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Waldorf school in Trier, Germany.

Waldorf education is a pedagogy based upon the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements.[1] The Waldorf approach emphasizes the role of the imagination,[2][3][4] developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component.[5][6] The overarching goals of this educational approach are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, moral[7][8] and integrated individuals,[2][9][10] and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny, the existence of which anthroposophy posits.[11][12] Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.[13]

The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919 to serve the children of employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart. As of 2009 there were 994 independent Waldorf schools located in sixty countries throughout the world;[14] as of 2001 there were 1400 kindergartens and 120 institutions for special education world-wide.[15] There are also Waldorf-based public and Charter schools, homeschooling environments,[2] and Waldorf ideas are being taken up, often less in whole than in part, by an expanding number of American public and private schools today.[16 ][17]

The educational approach is known in some countries as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education.


Pedagogy and theory of child development

The structure of the education follows Steiner's pedagogical model of child development, which describes three major developmental stages of childhood (as well as a variety of sub-stages), each having its own learning requirements.[18] The major stages are broadly similar to those described by Piaget.[19]

  • Early childhood learning is largely experiential, imitative and sensory-based.[20] The education emphasizes learning through practical activities.[21]
  • Elementary school years (age 7-14), learning is regarded as artistic and imaginative. In these years, the approach emphasizes developing children's emotional life and artistic expression across a wide variety of performing and visual arts.[18][22]
  • During adolescence, to meet the developing capacity for abstract thought and conceptual judgment[21] the emphasis is on developing intellectual understanding and ethical ideals such as social responsibility.[18]

Waldorf education is unusual and perhaps unique in the consistency, thoroughness and creativity with which it implements a K-12 curriculum that is based upon children's academic, emotional and physical development; its underlying principles continue a pedagogical tradition initiated by Comenius and Pestalozzi.[23]:p. 31 Its methodology encourages collaborative learning.[24]


Pre-school and kindergarten: birth to age 6 or 7

Waldorf schools approach learning in early childhood through imitation and example.[25][26] Extensive time is given for guided free play in a classroom environment that is homelike, includes natural materials and provides examples of productive work in which children can take part;[18] such an environment is considered by Waldorf pedagogues to be supportive of the physical, emotional and intellectual growth of the child through assimilative learning.[26] Outdoor play periods are also generally incorporated into the school day, with the intention of providing children with experiences of nature, weather and the seasons of the year. In Waldorf schools oral language development is addressed through songs, poems and movement games. These include daily story time when a teacher usually tells a fairytale, often by heart.[19]

Aids to development via play generally consist of simple materials drawn from natural sources that can be transformed imaginatively to fit a wide variety of purposes. Waldorf dolls are intentionally made simple in order to allow playing children to employ and strengthen their imagination and creativity. Waldorf schools generally discourage kindergarten and lower grade pupils being exposed to media influences such as television, computers and recorded music, as they believe these to be harmful to children's development in the early years.[20][27]

The education emphasizes early experiences of daily and annual rhythms, including seasonal festivals drawn from a variety of traditions. Though Waldorf schools in the Western Hemisphere have traditionally celebrated Michaelmas and Martinmas in the autumn, Christmas in winter, Easter and May Day in the spring, and St. John's Day in summer,[28] such schools are now incorporating an increasingly wide range of cultural and religious traditions,[29] and schools located where Jewish, Buddhist, or Islamic traditions are dominant celebrate festivals drawn from these cultures.

Elementary education: age 6/7 to 14

Waldorf elementary school classroom

In Waldorf schools elementary education may begin when the child is nearing or already seven years of age.[30] The elementary school centers around a multi-disciplinary arts-based curriculum that includes visual arts, drama, artistic movement (eurythmy), vocal and instrumental music, and crafts.[31] Throughout the elementary years, students learn two foreign languages (in English-speaking countries often German and either Spanish or French).

Throughout the elementary years, concepts are first introduced through stories and images, and academic instruction is integrated with the visual and plastic arts, music and movement.[32] There is little reliance on standardized textbooks;[23] instead, each child creates his or her own illustrated summary of coursework in book form.[33] The school day generally starts with a one-and-a-half to two-hour academic lesson that focuses on a single theme over the course of about a month's time[6] and generally begins with an introduction that may include singing, instrumental music, recitations of poetry, including a verse written by Steiner for the start of a school day,[28] and practice in mathematics and language arts.

An objective of most Waldorf schools is to have a single teacher loop with a class throughout the elementary school years, teaching at least the principal academic lessons;[6] Waldorf teachers have been cited for their level of personal commitment to their pupils.[34]

Waldorf teachers use the concept of the four temperaments to help interpret, understand and relate to the behaviour and personalities of children under their tutelage. The temperaments, choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic, and sanguine,[23] are thought to express four basic personality types, each possessing its own fundamental way of regarding and interacting with the world.

Waldorf elementary education allows for individual variations in the pace of learning, based upon the expectation that a child will grasp a concept or achieve a skill when he or she is ready.[12] Cooperation takes priority over competition.[11][34] This approach also extends to physical education; competitive team sports are introduced in upper grades.[20]

Secondary education

In most Waldorf schools, pupils enter secondary education when they are about fourteen years old. Secondary education is provided by specialist teachers for each subject. The education now focuses much more strongly on academic subjects,[35] though students normally continue to take courses in art, music, and crafts.

