Waldorf Education – The Beginning
To understand Waldorf education, it is important to understand, how it all started. I have written a very brief account of how the first Waldorf school was opened in 1919.
Emil Molt was one of those dynamic and active people in Post First World War Germany who wanted to implement sustainable social development projects. He was the owner of Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart and was already running an educational program for its workers. He was looking for someone who can offer more than an ordinary educational program for the children of these workers. Being the student of Rudolf Steiner and a follower of his school of thought, Molt invited him to lead his school.
Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian writer and philosopher who believed that to understand the workings of the universe, individuals must first understand humanity, accepted his offer. Steiner’s educational ideas were based on the concept that there are three fundamental stages of child development, thinking-feeling-willing, and each stage’s needs are addressed separately in the Waldorf Education paradigm.
The school in Stuttgart started classes in September 1919 with 256 students and 12 teachers in 8 classes. Students from all walks of life attended this co-educational school, which also served 65 children from outside the factory. In addition, it was the first school in Germany, serve children of all genders, abilities, and socioeconomic strata. Most of the children in the school were malnourished due to war. Even afterward when the school started working independently from the factory, Molt made sure that the finances of at least the children of the factory workers are provided by the factory.
In 1922, Steiner spoke about his educational philosophies during a conference at Oxford University. From here, his view became more well-known and appreciated by a wider audience. Despite going through its own ups and downs in the first few years and especially during Second World War, the movement was sustained. It expanded the most in the 60s when the youth started looking for more than material and professional growth. Then again in the late 80s, after the Soviet Union collapsed. This was again the period when parents started looking for a child-centered education system that focus more on the growth of the child as an individual rather than their achievements and their performance in the assessments and the class.
There are now more than 1200 schools and 2000 independently running early childhood kindergartens or similar settings worldwide. Steiner or Waldorf schools can now be found all over Europe, North and South America, and increasingly in Australasia, Africa and Asia, as they are learning to adapt the educational philosophy according to their local religions and cultures.
Photo Credits: 1919 Lectures Information (iwaldorf.net)