1. Who was Rudolf Steiner?
2. What is Steiner education?
3. How did Steiner Schools start?
4. What is unique about Steiner education? How is it different from other alternatives schools?
5. Why should I send my child to a Steiner school?
6. What is the curriculum at a Steiner school like?
7. How many Steiner schools are there worldwide?
8. What are the long term aims for the child in Steiner's education philosophy?
9. Does Steiner Education prepare children for the "real" world; and, if so, how does it do it?
10. What about competition in a Steiner School?
11. What about discipline?
12. Why do Steiner students stay with the same teacher for 7 years?
13. What if my child does not get along with the teacher?
14. How can a Steiner class teacher teach all the subjects through the seven years of elementary schooling?
15. Why do Steiner schools teach reading so late?
16. Why do Steiner Schools discourage TV, videos, and electronic media for young children?
17. Why is so much emphasis put on festivals and ceremonies?
18. Would a child be at a disadvantage if he were transferred from a regular school into a Steiner school, or out of a Steiner school into a regular school?
19. How well do Steiner graduates do on standard tests? How well do Steiner high school graduates do in college?
20. How does Steiner education deal with kids that are not so strong academically?
21. Does the school teach religion?
22. What kind of food does the Bangalore Steiner School provide to students during school hours?
1)Who was Rudolf Steiner?
Dr. Rudolf Steiner was a highly respected and well-published scientific, literary and philosophical scholar who was particularly known for his work on Goethe's scientific writings. He later came to incorporate his scientific investigations with his interest in spiritual development. He became a forerunner in the field of spiritual scientific investigation for the modern 20th century individual. His background in history and civilizations coupled with his observation in life gave the world the gift of Steiner Education. It is a deeply insightful application of learning based on the Study of Humanity with developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.2) What is Steiner education?
Steiner education or otherwise referred to as Waldorf education, due to its origins at the Waldorf Astoria factory in Stuttgart, is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that is practiced in Steiner schools worldwide. Steiner schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of non-profit, independent schools in the world. There is no centralized administrative structure governing all Steiner schools; each is administratively independent, but there are established associations, which provide resources, publish materials, sponsor conferences, and promote the movement. Consistent with his spiritual philosophy called Anthroposophy, Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and nurturing of children's imaginations. He thought that schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed schools that encourage creativity and free-thinking.
3) How did Steiner Schools start?
In the terrible conditions of post World War 1 Germany, a businessman, Emil Molt of the Steiner Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart believed that for European consciousness and moral life to evolve out of social chaos it was necessary to go back to the beginning, to the children.
He wished, therefore, to provide an education for the children of the factory employees that had a spiritual basis; a set of values suited to a humanity of the future. He contacted Rudolf Steiner who initiated a school in 1919 called the Steiner School. Steiner employed the best traditions of Dominican academic disciplines, of Franciscan compassion for man and veneration for the natural world, and Cistercian devotion to artistic principles and imbued each of the three education streams with direct spiritual knowledge. His insights into the development of the child have been found to be endlessly fruitful over 70 years of Steiner education.
The schools are today mushrooming rapidly in all countries and still attract support from the entrepreneurial community due to their contribution to the welfare and maintenance of human freedom and enterprise. Rudolf Steiner dedicated his life to the enhancement of the knowledge of Man. In his life he brought about a regeneration of our thinking that to this day is still having widespread effects in the realms of Agriculture, Medicine, Performing Arts, Philosophy, Natural Science and particularly, Education. Rudolf Steiner Education has its roots in this man's penetrating insight and wisdom, its branches worldwide in over 900 independent schools and its fruit in the people who enter the world striving to improve their environment.
The best overall statement on what is unique about Steiner education is to be found in the stated goals of the schooling: "to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives".
The aim of Steiner schooling is to educate the whole child, "head, heart and hands". The curriculum is as broad as time will allow, and balances academics subjects with artistic and practical activities.