Pupils are encouraged to develop their own independent and creative thinking processes.[35] The curriculum is structured to help students develop a sense of competence, responsibility and purpose,[5]:144 to foster an understanding of ethical principles, and to build a sense of social responsibility.[18]


There are widely-agreed guidelines for the Waldorf curriculum,[36][37][38] supported by the schools' common principles; nevertheless, independent Waldorf schools are autonomous institutions not required to follow a prescribed curriculum. Government-funded Waldorf-method schools may be required to incorporate aspects of state curricula. The Waldorf curriculum has from its inception organically incorporated multiple intelligences.[39]

There are a few subjects largely unique to the Waldorf schools. Foremost among these is Eurythmy, a movement art usually accompanying spoken texts or music which includes elements of role play and dance and is designed to provide individuals and classes with a "sense of integration and harmony".[11] The arts generally play a significant role throughout the pedagogy and Waldorf education's unique integration of the arts into traditional content has been cited as a model for other schools.[40]

Waldorf schools generally introduce computers into the curriculum in the teenage years.[41]

Origins and history

Growth of Waldorf Schools Worldwide

Rudolf Steiner wrote his first book on education, The Education of the Child, in 1907. The first school based upon these principles was opened in 1919 in response to a request by Emil Molt, the owner and managing director of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany, to serve the children of employees of the factory. This is the source of the name Waldorf, which is now trademarked for use in association with the educational method. The Stuttgart school grew rapidly and soon the majority of pupils were from families not connected with the company.

In the next few years schools began to open in many other locations (Hamburg, London, The Hague, Basel) and by 1938 numerous schools inspired by the original school or its pedagogical principles had been founded in the USA, UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Hungary, and Germany. Political interference from the Nazi regime limited and ultimately closed most Waldorf schools in Europe, with the exception of the British and some Dutch schools; the affected schools, including the original school, were reopened after the Second World War.[42] As of July 2009, there are 994 independent Waldorf Schools worldwide.[14]

Waldorf schools have traditionally been numerically and culturally centered in Europe; the number of non-European schools has been slowly increasing, however, leading to a trend toward reinterpreting the formerly Euro-centric curriculum.[43]


One of Waldorf education's central premises is that all schools (not only Waldorf schools) should be both self-governing and grant teachers a high degree of creative autonomy within the school;[32][44] this is based upon the conviction that a holistic approach to education that aiming at the development of free individuals can only be successful when based on a school form that expresses these same principles.[31] Most Waldorf schools are not directed by a principal or head teacher, but rather by a number of groups, including:

  • The college of teachers, who decide on pedagogical issues, normally on the basis of consensus. This group is usually open to full-time teachers who have been with the school for a prescribed period of time. Each school is accordingly unique in its approach, as it may act solely on the basis of the decisions of the college of teachers to set policy or other actions pertaining to the school and its students.[28] Waldorf schools have been cited for having a high level of teacher collegiality.[34]
  • The board of trustees, who decide on governance issues, especially those relating to school finances and legal issues.

Parents are encouraged to take an active part in non-curricular aspects of school life.[11] Waldorf schools have been found to create effective adult learning communities.[45]

There are coordinating bodies for Waldorf education at both the national (e.g. the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America and the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship in the UK and Ireland) and international level (e.g. International Association for Waldorf Education and The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education (ECSWE)). These organizations certify the use of the registered names "Waldorf" and "Steiner school" and offer accreditations, often in conjunction with regional independent school associations.[46] Some Waldorf schools are independently accredited by governmental authorities.[47]

Social engagement

Waldorf schools seek to cultivate pupils' sense of social responsibility,[48] respect, and compassion; to develop their cooperative capacities; and to enable them to contribute to societal and cultural renewal;[49] studies have found the schools' pupils to be unusually oriented towards improving social conditions and having more positive visions of the future.[50] Studies done in Germany and Sweden have found Waldorf pupils to be less xenophobic and less likely to be attracted to extreme right-wing political groups than pupils in other types of schools.[51][52] The underlying educational philosophy has been commended for being based upon peace and tolerance.[53]

Intercultural links in socially polarized communities

Waldorf schools have linked polarized communities in a variety of settings.

  • Under the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Waldorf school was one of the few schools in which children of both races attended the same classes, despite the ensuing loss of state aid. A Waldorf training college in Cape Town, the Novalis Institute, was described by UNESCO as an organization which had a great consequence in the conquest of apartheid: "It has prepared the way and laid the foundations for a new and integrated [community].”[53][54]
  • In Israel, the Harduf Kibbutz Waldorf school includes both Jewish and Arab faculty and students and has extensive contact with the surrounding Arab communities;[55] it also runs an Arab-language Waldorf teacher training.[56] In addition, a joint Arab-Jewish Waldorf kindergarten, the first Arab-Jewish, bilingual and bicultural kindergarten in Israel,[57] was founded in Hilf (near Haifa) in 2005.[58]
  • In Brazil, a Waldorf teacher, Ute Craemer, founded a community service organization providing childcare, vocational training and work, social services including health care, and Waldorf education to more than 1,000 residents of poverty-stricken areas (Favelas) of Sao Paolo.[59]


The "Friends of Waldorf Education," a foundation whose main purpose is to support, develop infrastructure, finance and provide advice to the Waldorf movement world-wide, has developed contacts with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. During UNESCO's International Conference on Education in 1994 in Geneva the foundation mounted an exhibition on its educational projects.[60][61]

In 2001, 16 Waldorf schools in 14 countries were members of the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network.[62], and the Director-General decision was to allow admission to Official Relations under the Directives concerning UNESCO’s relations with foundations and similar institutions (1991), as a foundation.

