Waldorf education ...

... places the child at the centre of all educative efforts. It enquires into the gifts and potential available in each child, and tries to nurture and develop these. It tries to help the child unfold his or her full potential, to care for children in the community context in which they grow up, and to prepare them for the tasks facing them in the modern age.

History of Waldorf education

Developments after 1921

<p">Because of the growing number of pupils at the school in Stuttgart, the foundation stone for the construction of a new school building on the same grounds was laid in December 1922. Since 1920, the concept of the school had been changed in as much as it no longer catered predominately for children of the workers in the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. Also the teachers were no longer employees of the company Waldorf-Astoria, instead an association called “Verein Freie Waldorfschule“ was founded on the 19th May 1920 and was from then on responsible for the employment of teachers the financing of the school and any legal matters.

This association was then renamed „Verein für ein freies Schulwesen“ in September 1922, and thereby the school made itself increasingly independent of the factory and also took on the responsibility for the founding of more schools on the same model. The chairmen of this association were Rudolf Steiner (unitl 1925), Albert Steffen (until Mai 1934), Emil Molt (until June 1936), Emil Kühn (until its dissolution in May 1940). In 1923 an advisory board was added (Paul Baumann, Herbert Hahn, Erich Schwebsch). All educational decisions and the immediate matters of the school were discussed and made by the college of teachers together. The teachers themselves were responsible for how the teaching was undertaken. This form of self-administration Steiner called republican-democratic. Compared with 1919, in 1924 had proportionally 4 times as many teachers (47) with 784 pupils in 23 classes, the upper school was fully developed, parallel classes were added.

A school doctor was present among the college of teachers and conducted lessons (from 1920, Eugen Kolisko), a remedial class for children with learning difficulties and special needs (from 1920, Karl Schubert) and the first Waldorf kindergarten (begun 1920, opened 1926, Elisabeth von Grunelius) were added. The college of teachers, in addition to those already mentioned, included: Ernst Bindel, Fritz von Bothmer, Karl Ege, Erich Gabert, Ernst Lehrs, Maria Röschl, Konrad Sandkühler, Alexander Strakosch, Martin Tittman, Ernst Uehli, Max Wolffhügel.

The growing nationwide and international interest in Rudolf Steiner’s educational philosophy in different countries brought the founding of schools on the following places in the next years:

  • 1921 in Köln („Neuwacht-Schule“, until 1925, Wilhelm Goyert, Gottfried Husemann, Walter Birkigt)
  • 1922 in Hamburg-Wandsbek (Max Kändler, Heinz Müller, Friedrich Kübler) and Essen (until 1936, René Maikowski)
  • 1923 in Den Haag (Daniel van Bemmelen, Hélène Droogleever Fortuyn-Bruinier, Max Stibbe, Elisabeth Mulder-Seelig)
  • 1925 in London („The New School“, later „Michael Hall School“, Margaret Bennell, Margaret Cross, Cecil Harwood, Francis Edmunds, William Mann, Helen Fox)
  • 1926 in Basel (Friedrich Widmer, Marie Widmer, Emma Ramser), Budapest (existiert bis 1933, Maria von Nagy, Carl Brestowsky), Hannover (Mathilde Hoyer, Karl Rittersbacher), Kings Langley (GB, Violetta Plincke), Lisbon (only briefly René Maikowski) and Oslo (until 1936, Signe Roll-Wikberg, Curt Englert-Faye)
  • 1927 in Vienna (Gusti Bretter, Hannah Krämer-Steiner, Ilse Rascher-Bode, Adelheid Fleischhacker) and Zürich (Curt Englert-Faye, Johannes Waeger, Max Schenk, Marguerite Lobeck, Anna Elisabeth Englert-Faye)
  • 1928 in New York (Arvia Mckaye-Ege) and Berlin
  • 1929 in Bergen (Borghild Thunold, Dan Lindholm, Ernst Sørensen, Nils Hertzberg) and Dresden (Elisabeth Klein)
  • 1930 in Breslau, Hamburg-Altona (Paula Dieterich, Julius Solti) and Kassel.

Apart from these are the „Friedwart-Schule“, Dornach 1921, a school for further education for the young from 14 upwards, as the legal situation in Switzerland didn’t allow for primary education (Ernst Blümel, Louise van Blommestein, Marie Groddeck, Hilde Boos-Hamburger, Hermann Linde). As a boarding it existed until the 1950s. When 9 further schools were founded (by 1933)

The schools in Essen, Köln, Lisbon und Budapest by then no longer existed. So 14 years after the founding of the first school in 1919 there were 17 Waldorf Schools with 3.200 pupils, of which 8 were in Germany.

From 1934 admissions were legally prohibited in the German schools, because ‘the lessons and the education of the Waldorf School were not in line with Nazi principles and it couldn’t be expected that the teachers would be able to acknowledge Nazi principles with conviction. (Werner 1999, S. 107 f.), between 1936 und 1941 all the German schools were either forcibly shut down or chose to close themselves. After the annexation of Austria in 1936 the closing of the school in Vienna of the school in Den Hague followed.

With the immigration of teachers to Switzerland the USA and England, new schools were founded there, while other teachers waited during the Nazi times, for the opportunity to reopen the schools once the political situation had changed. By mid-October 1945 the schools in Hamburg-Wandsbek, Hannover und Stuttgart, were able to start lessons again because of this, and three new schools were founded in Stuttgart/Engelberg, in Marburg und in Tübingen. In 1951 there were alreadt 24 schools in Germany and many more parents and supporter groups willing to found schools, but not enough trained teachers which resulted in a prohibition on school founding from the Association of Waldorf Schools in Germany, so that until the end of the 1960s only a few schools were added in Germany. (Wilhelm-Ernst Barkhoff)

By 1955 there were 4 further schools founded in the UK, in Switzerland and the USA respectively, 2 schools in Denmark and France each, and a school each in Finland Sweden, Italy Argentina and Brazil. So that by the 1950s there were 62 schools worldwide, out of which 53 were in Europe and 9 in America. At the end of the 1960s a second wave of school founding began, which couldn’t be stopped by the prohibition. By 1975 the worldwide number of schools doubled to 113, by 1992 567 schools, by 2000 877 schools, 178 in Germany.

These developments have brought with them manifold differentiations: depending on cultural, religious and regional contexts, distinct modules and teaching plans have come into being, for example with emphasis on holistic apprenticeship (Hibernia-School in Herne, Waldorfschule Kassel), Waldorf teaching methods in state schools (The Independent Educational Union), but also educational work with young offenders, boarding schools, educational cultural work in slums, minority integration schools, curative schools and special schools and many others from this new educational direction (overview and statistic in: Freunde der Erziehungskunst, 2001).