Steiner teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine love of learning within each child. By freely using arts and activities in the service of teaching academics, an internal motivation to learn is developed in the students, doing away with the need for competitive testing and grading.
Some distinctive features of Steiner education include the following:
• Academics are de-emphasized in the early years of schooling. There is no academic content in the Steiner kindergarten experience (although there is a good deal of cultivation of pre-academic skills), and minimal academics in first grade. Literacy readiness begins in kindergarten with formal reading instruction beginning in grade one. Most children are reading independently by the middle or end of second grade.
• During the elementary school years (grades 1-8) the students have a class (or "main lesson") teacher. The ideal and goal is that the class teacher stays with the same class for the entire eight years of elementary school. This, however, is not always the case, for many different reasons, one being the high demand this puts on the versatility of the teacher.
• Certain activities, which are often considered "frills" at mainstream schools, are central at Steiner schools: art, music, gardening, and foreign languages (usually two in elementary grades), to name a few. In the younger grades, all subjects are introduced through artistic mediums, use the children respond better to this medium than to dry lecturing and rote learning. All children learn to play recorder and to knit.
• There are no "textbooks" as such in the first through fifth grades. All children have "main lesson books", which are their own workbooks that they fill in during the course of the year. They essentially produce their own "textbooks" which record their experiences and what they've learned. In some schools upper grades may use textbooks to supplement skills development, especially in math and grammar.
• Learning in a Steiner school is a non-competitive activity. There are no grades given at the elementary level; the teacher writes a detailed evaluation of the child at the end of each school year.
• The use of electronic media, particularly television, by young children is strongly discouraged in Steiner schools.
The main reason is because Steiner schools honour and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Steiner schools safe, secure and nurturing environments for the children, and to protect their childhood from harmful influences of an unbridled materialistic culture.
Secondly, Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in age appropriate fashion. Finally, Steiner schools around the world are known to produce graduates who are academically advantaged with respect to their regular school counterparts, and who consistently gain admission to top universities.
In the Indian context:
Our current mainstream educational system lauds intellectualism not wisdom. It is an education that addresses the head and therefore has created a society that equates success with money. But what is it that we really want for our child in the end - Success or fulfillment? With fulfillment success is implicit but it is not necessarily the other way around. To create a fulfilled individual, we need a healing education that addresses and nourishes the entire human being- Body, Soul and Individual Spirit.
As parents ourselves, we have often wondered about the end result of conventional education in India, with its emphasis on early learning; its one pointed goal of passing exams and getting good jobs, without much encouragement for the development of real knowledge and independent, creative thinking. This system for the most part, unknowingly moulds selfish and ambitious consumers rather than caring, engaged world citizens.
Waldorf Education has specific aims, the chief one being to enable the child to realize its potential by developing skills to meet life's situations. It strives to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives and the lives of others.
The Steiner curriculum is designed to be responsive to the various phases of a child's development. The relationship between student and teacher is, likewise, recognized to be both crucial and changing throughout the course of childhood and early adolescence. The main subjects, such as history, language arts, science and mathematics are, as mentioned, taught in main lesson blocks of two to three hours per day, with each block lasting from three to five weeks. The total Steiner curriculum has been likened to an ascending spiral: subjects are revisited several times, but each new exposure affords greater depth and new insights into the subject at hand. The curriculum for Bangalore Steiner School is detailed in Curriculum section of this site.7) How many Steiner schools are there worldwide?
Currently, there are about 900 Steiner schools in 60 countries. 7 Steiner schools are currently operating in India, 4 in Hyderabad, 2 in Mumbai and Bangalore Steiner School in Bangalore. .8) What are the long term aims for the child in Steiner's education philosophy?
The stresses that face young people leaving school seem to be increasing towards the end of the century. One of these is a lack of conviction that they will find a secure and useful place in society due to the uncertainties of unemployment. Another is the reassessment of traditional values that places emphasis on emotional wellbeing. There are four qualities which we see as essential; strength, happiness, creativity and intelligence - these are four of the most important aspirations for children's education in Steiner schools, alongside many others.