Spiritual foundations

Anthroposophy's role

Both historically and philosophically, Waldorf education grows out of anthroposophy's view of child development, which stands as the basis for the educational theory, methodology of teaching and curriculum. This includes the belief that humans possess an innate spirit that, having passed through previous lives, will in this life develop in its karmically appropriate environment, before returning to the spirit world and later reincarnate in another body.[63] Waldorf pedagogics see the teacher as having "a sacred task in helping each child's soul and spirit grow".[64 ] Steiner's "extra-sensory anthropology" has been the source of criticisms of Waldorf education: Ullrich questions: "Can any solution be found to this fundamental paradox of Steiner’s pedagogics—the creation of a beneficial practice on the foundation of a dubious theory?" His answer is to draw a distinction between Steiner's disputed "living logic of images... an attempt to rehabilitate mythical thinking and ritual life in a civilization ruled by science" and the "versatility of the related educational views, metaphors and maxims" which have a firm basis in "modern common sense educational theory."[23]

While anthroposophy is not generally taught as a subject, the degree to which anthroposophy is described by the schools as the philosophical underpinning of Waldorf education typically varies from school to school. At times this has led to parents objecting that the role of anthroposophy in the educational method had not been disclosed to them, prior to enrollment.[20] In addition, the pedagogy's reliance on a single theory of child development has been questioned and some Waldorf teachers' uncritical attitude toward anthroposophy criticized.[13]

Spirituality and religion

Throughout the curriculum, Waldorf education is implicitly infused with spirituality.[11] The curriculum includes a wide range of religious traditions without favoring any single tradition.[11][42]

In Germany, where religious classes are a mandatory school offering in some federal states[65] each religious denomination provides its own teachers for the Waldorf schools' religion classes; the schools also offer an open religion class for those who have no professed religion. Religion classes are universally absent from American Waldorf schools.[66]

Celebrations and festivals

Festivals play an important role in Waldorf schools, which generally celebrate seasonal observances by showing work of students in the class. The faculty of each individual school decides which festivals and celebrations would best meet the needs and traditions of the students in their particular school. Waldorf theories and practices have been adapted by schools to the historical and cultural traditions of the surrounding communities, whereby there is wide variation to what extent educators detach from Waldorf education's traditionally European Christian orientation.[5] Examples of such adaptation include the Waldorf schools in Israel and Japan, which celebrate festivals of their particular spiritual heritage, and classes in the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf school, which have adopted traditions with African American and Native American heritages.[11]


UK comparison with mainstream education
A UK Department for Education and Skills report noted significant differences in curriculum and pedagogical approach between Waldorf/Steiner and mainstream schools and suggested that each type of school could learn from the other type's strengths: in particular, that state schools could benefit from Waldorf education's[67] early introduction and approach to modern foreign languages; combination of block (class) and subject teaching for younger children; development of speaking and listening through an emphasis on oral work; good pacing of lessons through an emphasis on rhythm; emphasis on child development guiding the curriculum and examinations; approach to art and creativity; attention given to teachers’ reflective activity and heightened awareness (in collective child study for example); and collegial structure of leadership and management, including collegial study. Aspects of mainstream practice which could inform good practice in Waldorf schools included: management skills and ways of improving organizational and administrative efficiency; classroom management; work with secondary-school age children; and assessment and record keeping.
A 2008 report by the Cambridge-based Primary Review found that Steiner/Waldorf schools achieved superior academic results to English state schools.[68]
Australian Studies
  • An Australian Study of academic success at university: An Australian study comparing the academic performance of students at university level found that students who had been at Waldorf schools significantly outperformed their peers from non-Waldorf schools in both the humanities and the sciences.[69]
Creativity and artistry
A study comparing the drawing ability of children in Steiner/Waldorf, Montessori and traditional schools concluded that "the approach to art education in Steiner schools is conducive not only to more highly rated imaginative drawings in terms of general drawing ability and use of color but also to more accurate and detailed observational drawings,"[70] while another study found that Waldorf pupils average higher scores on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking Ability than state-school students.[71]
Comparative study of moral development
An American study found that Waldorf-educated students scored significantly higher on a test of moral reasoning than students in public high schools and students in a religiously-affiliated high school. Waldorf students were also far more likely to volunteer opinions about the survey and research in general, suggesting possible improvements in the survey technique and offering new possibilities to resolve the moral dilemmas raised in the survey.[7]
U.S. Waldorf schools survey
A 1995 survey of U.S. Waldorf schools found that parents overall experienced the Waldorf schools as achieving their major aims for students, and described the education as one that "integrates the aesthetic, spiritual and interpersonal development of the child with rigorous intellectual development", preserving students' enthusiasm for learning so that they develop a better sense of self-confidence and self-direction. Some parents described upper grades teachers as overextended, without sufficient time to relate to parental needs and input, and wished for more open and reciprocal parent-school support. Both parents and students sometimes described colleges of teachers as being insular and unresponsive.
Rudolf Steiner School, New York City
The students overall were positive about the school and its differences; experienced the school as a "community of friends"; and spoke of the opportunity to grow and develop through the broad range of activities offered, to learn when they were ready to learn, to develop imagination, and to come to understand the world as well as oneself. Many students spoke of the kindness of their peers and of learning to think things through clearly for themselves, not to jump to conclusions, and to remain positive in the face of problems and independent of pressure from others to think as they do. Improvements the students suggested included more after-school sports programs, more physical education classes, more preparation for standardized testing, a class in world politics and computer classes. Faculty, parents and students were united in expressing a desire to improve the diversity of the student body, especially by increasing representation of minority groups such as African-Americans and Hispanic Americans.[5]
Waldorf approach for at-risk students
The T. E. Mathews Community School in Yuba County, California serves high-risk juvenile offenders, many of whom have learning disabilities. The school switched to Waldorf methods in the 1990s. A 1999 study of the school found that students had "improved attitudes toward learning, better social interaction and excellent academic progress."[72][73] This study identified the integration of the arts "into every curriculum unit and almost every classroom activity" of the school as the most effective tool to help students overcome patterns of failure. The study also found significant improvements in reading and math scores, student participation, focus, openness and enthusiasm, as well as emotional stability, civility of interaction and tenacity.[73]
Standardized testing
USA and Germany
Despite their sometimes controversial lessened exposure to standardized testing (such tests are generally absent in the elementary school years), U.S. Waldorf pupils' SAT scores have usually come above the national average, especially on verbal measures.[20] Studies comparing students' performance on college-entrance examinations in Germany found that as a group, Waldorf graduates passed the exam at double to triple the rate of students graduating from the state education system,[20][23] and that students who had attended Waldorf schools for their entire education passed at a much higher rate (40% vs. 26%) than those who only had part of their education at a Waldorf school.[74] Educational successes of private Waldorf schools may partially reflect the social status of their students.[23]
Other studies have found Waldorf pupils to have a lower incidence of allergies and allergic-like symptoms, an effect which correlated with the extent to which they lived an "anthroposophic lifestyle" generally and especially the reduced use of antibiotics, antipyretics, and measles, mumps and rubella vaccination.[75][76]


