About Waldorf Pedagogy
The basis of Waldorf pedagogy is the study of the man – anthroposophy – developed by an Austrian-German scientist Rudolph Steiner. The free translation of the term refers to a man’s whole knowledge of himself (anthropos – human, sophia – wisdom in Greek). The source of Waldorf pedagogy is the conception of the man that studies the development of the thought, the feelings and the will in their entire relations during the whole life span.
As the practical output of the study, in 1919, a group of parents appraising anthroposophy founded the first school based on this novel pedagogy – Stuttgart Free Waldorf School. The school was housed on the premises given by the owner of the cigarette factory Waldorf-Astoria and the same man, Mr Emil Molt was also the financer of the school.
For its first teachers, R. Steiner organised a thorough seminar about the principles of the teaching and the syllabus.
The concepts “Waldorf pedagogy” and “Steiner pedagogy” indicate to the same pedagogy, whereas one refers to the location of the first school and the other to the founder of the pedagogy.
A Waldorf school has both similarities and differences when comparing to traditional schools. Waldorf school is a school of general education with 12 grade levels (egalitarian school). The formal aspirations of its schooling and education coincide with the ones of a traditional school. The main difference lies in the overall and subject-specific didactics and methods of educational activities. The traditional learning in the sense of acquiring knowledge and skills is considered as on part of growing and rearing. Steiner emphasised that by learning different subjects, one must understand the relation between the human and the world’s wholeness.
Looking deeper into Waldorf pedagogy is a time-consuming process, which gives a novel skill to observe and a creative relationship with didactics and methodology. Developing an independent observation skill creates a presupposition to understand the essence of Waldorf pedagogy in the everyday teaching life. R. Steiner reminded the teachers that being one requires the ability to live into the other person’s soul. Waldorf teachers are educated in seminars of Waldorf pedagogy all over the world.
Waldorf pedagogy can be wholly executed only in the social organisation of a school, where the school’s development is lead jointly by teachers and parents. The pedagogical development is supervised by the teachers’ council, and the financial development is managed by the parents’ initiative (the association).
A Waldorf school is the mental collective property of the people of the school and its well-being requires the delicate responsibility of all these people.
After World War II, the number of Waldorf schools started to grow rapidly. Currently, there are about 1000 Waldorf schools in 65 countries – in different cultural and social-political conditions. In addition to the schools, there are 60 teacher training centres and 1087 kindergartens. In 1980s, many Waldorf schools were founded in America, in 1990s, many in Eastern Europe.
In Estonia, basing on parents’ initiative the first Waldorf schools were founded in 1990 in Rosma village in Põlva County, in Tartu and in Tallinn. Currently, there are 6 kindergartens, 1 elementary, 4 basic and 1 secondary school, one therapeutic school and the Seminar of Waldorf Pedagogy.