This can be taken in its widest possible context, however, physical strength by virtue of good health is cultivated in the school through a wide variety of activities like athletics, team games, Movement, Gymnastics, dancing, bush walking, rock climbing, swimming, first aid and nutrition.
The person who is happy within him can cope with the oppositions that he will encounter throughout life. The children in Steiner schools are taught to care about the welfare of others. They learn to succeed in their tasks by creating a rhythmic, harmonious, orderly environment in which to learn. Steiner schools are conducive to learning. To ensure that children care, contribute and succeed in their school life, gives them greatly increased chances of continuing these practices into adulthood.
In Europe, job applicants who have a Steiner education have an advantage at interviews over others because it is well known to employers that they have a more creative and original way of finding solutions to problems. They have a high commitment to quality and are not afraid to take responsibility. A technologically dominant society tends to suppress the individual or to confine him in a ready-made box through specialization. Steiner schools encourage the students to excel in every subject to the extent of their ability. They attempt to make children citizens of the world through a comprehensive 12-year curriculum in which all students participate in all subjects.
Versatility in intelligence is an important goal in Steiner schools. The children learn ultimately to come to grips with concepts on both a materialistic and spiritual level; they are educated to exercise imaginative and mobile thought. They are then enabled to search for the significance in life and to realize true ethical and moral values - to their immense benefit and that of the world. Survival in an often-difficult world is not enough. Intelligence is a cardinal factor for the maturing individual to survive, prevail and prosper.9. Does Steiner Education prepare children for the "real" world; and, if so, How does it do it?
It is easy to fall into the error of believing that education must make our children fit into society. Although we are certainly influenced by what the world brings us, the fact is that the world is shaped by people, not people by the world. However, that shaping of the world is possible in a healthy way only if the shapers are themselves in possession of their full nature as human beings.
Education in our materialistic society focuses on the intellectual aspect of the human being and has chosen largely to ignore the several other parts that are essential to our well-being. These include our life of feeling (emotions, aesthetics, and social sensitivity), our willpower (the ability to get things done), and our moral nature (being clear about right and wrong). Without having these developed, we are incomplete—a fact that may become obvious in our later years, when a feeling of emptiness begins to set in. That is why in a Steiner school, the practical and artistic subjects play as important a role as the full spectrum of traditional academic subjects that the school offers. The practical and artistic are essential in achieving a preparation for life in the "real" world.
Steiner Education recognizes and honours the full range of human potentialities. It addresses the whole child by striving to awaken and ennoble all the latent capacities. The children learn to read, write, and do math; they study history, geography, and the sciences. In addition, all children learn to sing, play a musical instrument, draw, paint, model clay, carve and work with wood, speak clearly and act in a play, think independently, and work harmoniously and respectfully with others. The development of these various capacities is interrelated. For example, both boys and girls learn to knit in grade one. Acquiring this basic and enjoyable human skill helps them develop a manual dexterity, which after puberty will be transformed into an ability to think clearly and to "knit" their thoughts into a coherent whole.
Preparation for life includes the development of the well-rounded person. Steiner Education has as its ideal a person who is knowledgeable about the world and human history and culture, who has many varied practical and artistic abilities, who feels a deep reverence for and communion with the natural world, and who can act with initiative and in freedom in the face of economic and political pressures.
There are many Steiner graduates of all ages who embody this ideal and who are perhaps the best proof of the efficacy of the education.— From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
10) What about competition in a Steiner School?
Children naturally compete with each other, but usually only in a healthy way. When the competitive spirit begins to threaten the harmony of their game, competition is replaced by sympathy and co-operation. Co-operation is one of the shining facets of a good character.