Waldorf methodology has had a generally positive reception by educationalists:

  • Professor Robert Peterkin considers Waldorf education a healing education whose underlying principles are appropriate for educating all children.[77]
  • Thomas Nielsen of the University of Canberra considers the imaginative teaching approaches used in Waldorf education (drama, exploration, storytelling, routine, arts, discussion and empathy) to be effective stimulators of spiritual-aesthetic, intellectual and physical development and recommends these to mainstream educators.[78]
  • Jennifer Gidley, Research Fellow at RMIT University Melbourne, points to the need in the 21st century to create conceptual bridges between Steiner pedagogy and contemporary philosophical and pedagogical approaches. [79][80]

Some Waldorf methods have also been adopted by teachers in both public/state and other private schools.[16 ] One researcher studying an urban Waldorf school in Milwaukee criticized the lack of greater efforts to implement Waldorf methods in public education.[81]

Reading and literacy

Steiner-Waldorf education emphasizes the oral tradition, deferring the introduction of reading and writing until age 7.[82] Todd Oppenheimer contrasted the Waldorf schools' approach to reading with early learning approaches:

Emphasis on the creative also guides the aspect of a Waldorf education that probably frightens parents more than any other: the relaxed way that children learn to read. Whereas students at more competitive schools are mastering texts in first grade, sometimes even in kindergarten, most Waldorf students aren't reading fully until the third grade. And if they're still struggling at that point, many Waldorf teachers don't worry. In combination with another Waldorf oddity -- sending children to first grade a year later than usual -- this means that students may not be reading until age nine or ten, several years after many of their peers. ...

It's no surprise, then, that Waldorf parents occasionally panic. Others may distrust Waldorf education because they have heard tales of parents who pulled their children out of a Waldorf school in the third grade when the kids still couldn't read. "That's like a standing joke," [one parent], the mother of two graduates of the Rudolf Steiner School, told [Oppenheimer]. "People say, 'Oh, can your kids read?' There was no concerted effort to drum certain words into the kids. And that was the point." Before teaching sound and word recognition, Waldorf teachers concentrate on exercises to build up a child's love of language. The technique seems to work, even in public schools. Barbara Warren, a teacher at John Morse, a public school near Sacramento, says that two years after Waldorf methods were introduced in her fourth-grade class of mostly minority children, the number of students who read at grade level doubled, rising from 45 to 85 percent. "I didn't start by making them read more," Warren says. "I started telling stories, and getting them to recite poetry that they learned by listening, not by reading. They became incredible listeners." Many Waldorf parents recall that their children were behind their friends in non-Waldorf schools but somehow caught up in the third or fourth grade, and then suddenly read with unusual fervor.[20]

Child psychologist David Elkind, who examined the Waldorf schools focus on hands-on exploration and conceptualization in early childhood education,[83] cites evidence that late readers ultimately fare better at reading and other subjects than early readers.[20][83]

According to Lucy Calkins, a reading specialist at the Teachers College of Columbia University, in most public schools the students who start reading later tend to do worse. Calkins also says that Waldorf students might also benefit slightly if they started earlier, but stated that she "would not necessarily be worried in a Waldorf school....The foundation of literacy is talk and play."[20]

Oppenheimer also cautions "the system isn't fail-safe," noting that faith in the Waldorf system for reading instruction can lead teachers to overlook genuine learning disabilities in some students, including dyslexia.[20]

Research by Sebastian Suggate for his doctorate in psychology at Otago University, New Zealand, found no difference between the reading ability of early (from age five) and late (from age seven) readers by the time those children reached their last year at primary school (11 years). Dr Suggate conducted one international and two New Zealand studies, each one backing up the conclusions of the other. Comparing children from Rudolf Steiner schools, who usually started learning to read from age seven, and children in state-run schools, who started at five, he found that the later learners caught up and matched the reading abilities of their earlier-reading counterparts by the time they were 11, or by Year 7. He said the research raised the question; if there were no advantages to learning to read from the age of five, could there be disadvantages to starting teaching children to read earlier (at age five). "In other words, we could be putting them off," he said. "This research emphasises to me the importance of early language and learning, while de-emphasising the importance of early reading." [84]

Concerns over immunizations

The founder of Waldorf education suggested that children's spirits benefited from being tempered in the fires of a good inflammation.[85] Concerns have been raised that unvaccinated students, some of whom attended Waldorf schools, may have been compromising public health by spreading disease, even among vaccinated populations[86][87][88] or that schools have discouraged immunization.[89]

In response, the European Council of Waldorf Schools, representing 630 of the 900 Waldorf schools world wide, [90] has stated unequivocally that opposition to immunisation per se – or resistance to national strategies for childhood immunisation in general – forms no part of the goals of Waldorf education. It also stated that a matter such as whether or not to inoculate a child against communicable disease should be a matter for parental choice, and that insofar as schools have any role to play in these matters, it is in making available a range of balanced information both from the appropriate national agencies and from qualified health professionals with expertise in the field. [91]

Publicly-funded schools

Note: the following only describes publicly funded schools in English-speaking countries. Many non-English speaking countries, especially countries in Northern and Eastern Europe, provide public funding to all independent schools (and thus also Waldorf schools) as a matter of course.


