Education towards Freedom
In 1919 the Austrian philosopher, scientist and educationist Rudolf Steiner, opened a school for the children of workers in the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, West Germany. He had been asked to create a school which would lead children to freedom in their adult lives This freedom implies the empowerment of every individual to be able to express him/herself in terms of vocation, social inter-relationships and the cultural/spiritual sphere.
For over 80 years the worldwide movement has continued to develop his principles of education, adapting their application to the needs of each situation.
Waldorf education subsequently became a widespread educational movement. There are an estimated 1200 schools in almost every country. It has become the strongest independent school movement in the world.
As free schools with a curriculum based on the developmental needs of the human being and not on any economic or political programs, Waldorf Schools have often struggled to maintain themselves in countries with restrictive laws. They were closed by the Nazis in Germany and have only recently been allowed in the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia. In South Africa, Waldorf schools have existed for more than 50 years. Under the apartheid government, Waldorf schools had to register as ‘private’ schools, and have had to fund themselves entirely. The established Waldorf Schools became multicultural, first under the restrictive and humiliating quota-system, and later freely as the process of dismantling apartheid began. Since 1986 Waldorf Education has made deliberate moves to help start the process of reconstruction in South African society.
The schools do not seek to establish an elitist sector in society, but rather to develop qualities of appreciation, respect, understanding and social conscience in every individual so that co-operation and concern for the whole, forms part of his/her natural inclination.
Waldorf Schools develop these qualities through artistic and creative teaching approaches in which pupils experience learning through activity, a subjective approach and through independent thinking. A self-motivated approach to learning and for taking initiatives characterizes the pupils in Waldorf Schools.