The trouble with competition in a school is that there are always the inevitable failures; the child's morale is crushed when he is convinced that he is a failure. This is actually anti-education. The other evil of competition is the aspect of the inflated egotism that can contribute to the character of a child who is perpetually a winner and seen to be so against a competitive background.
The Steiner teacher regularly tests the children but there are no formal exams. Each child is encouraged to strive for fulfilment of self. The children are not graded in the class (first, last or whatever). They do experience however, that their presence in the class is valuable - that is their real place. Respect for achievement is cultivated in the less gifted child and sympathetic co-operation in the gifted. In fact, the gifted children's striving for excellence is actually enhanced by a non-competitive spirit, because they are doing it for the right reasons - achievement for achievement's sake - this transforms in adult life to dedication to task.
People who have been educated in Steiner schools develop a pattern of personal values that has inherent in it a commitment to the community. Competition only enhances self-interest. Most games have a competitive element, which adds spice, but it is unhealthy if the skill and fun of the game is clouded by the desire only to win. The great moment (or action replays) are more important than the final score. The attitude encouraged in the children by the teacher both in the classroom and outside, is that the greater virtue is that of helping one another to excel.11) What about discipline?
An authoritarian discipline imposed upon children cannot be maintained when the wielder of this discipline is absent. A self-discipline that comes from within the child does not break out in vandalism and other antisocial behaviour.
Steiner schools are not 'progressive schools' - the children do not do as they like. Self-discipline takes time to learn, just like any other faculty. Some children have it when they first come to school; most others learn it in a short time.
The key to a good school's discipline is work. Children love work! That is, as long as they feel that they are achieving and not failing - as long as there is encouragement and not coercion - as long as it stimulates their imagination and does not tire them through dry repetition. In effect work can be, and should be, fun. A class that is deeply interested in a task will not tolerate a miscreant - they will even apply their own social pressures to curb him if he is disturbing the work atmosphere in the class.
Good discipline is maintained when each child has the deep conviction that he is special because of his unique contribution.
Every child can do something well, if the teacher finds this talent and convinces the child that it is important, then the child will want to behave because he will begin to have confidence in his abilities.
Self-esteem and positive behaviour go hand in hand. An education that appeals to the individuality of the child is one where good discipline is maintained - not through fear but through the child's respect for himself, his work, his teacher and his school. A self-disciplined class is a happy and orderly class - one where a child's full potential can be expressed.12) Why do Steiner students stay with the same teacher for 7 years?
Between the ages of seven and fourteen, children learn best through acceptance and emulation of authority, just as in their earlier years they learned through imitation. In primary school, particularly in the lower grades, the child is just beginning to expand his or her experience beyond home and family. The class becomes a type of "family" as well, with its own authority figure "the teacher" in a role analogous to parent. With this approach, the students and teachers come to know each other very well, and the teacher is able to find over the years the best ways of helping individual children in their schooling. The class teacher also becomes like an additional family member for most of the families in his/her class.
It's worth noting that this approach was the norm in the days of the Gurukul in India.13) What if my child does not get along with the teacher?
This question often arises because of a parent's experience of regular school education. In most conventional schools, a teacher works with a class for one, maybe two years. It is difficult for teacher and child to develop the deep human relationship that is the basis for healthy learning if change is frequent.
If a teacher has a class for several years, the teacher and the children come to know and understand each other in a deep way. The children, feeling secure in a long-term relationship, are better able to learn. The interaction of teacher and parents also can become more deep and meaningful over time, and they can cooperate in helping the child.
Problems between teachers and children, and between teachers and parents, can and do arise. When this happens, the college of teachers studies the situation, involves the teacher and parents—and, if appropriate, the child—and tries to resolve the conflict. If the differences are irreconcilable, the parents might be asked to withdraw the child, or the teacher might be replaced.