At present there are at least thirty publicly-funded Waldorf schools in the United States,[92] some of which operate within the public sector and some of which are charter schools. The first US public Waldorf school, the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf School, began using Waldorf methods in 1991; since switching to Waldorf methods, the school has shown an increase in parental involvement, a reduction in suspensions, improvements in standardized test scores for both reading and writing (counter to the district trend), while expenditures per pupil are below many regular district programs.[93]


California has more publicly-funded Waldorf schools than any other US state.

In 1998 a lawsuit was filed in California against two government school districts which employed Waldorf methods in two of their schools. The plaintiff, PLANS, argued that publicly-financed Waldorf-methods schools violated the principle of the separation of church and state in the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. At the trial, held in 2005, the court ruled against PLANS, dismissing the case on its merits. An appeal was granted in November, 2007, and the case was remanded to trial.[94]


Public schools using Waldorf-based methods include four in Quebec (in Chambly, Montreal, Waterville, and Victoriaville) and one French-speaking school in Ottawa, Ontario.


There are currently 10 Steiner programs operating in government-run schools in Australia.[89]

A number of State-run schools in Victoria run "Steiner-influenced" programs in parallel with standard curricula. The first was East Bentleigh Primary School (formerly Moorabbin Heights Primary School), which commenced the program in 1990[95]. Controversy over the Steiner stream has arisen at Footscray City Primary, a school in Footscray that introduced a Steiner program in 2001.

In 2006, State-run Steiner schools in Victoria, Australia were challenged by parents and religious experts over concerns that the schools derive from a spiritual system (anthroposophy); parents and administrators, as well as Victorian Department of Education authorities, presented divergent views as to whether spiritual or religious dimensions influence pedagogical practice. If present, these would contravene the secular basis of the public education system.[96]


In July 2008, the Hereford Waldorf School in Much Dewchurch, Herefordshire, U.K. secured funding to become a state-funded "academy" specializing in the natural environment, to be known as The Steiner Academy Hereford.[97]

