We have collated answers for some of the most frequently asked questions
What is Steiner Education?
Steiner education is a unique and distinctive approach to educating children that has been practiced in Steiner schools worldwide for almost 100 years. Steiner schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of independent schools in the world. Currently, there are more than 1100 Steiner schools and 2000 Kindergartens in over 70 countries. Each is administratively independent and supported by established associations, such as Steiner Education Australia that provide resources, publish materials, sponsor conferences and promote Steiner education. Steiner schools share a common pedagogy derived from an understanding and respect for the developing and unfolding human being, inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner.
What are the origins of Steiner / Waldorf education?
In 1919, Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher, scientist and artist, was invited to give a series of lectures to the workers of the Waldorf Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As a result, the factory’s owner, Emil Molt, asked Steiner to establish and lead a school for the children of the factory’s employees. Steiner agreed to do so on four conditions:
The school should be open to all children;
It should be coeducational;
It should be a unified twelve-year school;
The teachers working directly with the children would take a leading role in the running of the school, with a minimum of interference from governmental or economic concerns.
Molt agreed to the conditions and after a training period for the prospective teachers, the first Waldorf school was opened in September 1919.
The names Steiner and Waldorf Education are inter-changeable, the latter referencing the very first school.
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.
His background in history and civilisations, coupled with his observations of life, gave the world the gift of Steiner Education. It is a deeply, insightful application of learning based on the study of humanity with a developing consciousness of self and the surrounding world.
What is the philosophy behind Steiner education?
Anthroposophy refers to the wisdom of the human being. Steiner designed a curriculum responsive to the developmental phases in childhood and the nurturing of children’s imagination and curiosity. He thought schools should cater to the needs of children rather than the demands of the government or economic forces, so he developed an education that encourages creativity and develops freethinking young adults.
Why would I choose to send my child to a Steiner school?
Steiner schools honour and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Steiner schools safe, secure and nurturing environments for children and to support their need to play, be a part of nature and build strong foundations for future success. Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in an age-appropriate fashion from Kinder to Year 12. Steiner schools produce well-rounded graduates who are academically advantaged and who consistently gain admission to top universities.
How is reading taught in a Steiner school?
Steiner education is deeply bound up with the oral tradition, typically beginning with the teacher telling the children stories throughout the early childhood years and first grade. The oral approach is used all through Steiner education. Mastery of oral communication is seen as being foundational and integral to all learning.
Formal, explicit reading instruction is slightly deferred. Instead, writing is taught first. During the first grade the children explore how our alphabet came about, discovering, as the ancients did, how each letter’s form evolved out of a pictograph. Writing thus evolves out of the children’s art. Their ability to read likewise evolves as a natural and often effortless stage of their mastery of language. A dedicated Learning Support team works in collaboration with class teachers to monitor and ensure student progress.
How successfully do students transition between mainstream and Steiner schools?
Students across all age groups seamlessly transition between schools.
Students transferring to a Steiner school between the ages of six to nine may have received more intensive reading instruction. The skills of watercolor painting, handcrafts, recorder playing, music, form drawing and modelling provide new and interesting challenges however and the narrative based curriculum and rhythm of the day enable students to engage fully in their learning. By the end of Class 3 student literacy development is on a par with their mainstream counterparts.
Why are festivals and ceremonies celebrated in Steiner schools?
Festivals are a vital part of Waldorf Education. They provide nourishment to the individual and bring the community together in meaningful ways. The festival is an anniversary that brings to a community the richness of story and song, light and food and celebrates our shared humanity. A festival is a joyous celebration of life, and has the quality of lifting us out of the ordinary and into the mysteries and magic of the rhythm of the seasons. Each festival is a mood, an attitude, an experience; it is a social expression that reflects and celebrates an entire season. Celebrations are interwoven with the life of the earth and the cycles of nature.
Festivals are of special pedagogical significance for the development of the child. They help the child to increasingly find orientation in time. For the younger child, time is still passing slowly. Festivals help to subdivide time into different qualities and provide a sustainable experience of being at home in time. Festivals can reflect the rhythms of the surrounding nature and provide mirrors of local and religious traditions as well as the cultural customs of the area. For older students, the experience of being able to present the results of learning efforts to the parents and to the rest of the school community at school festivals is significant. Presentations on stage within the protection of the class community strengthen the child´s psychological development through the growth of self-confidence.
How does a Steiner School policy on student use of media and technology differ from other schools?
In most Waldorf schools you will not find ipads, laptops or computers in the Kindergarten or the Primary School classrooms. From Class 8 onwards, computers are used as a tool to support learning on a regular basis. There is increasing research about the impact of excessive screen time upon the development of healthy imagination and play.
What kind of training do Steiner teachers have?
All of our teachers are fully trained and state registered. In addition, while requirements within individual schools may vary, class teachers may have also completed training from a recognised, Steiner teacher training college or institute. Some Steiner training programs can also grant degrees in conjunction with Steiner teaching certification. High School teachers are selected for their expertise in specialist subjects.