In reality, these measures very rarely need to be taken. A Steiner class is something like a family. If a mother in a family does not get along with her son during a certain time, she does not consider resigning or replacing him with another child. Rather, she looks at the situation and sees what can be done to improve the relationship. In other words, the adult assumes responsibility and tries to change. This same approach is expected of the Steiner teacher in a difficult situation. In almost every case she must ask herself: "How can I change so that the relationship becomes more positive?" One cannot expect this of the child. With the goodwill and active support of the parents, the teacher concerned can make the necessary changes and restore the relationship to a healthy and productive state.— From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
14) How can a Steiner class teacher teach all the subjects through the seven years of elementary schooling?
The class teacher is not the only teacher the children experience. Each day, specialty subject teachers teach the children movement, handcrafts, languages, instrumental music, and so on.
The class teacher is, however, responsible for the two-hour "main lesson" every morning and usually also for one or two lessons later in the day. In the main lesson, she brings all the main academic subjects to the children, including language arts, the sciences, history, and mathematics, as well as painting, music, clay modelling, and so on. The teacher does in fact deal with a wide range of subjects, and thus the question is a valid one.
A common misconception in our time is that education is merely the transfer of information. From the Steiner point of view, true education also involves the awakening of capacities—the ability to think clearly and critically, to empathetically experience and understand phenomena in the world, to distinguish what is beautiful, good, and true. The class teacher walks a path of discovery with the children and guides them into an understanding of the world of meaning, rather than the world of cause and effect.
Steiner class teachers work very hard to master the content of the various subjects that they teach. But the teacher's ultimate success lies in his ability to work with those inner faculties that are still "in the bud," so that they can grow, develop, and open up in a beautiful, balanced, and wholesome way. Through this approach to teaching, the children will be truly prepared for the real world. They are provided then with the tools to productively shape that world out of a free human spirit.— From "Five Frequently Asked Questions" by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003
15) Why do Steiner schools teach reading so late?
There is evidence that normal, healthy children who learn to read relatively late are not disadvantaged by this, but rather are able quickly to catch up with, and may overtake, children who have learned to read early. Additionally, they are much less likely to develop the "tiredness toward reading" that many children taught to read at a very early age experience later on. Instead there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Some children will, out of themselves, want to learn to read at an early age. This interest can and should be met, as long as it comes in fact from the child. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.
If reading is not pushed, a healthy child will pick it up quite quickly and easily. Some Steiner parents become anxious if their child is slow to learn to read. Eventually these same parents are overjoyed at seeing their child pick up a book and not put it down and become from that moment a voracious reader. Each child has his or her own optimal time for "taking off." Feelings of anxiety and inferiority may develop in a child who is not reading as well as her peers. Often this anxiety is picked up from parents concerned about the child's progress. It is important that parents should deal with their own and their child's apprehensions.
Human growth and development do not occur in a linear fashion, nor can they be measured. What lives, grows, and has its being in human life can only be grasped with that same human faculty that can grasp the invisible metamorphic laws of living nature.
- Also, read "Teaching our children to Read, Write and Spell" by Susan Johnson, M.D., a Behavioral and Developmental Pediatrician in Colfax, California. http://www.anthromed.org/Article.aspx?artpk=688
16) Why do Steiner Schools discourage TV, videos, and electronic media for young children?
A central aim of Steiner Education is to stimulate the healthy development of the child's own imagination. Steiner teachers are concerned that electronic media hampers the development of the child's imagination. They are concerned about the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as well as the content of much of the programming.
There is more and more research to substantiate these concerns. See:
• Endangered Minds: Why Our Children Don't Think by Jane Healy
• Failure To Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds For Better and Worse by Jane Healy
• Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander
• The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn
• Evolution's End:Claiming The Potential of Our Intelligence by Joseph Chilton Pearce
17) Why is so much emphasis put on festivals and ceremonies?