See also


  1. ^ Rist and Schneider, Integrating Vocational and General Education: A Rudolf Steiner School, Unesco Institute for Education, Hamburg 1979, ISBN 92-820-1024-4, p. 150
  2. ^ a b c Thomas William Nielsen, Rudolf Steiner's Pedagogy Of Imagination: A Case Study Of Holistic Education, Peter Lang Pub Inc 2004 ISBN 3039103423
  3. ^ Carrie Y. Nordlund, "Art Experiences in Waldorf Education", Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Missouri-Columbia, May 2006
  4. ^ Southworth, Cheryl Ridgeway, Geometry, fir trees and princes: Imaginative cognition in education, Ph.D. dissertation, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1988, 294 pages; AAT 8823477
  5. ^ a b c d Freda Easton, The Waldorf impulse in education:Schools as communities that educate the whole child by integrating artistic and academic work, Ph.D. thesis, Columbia University Teachers College, 1995
  6. ^ a b c Ogletree, Earl J., Creativity and Waldorf Education: A Study.
  7. ^ a b Hether, Christine Anne, The moral reasoning of high school seniors from diverse educational settings, Ph.D. dissertation, Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, 2001, 209 pages; AAT 3044032
  8. ^ *"The overarching goal is to help children build a moral impulse within so they can choose in freedom what it means to live morally." - Armon, Joan, "The Waldorf Curriculum as a Framework for Moral Education: One Dimension of a Fourfold System.", (Abstract), Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, March 24-28, 1997), p. 1
  9. ^ Peter Schneider, Einführung in die Waldorfpädogogik, Klett-Cotta 1987, ISBN 3-608-93006-X
  10. ^ Ronald V. Iannone, Patricia A. Obenauf, "Toward Spirituality in Curriculum and Teaching", page 737, Education, Vol 119 Issue 4, 1999
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Ray McDermott, Mary E. Henry, Cynthia Dillard, Paul Byers, Freda Easton, Ida Oberman, Bruce Uhrmacher, "Waldorf education in an inner-city public school", Urban Review, June 1996
  12. ^ a b P. Bruce Uhrmacher, "Uncommon Schooling: A Historical Look at Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy, and Waldorf Education", Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Winter, 1995), pp. 381-406
  13. ^ a b Mary Barr Sturbaum, Transformational Possibilities of Schooling: A Study of Waldorf Education, Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1997
  14. ^ a b List of Waldorf schools worldwide
  15. ^ UNESCO 2001 Annex VI
  16. ^ a b Stephanie Luster Bravmann, Nancy Stewart Green, Pamela Bolotin Joseph, Edward R. Mikel, Mark A. Windschitl, Cultures of Curriculum, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000. p81, "[Steiner, who] developed the Waldorf School system of education, is another whose ideas are reproduced, often less in whole than in an expanding number of American public and private schools today."
  17. ^ In Germany, "more than 2,000 participants per year, most of whom are state-school teachers, attend summer Waldorf pedagogical seminars in Stuttgart, Herne and Hamburg." Peter Schneider, Einführung in die Waldorfpädagogik, ISBN 3-608-93006-X, p. 16
  18. ^ a b c d e Carolyn Pope Edwards, "Three Approaches from Europe", Early Childhood Research and Practice, Spring 2002
  19. ^ a b Iona H. Ginsburg, "Jean Piaget and Rudolf Steiner: Stages of Child Development and Implications for Pedagogy", Teachers College Record Volume 84 Number 2, 1982, p. 327-337.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Todd Oppenheimer, Schooling the Imagination, Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 99
  21. ^ a b P. Bruce Uhrmacher, Making Contact: An Exploration of Focused Attention Between Teacher and Students", Curriculum Inquiry, Vol 23, No 4, Winter 1993, pp433-444.
  22. ^ Thomas William Nielsen, "Rudolf Steiner's Pedagogy of Imagination: A Phenomenological Case Study", Peter Lang Publisher 2004
  23. ^ a b c d e f Ullrich, Heiner, "Rudolf Steiner" "Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education, UNESCO: International Bureau of education, vol XXIV, no. 3/4, 1994, pp. 555-572
  24. ^ Grace Chen, How “Collaborative Reasoning” Could Be the Next Public School Trend, Public School Review, September 24, 2009
  25. ^ Ginsburg and Opper, Piaget's Theory of Intellectual Development, ISBN 0-13-675140-7, pp. 39-40
  26. ^ a b Rist and Schneider, Integrating Vocational and Generla Education: A Rudolf Steiner School, Unesco Institute for Education, Hamburg 1979, ISBN 92-820-1024-4, pp. 144-6
  27. ^ Earl J. Ogletree, Creativity and Waldorf Education: A Study 1991, ERIC #ED364440, op. cit., p14
  28. ^ a b c Ida Oberman, "Waldorf History: A Case Study of Institutional Memory", Paper presented to Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association, IL Mar 24-28, 1997, published US Department of Education - Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC)
  29. ^ Fitzjohn, Sue, et al., Festivals Together: A Guide to Multi-Cultural Celebration, ISBN 1869890469
  30. ^ Criteria for school readiness often include the onset of primary tooth loss, which has been found to correlate strongly with somatic and psychological criteria of school readiness. Cf. Ernst-Michael Kranich, "Anthropologie", in F. Bohnsack and E-M Kranich (eds.), Erziehungswissenschaft und Waldorfpädagogik, Reihe Pädagogik Beltz, Weinheim 1990, p. 126, citing F. Ilg and L. Ames (Gesell Institute), School Readiness, p. 236ff and "...the loss of the first deciduous tooth can serve as a definite indicator of a male child's readiness for reading and schoolwork", Diss. Cornell U. Silvestro, John R. 1977. “Second Dentition and School Readiness.” New York State Dental Journal 43 (March): 155—8
  31. ^ a b Carlo Willmann, Waldorfpädogogik, ISBN 3412167002. See "Ganzheitliche Erziehung", 2.3.3"
  32. ^ a b Freda Easton, "Educating the Whole Child, 'Head, Heart and Hands': Learning from the Waldorf Experience", Theory into Practice by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., pp 87-94.
  33. ^ TRESD Waldorf-methods charter schools
  34. ^ a b c Gay Ward, "Education for the Human Journey", paper presented at Australian Association for Research in Education International Conference 2-6 Dec. 2001, cited in DFES report
  35. ^ a b Rist and Schneider, Integrating Vocational and General Education: A Rudolf Steiner School, Unesco Institute for Education, Hamburg 1979, ISBN 92-820-1024-4, pp. 146-8
  36. ^ Martyn Rawson and Tobias Richter, The Educational Tasks and Content of the Steiner Waldorf Curriculum,
  37. ^ E. A. Karl Stockmeyer, Rudolf Steiner's Curriculum for Waldorf Schools, Steiner Schools Fellowship, 1985
  38. ^ Rena Upitis, In praise of romance
  39. ^ Thomas Armstrong, cited in Boston Public Schools As Arts-Integrated Learning Organizations: Developing a High Standard of Culture for All, :"Waldorf education embodies in a truly organic sense all of Howard Gardner's seven intelligences. Rudolph Steiner's vision is a whole one, not simply an amalgam of the seven intelligences. Many schools are currently attempting to construct curricula based on Gardner's model simply through an additive process (what can we add to what we have already got?). Steiner's approach, however, was to begin with a deep inner vision of the child and the child's needs and build a curriculum around that vision."