How does Steiner deal with kids that are not so strong academically?
Steiner schools hesitate to categorise 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.
How well do Steiner graduates do on standard tests? How well do Steiner high school graduates do in tertiary education?
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 standardised examinations. 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 in Australia.
What is Anthroposophy?
The term “Anthroposophy’ comes from the Greek “anthropos-sophia” or “human wisdom”. Steiner’s investigations into spirit, known also as Spiritual Science provide a complement to the Natural Sciences. It should be stressed that while Anthroposophy forms the theoretical and philosophical basis to the pedagogy used in Steiner schools, it is not taught to the students.
Through study and practiced observation, one awakens to his/her own inner nature and the spiritual realities of outer nature and the cosmos. The awareness of those relationships brings a greater reverence for all of life.
Steiner and many individuals since, who share his basic views, have applied this knowledge in various practical and cultural ways in communities around the world. The fruits of Anthroposophy grow into all fields of human life and action. Most notably, Steiner schools have made a significant impact on the world. Curative education, for mentally and emotionally handicapped adults and children, has established a deep understanding and way of working with people who have this difficult destiny. Biodynamic farming and gardening has greatly expanded the range of techniques available to organic agriculture. Anthroposophical medicine and pharmacy, well established in Europe are subjects of growing interest in Australia.
Are Steiner schools religious?
Classes in religious doctrine are not part of the Steiner curriculum and children of all religious backgrounds attend Steiner schools. Spiritual guidance is aimed at awakening the child’s natural reverence for the wonder and beauty of life and a corresponding, age appropriate social responsibility. In the Senior School, students undertake a course in spirituality that explores all the religions of the world.
Steiner’s approach to Christian spirituality is not taught to students and cannot be judged by the standards, established practices or doctrines of traditional Christian churches yet he wrote extensively of a cosmic or universal Christ, described as an expression of the highest self or a manifestation of the potential of humanity. This includes the potential to transform the freedom of egoism into the freedom of love. Steiner describes individual freedom as the goal of our spiritual evolution. The purpose of contemporary Steiner Education is to help develop what matters most, the capacity to sense and bring into being our highest future possibility.
Why do Steiner Schools discourage TV watching?
The reasons for this have as much to do with the physical effects of the medium on the developing child as with the (to say the least) questionable content of much of the programming. Electronic media are believed by Steiner teachers to seriously hamper the development of the child's imagination – a faculty which is believed to be central to the healthy development of the individual. Computer use by young children is also discouraged.
Steiner teachers are not, by the way, alone in this belief. Several books have been written in recent years expressing concern with the effect of television on young children. See, for instance, Endangered Minds by Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television by Jerry Mander, or The Plug-In Drug by Marie Winn.
What is Eurythmy?
Most simply put, eurythmy is a dance-like art form in which music or speech are expressed in bodily movement; specific movements correspond to particular notes or sounds. It has also been called "visible speech" or "visible song". Eurythmy is part of the curriculum of many Steiner schools, and while it often puzzles parents new to Steiner education, children respond to its simple rhythms and exercises which help them strengthen and harmonise their body and their life forces; later, the older students work out elaborate eurhythmic representations of poetry, drama and music, thereby gaining a deeper perception of the compositions and writings. Eurythmy enhances coordination and strengthens the ability to listen. When children experience themselves like an orchestra and have to keep a clear relationship in space with each other, a social strengthening also results.
Eurythmy is usually taught by a specialist who has been specifically trained, typically for at least four years. In addition to pedagogical eurythmy, there are also therapeutic ("curative") and performance-oriented forms of the art.
Do Steiner School's have to adhere to the standards set by the Education Standard Board?
Yes. The teachings may be delivered differently but learning outcomes are important components of the curriculum.
Are Steiner students able to attend University?
Yes. Year 12 results are accumulated to create a final SACE score, used for University entry.
Baldwin, Rahima: You Are Your Child's First Teacher. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, 1989.
Barnes, Henry: An Introduction to Steiner Education. Mercury Press, Chestnut Ridge, NY, 1985.
Childs, Gilbert: Steiner Education in Theory and Practice. Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1991.
Davy, Gudrun: Lifeways: Working with Family Questions. Hawthorne Press, Gloucestershire, 1983.
Finser, Torin: School as a Journey. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1994.
Gorman, Margaret: Confessions of a Steiner Parent. Rudolf Steiner College Publications, Fair Oaks, CA, 1990.
Harwood, A. C.: Life of a Child. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1979.
Querido, René: Creativity in Education: The Steiner Approach. Dakin, San Francisco, 1982.
Spock, Marjorie: Teaching as a Lively Art. Anthroposophic Press, New York, 1978.
Steiner, Rudolf.: Kingdom of Childhood. Rudolf Steiner Press, London, 1982.