Seasonal festivals serve to connect humanity with the rhythms of nature and of the cosmos. The festivals originated in ancient cultures, yet have been adapted over time. To join the seasonal moods of the year, in a festive way, benefits the inner life of the soul. Celebrating is an art. There is joy in the anticipation, the preparation, the celebration itself, and the memories.18) Would a child be at a disadvantage if he were transferred from a regular school into a Steiner school, or out of a Steiner school into a regular school?
Children who transfer to a Steiner school in the first four classes usually are up to grade in reading, math, and basic academic skills. However, they usually have much to learn in bodily coordination skills, posture, artistic and social activities, cursive handwriting, and listening skills. Listening well is particularly important since most of the curricular content is presented orally in the classroom by the teacher. The human relationship between the child and the teacher is the basis for healthy learning, for the acquiring of understanding and knowledge rather than just information. Children who are used to learning from computers and other electronic media will have to adjust.
Those children who enter a Steiner school in the middle classes often bring much information about the world. This contribution should be recognized and received with interest by the class. However, these children often have to unlearn some social habits, such as the tendency to experience learning as a competitive activity. They have to learn to approach the arts in a more objective way, not simply as a means for personal expression. In contrast, in their study of nature, history, and the world, they need to relate what they learn to their own life and being. The popular ideal of "objectivity" in learning is misguided when applied to elementary school children. At their stage of development, the subjective element is essential for healthy learning. Involvement in what is learned about the world makes the world truly meaningful to them.
Children who transfer out of a Steiner school into a regular school during the earlier classes probably have to upgrade their reading ability and to approach the science lessons differently. Science in a Steiner school emphasizes the observation of natural phenomena rather than the formulation of abstract concepts and laws. On the other hand, the Steiner transferees are usually well prepared for social studies, practical and artistic activities, and mathematics. Children moving during the middle classes should experience no problems. In fact, in most cases, transferring students of this age group find themselves ahead of their classmates. The departing Steiner student is likely to take along into the new school a distinguishing individual strength, personal confidence, and love of learning.
19) How well do Steiner graduates do on standard tests? How well do Steiner high school graduates do in college?
To the best of our knowledge, no controlled studies have been done on these questions, but anecdotal evidence collected from various sources would seem to suggest that Steiner graduates tend to score toward the high end on standardized examinations such as the Scholastic Aptitude Tests. As far as higher education goes, Steiner graduates have been accepted as students at, and have graduated from, some of the most prestigious colleges and universities around the world.20) How does Steiner deal with kids that are not so strong academically?
Steiner schools hesitate to categorize children, particularly in terms such as "slow" or "gifted". A given child's weaknesses in one area, whether cognitive, emotional or physical, will usually be balanced by strengths in another area. It is the teacher's job to try to bring the child's whole being into balance.
A child having difficulty with the material might be given extra help by the teacher or by parents; tutoring might also be arranged. Correspondingly, a child who picked up the material quickly might be given harder problems of the same sort to work on, or might be asked to help a child who was having trouble.
The Steiner schools are non-denominational. For children to find their place within the complex tapestry of world spiritual life they must learn and become aware about the various religions, both past and present. The school teaches the history of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and many other religions - elements of which will certainly touch their lives as they grow into a world both fantastically varied, yet often fanatically strife-torn by the different religious view-points. The central aim of the school is to prevent bigotry and intolerance by the children toward people who look, think, or believe differently from themselves. Religion today needs action - children who love and protect nature and have a deep sense of moral and social responsibility are truly religious. Steiner schools teach an uncompromising veneration for life and a deep respect for human dignity. It is engendered by the teacher's gratitude to the world and encouraged in the child.22) What kind of food does the Bangalore Steiner school provide to students during school hours ?
Food is a very important part of children's lives, indeed all of our lives. At Bangalore Steiner School we provide all food for the children during their time at school except for one fruit that each child brings to share during fruit break. The ingredients we use are, as much as possible, organic. Our diet is vegetarian and the food is cooked fresh at school on a daily basis to be shared by the students and teachers. Lunch and a going home drink will be provided by the school.