  40. ^ Ernest Boyer, cited in Eric Oddleifson, Boston Public Schools As Arts-Integrated Learning Organizations: Developing a High Standard of Culture for All, Address of May 18, 1995: "One of the strengths of the Waldorf curriculum is its emphasis on the arts and the rich use of the spoken word through poetry and storytelling. The way the lessons integrate traditional subject matter is, to my knowledge, unparalleled. Those in the public school reform movement have some important things to learn from what Waldorf educators have been doing for many years. It is an enormously impressive effort toward quality education."
  41. ^ "Reading is a habit that we can't afford to lose", Sunday Herald, Dec. 2, 2007
  42. ^ a b P. Bruce Uhrmacher, "Uncommon Schooling: A Historical Look at Rudolf Steiner, Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education", Curriculum Inquiry, Vol. 25, No. 4. Winter 1995
  43. ^ Alduino Mazzone, Waldorf Teacher Education (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Adelaide), p. 164
  44. ^ Rist and Schneider, Integrating Vocational and General Education: A Rudolf Steiner School, Unesco Institute for Education, Hamburg 1979, ISBN 92-820-1024-4, pp.8-10
  45. ^ Tom Stehlik ("Parenting as a Vocation", International Journal of Lifelong Education 22 (4) pp. 367-79, 2003, cited in DFES report
  46. ^ WASC Accrediting commission for schools
  47. ^ Rhode Island accreditation
  48. ^ Robert McDermott, The Essential Steiner, Harper San Francisco 1984 ISBN 0-06-065345-0
  49. ^ Christensen, Leah M., "Going Back to Kindergarten: Applying the Principles of Waldorf Education to Create Ethical Attorneys". Suffolk University Law Review, 2006
  50. ^ Gidley, J. (1998). "Prospective Youth Visions through Imaginative Education." Futures 30(5), pp395-408, cited in Gidley, Batemen, and Smith, Futures in Education, Australian Foresight Institute Monograph Series, 2004 Nr. 5
  51. ^ "Eingegangene Stellungnahmen zu der schriftlichen Anhörung zu dem Dringlichen Antrag der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN betreffend Bekämpfung des Rechtsextremismus in Hessen", p. 130
  52. ^ Bo Dahlin et al.: Waldorfskolor och medborgerligt-moralisk kompetens. En jämförelse mellan waldorfelever och elever i den kommunala skolan (Waldorf schools and civic moral competency. A comparison of Waldorf pupils with pupils in public schools. Report 2004:2 Karlstad: Institution for educational science, University of Karlstad, Sweden.)
  53. ^ a b Tolerance: The Threshold of Peace., UNESCO, 1994.
  54. ^ Peter Normann Waage, Humanism and Polemical Populism, Humanist 3/2000
  55. ^ Salaam Shalom Educational Foundation
  56. ^ Salaam Shalom
  57. ^ "Garten des Friedens", Anthroposophie Weltweit, 8/07
  58. ^ When Ahmed met Avshalom, Israel21c, May 28, 2006. See the online version of article.
  59. ^ Women of the Year nominee for 1997 (English translation). Accessed 2008-04-29.
  60. ^ N. Gobel, Waldorf education: exhibition catalogue on occasion of the 44th session of the international conference on education of UNESCO in Geneva. UNESCO:Kathmandu 2004
  61. ^ UNESCO Kathmandu, 2004
  62. ^ UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet)
  63. ^ Giesenberg, Anna (2000) Spiritual development and young children, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 8(2), 23 — 37. doi:10.1080/13502930085208551.
  64. ^ p.84
  65. ^ "Education and Social Cohesion--Religion in the Classroom", Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
  66. ^ Mark Riccio, Rudolf Steiner's Impulse in Education, dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, 2000, p. 87
  67. ^ 2005 report Steiner Schools in England by Philip Woods, Martin Ashley and Glenys Woods of the University of the West of England, Steiner Schools in England, University of West of England, Bristol: Research Report RR645
  68. ^ "Primary schools exert unnecessary pressure on students"
  69. ^ "Sunday Night" broadcast of July 15, 2007
  70. ^ Maureen Cox and Anna Rolands, "The Effect of Three Different Educational Approaches on Children's Drawing Ability", British Journal of Educational Psychology 70, pp. 485-503 (abstract)
  71. ^ Earl J. Ogletree, The Comparative Status of the Creative Thinking Ability of Waldorf Education Students
  72. ^ Arline Monks, "Breaking Down the Barriers to Learning: The Power of the Arts", Journal of Court, Community and Alternative Schools
  73. ^ a b Babineaux, R., Evaluation report: Thomas E. Mathews Community School, Stanford University 1999, cited in Monks, op. cit.
  74. ^ Der Spiegel, December 14, 1981
  75. ^ "Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children", Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, January 11, 2006 [1]
  76. ^ Klotter, Jule, "Anthroposophic lifestyle and allergies in children", Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients 274 (May 2006): 24(2)
  77. ^ Robert S. Peterkin, Director of Urban Superintendents Program, Harvard Graduate School of Education and former Superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools, in Boston Public Schools As Arts-Integrated Learning Organizations: Developing a High Standard of Culture for All:"Waldorf is healing education . . . It is with a sense of adventure that the staff of Milwaukee Public Schools embraces the Waldorf concept in an urban multicultural setting. It is clear that Waldorf principles are in concert with our goals for educating all children."
  78. ^ "Rudolf Steiner's Pedagogy of Imagination: A Phenomenological Case Study"
  79. ^ “Educational Imperatives of the Evolution of Consciousness: The Integral Visions of Rudolf Steiner and Ken Wilber”, The International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 170-135.
  80. ^ “Beyond Homogenisation of Global Education: Do Alternative Pedagogies such as Steiner Education have anything to offer an Emergent Global/ising World?” in S. Inayatullah, M. Bussey and I. Milojevic (eds) Alternative Educational Futures: Pedagogies for an Emergent World, Sense Publishers, Rotterdam
  81. ^ Phaizon Rhys Wood, Beyond Survival: A Case Study of the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf School, D.Ed. dissertation, Univ. of San Francisco, 1996, p. 135, 149, 154ff
  82. ^ Janet Howard (1992). Literacy learning in a Waldorf school: A belief in the sense of structure and story. Ed.D. dissertation, State University of New York at Albany.
  83. ^ a b David Elkind, "Much Too Early", Education Next, a Journal of Opinion and Research, Hoover Institute, Standford University, Summer 2001 [2]
  84. ^ New Zealand Herald, Research finds no advantage in learning to read from five[3]
  85. ^ Arthur Allen, Bucking the Herd, The Atlantic Monthly, September 2002
  86. ^ Katherine Seligman, Vaccination backlash, The San Francisco Chronicle May 25, 2003[4]
  87. ^ Pamela White, A shot in the dark, Boulder Weekly, Aug 8 2002
  88. ^ "Thomas R. DeGregori, The Deadly Perils of Rejected Knowledge, American Council on Science and Health, Sept 13, 2002 [5]
  89. ^ a b Milanda Rout, "Questions about Steiner's classrooms", The Australian July 28 2007
  90. ^ European Council of Waldorf Schools
  91. ^ Consensus statement, agreed by members of the ECSWE, meeting in Copenhagen, 21 January 2001.
  92. ^ List of US publicly funded schools
  93. ^ Dr. Richard R. Doornek, Educational Curriculum specialist with the Milwaukee Public Schools quoted in Phaizon Rhys Wood, Beyond Survival: A Case Study of the Milwaukee Urban Waldorf School, dissertation, School of Education, University of San Francisco, 1996
  94. ^ Damrell, Frank C., Minute Order, Nov 27 2007. Text of order. Accessed 2007-12-17.
  95. ^
  96. ^ Steiner education in state schools. ABC National Radio. 25 July 2007 Religion Report, I, 1 August 2007 Religion Report II
  97. ^ Mark Bowen, New academy to open in Hereford, Hereford Times, 24 July 2008. Accessed 2008-07-25.


