Steiner (Waldorf) education is a unique approach to learning and child development that is based on the educational philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, a prominent scientist and philosopher who was active in a number of social fields early in the twentieth century. This form of education has become the largest independent educational movement in the world.
The first Waldorf School was founded in 1919 and there are now more than 1000 Rudolf Steiner schools worldwide (1063 as at Feb 2016), and over 2000 kindergartens. Each school differs according to the culture and character of their local communities. However, each school shares a reverence for childhood and accepts the challenge of delivering a broad curriculm in a holistic framework. Each school aims to help children grow into adults who can stand in the world with freedom, fulfilling their own individual potential as a human being.
Waldorf schools work with an understanding of the evolving human being and seek to educate the hands and the heart, as well as the head. Steiner recognised that the growing child passes through three major developmental stages on the journey to adulthood. Specific forces are at work in each phase and different capacities develop as the child grows into his/her body.
During the first 6 or 7 years the child is primarily a being of will; he/she learns through doing. Children at this age have an amazing capacity for imitation and need to learn through hands-on experiences and through watching others. Steiner observed a major transition at around the age of 7, when children begin to lose their baby teeth. Children at this age become ready to use their forces of memory in order to learn in a more structured environment. The third stage begins with adolescence, when a capacity for critical judgement begins to develop. This is the time to foster a regard for different perspectives and to develop the young person’s need for moral action.
Rather than pushing primary school children into intellectual modes of thinking from a young age, the Steiner curriculum celebrates number and language through imaginative stories, living pictures and artistic impressions. The beauty of the Steiner curriculum is that it delivers the right stimulus at the developmentally appropriate time for the child, engaging their natural enthusiasm and fostering a genuine love of learning.
Please read Description of Main Characteristics of Waldorf Education written and approved at the International Forum of Waldorf/Steiner Schools (Hague Circle) in November 2009.
If you are interested in scientific research conducted on Steiner Education, visit RoSE (Research on Steiner Education) website.
This YouTube link takes you to a talk about Waldorf Education given by David Blair of Shining Mountain Waldorf School. David captures the essence of Steiner education in straightforward language.
This video was made for the Steiner Fellowship in the UK. It explains some of the philosophies behind the educational approaches of Rudolf Steiner Schools.