Views on Waldorf Education

By Madhurie Singh, March 16, 2018

A parent asked me to review Waldorf education a few weeks back and I realized it was written but never posted! What a shame! So I am posting some details about the same.

As you know Steiner Waldorf an Austrian is the founder of Anthroposophy. Anthropo = Human + Sophia = Knowledge. His philosophy is that there is a deep spiritual meaning of human existence through inner development. Sounds familiar? It ought to be if you are an Indian parent. India was and of late having an increasing surge of spiritualism all around.

Anthroposophy aims to develop faculties of perceptive imagination, inspiration and intuition through the cultivation of a form of thinking independent of sensory experience, and to present the results thus derived in a manner subject to rational verification by scientific methods. Anthroposophy aims to attain in its study of spiritual experience the precision and clarity attained by the natural sciences in their investigations of the physical world. 

Waldrof Education is thus based on Anthroposophical ideas.

Michael Shermer has termed anthroposophy’s application to be pseudoscience; on the other, anthroposophy has been termed “the most important esoteric society in European history”.

The first Waldorf school started in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. Today there are more than 1000 Waldorf schools across 60 countries. Majority are private schools.

Sixteen of the schools have been affiliated with the United Nations’ UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network. Waldorf schools receive full or partial governmental funding in some European nations, Australia and in parts of the United States (as Waldorf method public or charter schools) and Canada.

The schools have been founded in a variety of communities: for example in the favelas of São Paulo to wealthy suburbs of major cities; in India, Egypt, Australia, the Netherlands, Mexico and South Africa. Though most of the early Waldorf schools were teacher-founded, the schools today are usually initiated and later supported by a parent community. Waldorf schools are among the most visible anthroposophical institutions.

Pedagogy in Waldorf Education emphasizes the role of imagination in learning, striving to integrate the intellectual, practical, and artistic development of pupils.

Holism is the idea that systems and their properties should be viewed as wholes, not just as a collection of parts.

Education in olden times in India was Holistic and would make a student understand each topic by emphasizing on its intellectual, physical, spiritual and emotional aspect.

While other boards like CBSE, ICSE, State emphasize on the intellectual and physical aspects only, Waldorf Education aims to inspect things intellectually, physically, spiritually and emotionally too.

Gurukul system in India, Uchi-deshi  in Japan,  divided the learning into age-based stages.

Steiner’s child development is divided into three major stages.

  1. Early childhood education, which focuses on practical, hands-on activities and creative play. 
  2. Elementary education, which focuses on developing artistic expression and social capacities.
  3. Secondary education, which focuses on developing critical reasoning and empathic understanding. 

Their goal is to develop free, morally responsible, and integrated individuals equipped with a high degree of social competence. Though CBSE, ICSE, State board may have a moral science or value education to provide the same, the approach does not justify.

Assessments are an important part of learning stages. While a teacher can assess her teaching abilities while imparting education, students too get to understand the lacunae.

In Waldorf Schools, Qualitative assessments of student work are integrated into the daily life of the classroom. Quantitative testing is nearly nill in primary education. Standardized testing usually limited to that required for college entry. Individual teachers and schools have a great deal of autonomy in determining curriculum content, teaching methodology, and governance. It may be good with great teachers but I wonder the other way round.

You can read more about Walrdorf here:

There has been some controversy over Steiner’s belief of some race are better than others and bullying.


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