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

Development of International Institutions

The exchange of experience and coordination of the growing international school initiatives have since the 1920s gone though different stages of cooperation. The first attempts to establish an international schools movement, the “Weltschulverein” in which Rudolf Steiner placed such high hopes since 1920, with functions beyond the locally oriented school trusts of the individual Waldorf Schools, ended in failure in the mid-20s. (See Willem Zeylmans van Emmichoven) But the idea of such global relationships is taken up again and again in the following years.

The institutionalised development of the Waldorf Schools movement in Germany after WW II is heavily influenced by the “Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen” in Stuttgart:

To meet the growing political pressure exerted on the Waldorf schools in Germany in the 30’s, Annie Heuser, Ines Arnold, Ernst Weissert, Christoph Boy and René Maikowski improvised an “Imperial Association of Waldorf Schools” on May 10, 1930 as a protection against attacks from the side of the National Socialist government - shortly afterwards called the “Association of Waldorf Schools.” (See Manfred Leist 1998, P. 17f.) In the years after the war, beginning in 1946, all teachers were invited twice a year to partake in Waldorf Teacher’s Conferences in which common goals and tasks were discussed. This initiative led to the founding of the “Bund der Waldorfschulen e.V” on the 15 June 1949, which, supported by the schools and individual members, realised aims like teacher training, the organisation of teachers’ conferences, public representation, and the political representation of the Waldorf Schools in Germany.

The “Bund” delegates, besides the administrative Executive, various sub-committees for different areas of responsibility, amongst others the “Advisory Counsel” that takes on the task of representation and assistance in the founding of new schools. (in the beginning, amongst others, Hermann von Baravalle, Carl Brestowski, Erich Gabert, Georg Hartmann, Gisbert Husemann, Helmut von Kügelgen, Siegfried Pickert, E. A. Karl Stockmeyer, Johannes Tautz, Robert Zimmer) (see: Leist, 1998, P. 37 f.).

The “Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen” publishes the magazine “Erziehungskunst,” which, with a brief interruption between 1937 and 1946, is published monthly.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, the Hague Circle was founded at Pentecost 1970 as working group and administrative college of the European Waldorf Schools. From 1951 onwards, representatives of the Dutch, English and German schools have met either in Stuttgart or The Hague, in order to prepare conferences, and represent the interests of Waldorf Education internationally.

Similarly, since the mid-sixties there exists the initiative of the Educational Section to build up an educational advisory counsel and thereby to bring together the global schools movement under the auspices of the Educational Section. (N 1965, No. 42). With the developing globalisation of the school’s movement and the cooperation between the Section and the Hague circle, amongst other things in the preparation of the international Teacher’s Conferences, since 1979, The Hague Circle today, as an organ of the Educational Section, tries to foster the spiritual connection between the schools world-wide in their anthroposophical foundation.

Leading on from the “Verein für ein freies Schulwesen” (Association for a Free Education,” the “Verein der Freunde der Waldorf-Pädagogik e.V.” (Association of the Friends of Waldorf Education) is founded in 1971 by Ernst Weissert and Manfred Leist in order to bring to the schools movement official recognition and financial security. A group of former Waldorf students in 1976 organised an “International support fund” within what is now called the “Freunde der Erziehungskunst Rudolf Steiners e.V.” (Friends of the Educational Art of Rudolf Steiner) with the expressed aim of “establishing an educational policy within which those actually involved in the educational process can themselves, without the interference of the state, determine the nature of teaching and instruction, and not to limit this possibility to Western Europe.” (Freunde der Erziehungskunst (Hrsg.) 2001, P. 13). Today, annual sums of several million Euros in donations can flow into the support of school initiatives, teacher training, and educationally oriented development aid, as well as fostering an established co-work with international educational organisations such as UNESCO.

Running parallel to the increasing globalisation and expansion of the different aspects of Waldorf Education in the 90’s, a dialogue began on the various factors affecting the development of identity within this education on the one hand, and on the other, a growing cooperation with related educational bodies and new representative organisations. Hence we have, since 1990, the “European Forum for a Free Education” (EFFE), from 1991 the “European Council of Steiner Waldorf Schools,” from 1993 the “International Association of Waldorf Education in Central and Eastern Europe and Countries Further East” (IAO) and since 1999, the “Alliance for Childhood”.