verses, and yearly festivals), the role arts and creativity play, and the Goetheanistic approach to science.
For more details on this topic see Waldorf Education.