Works by Rudolf Steiner

  • Education: An Introductory Reader (Christopher Clouder, ed.), Sophia Books (March 2004), ISBN 1-85584-118-5. Collection of relevant works by Steiner on education.
  • The Education of the Child, and early Lectures on Education (Foundations of Waldorf Education, 25), ISBN 0-88010-414-7. Includes Steiner's first descriptions of child development, originally published as a small booklet.
  • The Foundations of Human Experience, ISBN 0-88010-392-2; also known as The Study of Man, these fundamental lectures on education were given to the teachers just before the opening of the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart in 1919.

Note: all of Steiner's lectures on Waldorf education are available in PDF form at this research site

Selected works by other authors

  • Aeppli, W., The Developing Child Anthroposophic Press ISBN 0-88010-491-0
  • Clouder, C. and Rawson, M., Waldorf Education Floris Books ISBN 0-86315-396-8
  • Cusick, L, Waldorf Parenting Handbook Mercury Press ISBN 0-916786-75-7
  • Edmunds, Francis, An Introduction to Steiner Education Rudolf Steiner Press ISBN 1-85584-172-X
  • Gardner, John F., Education in Search of the Spirit: Essays on American Education Anthroposophic Press ISBN 0-88010-439-2
  • Masters, Brien, Adventures in Steiner Education Rudolf Steiner Press ISBN 1-85584-153-3
  • Nicol, Janni, Bringing the Steiner Waldorf Approach to Your Early Years Practice, ISBN 1843124335
  • Nobel, Agnes, Educating through Art: The Steiner School Approach Floris Books ISBN 0863151873
  • Petrash, Jack, (2002): Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out Floris Books ISBN 0863154300
  • Querido, René, The Esoteric Background of Waldorf Education Rudolf Steiner College Press ISBN 0-94580-325-7
  • Wilkinson, R. (1996): The Spiritual Basis of Steiner Education. London: Sophia Books ISBN 1-85584-065-0

External links

General reference
Teacher training programs
Associations of Waldorf Schools
Directories of Schools


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Waldorf education is a world-wide system of education founded by Rudolf Steiner in 1919. There are now nearly 1,000 Waldorf schools as well as numerous independent Waldorf pre-school programs.


  • Waldorf education places the development of the individual child in the focal point, convinced that the healthy individual is a prerequisite for a healthy society.
The International Conference on Education of UNESCO[1]
  • The advent of the Waldorf Schools was in my opinion the greatest contribution to world peace and understanding of the century.
Willy Brandt, former Chancellor West Germany, 1971 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate[2]
  • Those in the public school reform movement have some important things to learn from what Waldorf educators have been doing for many years. It is an enormously impressive effort toward quality education, and schools would be advised to familiarize themselves with the basic assumptions that under gird the Waldorf movement. Art as it helps to reveal the use of language, art as it can be revealed in numbers, and certainly in nature
Ernest L Boyer (1928-1995), Former President, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching[2]
  • My own experience with Waldorf-educated children is overwhelmingly positive. Although a public school teacher myself for 30 years, I've been fortunate enough as a public speaker on school reform to have been invited to lecture at Waldorf schools all over the country. What I've seen on these trips has been a revelation to me of what might be possible.
John Taylor Gatto, former New York State Teacher of the Year[3]
  • "My past three decades (of teaching) have been marked by change. From time to time a unique stabilizing influence would appear in my classes: a Waldorf graduate. They were different from the others. Without exception they were, at the same time, caring people, creative students, individuals with indefinable values, and students who when they spoke made a difference."
    • Dr. Warren B. Eickelberg, Professor of Biology and Director of Premedical Curriculum, Adelphi University[4]
  • There is no task of greater importance than to give our children the very best preparation for the demands of an ominous future, a preparation that aims at the methodical cultivation of their spiritual and their moral gifts. As long as the exemplary work of the Waldorf School Movement continues to spread its influence as it has done over the past decades, we can all look forward with hope. I am sure that Rudolf Steiner's work for children must be considered a central contribution to the twentieth century and I feel it deserves the support of all freedom-loving thinking people
Bruno Walter (1876-1962), composer and conductor[2]
  • I first heard of Waldorf education about five years ago, after having carried out extensive study of the neurological aspects of cognition, movement, and maturation. I was delighted to discover such a neurologically sound curriculum. I heartily support efforts to spread the awareness of Waldorf education and hope that it will spawn not only an increase in Waldorf schools, but an infusion of at least some of the ideas into the mainstream where they are so sorely needed. In Colorado, I am working with several districts to incorporate various Waldorf strategies into the teaching of reading and mathematics. The ideas are very well received and very much needed.
Dee Joy Coulter, Ed.D., founding member of Addressing Children's Traumas[2]
  • I used to think Waldorf education the most undamaging education, but then the more I looked into it, I found it the most beneficial system we have. People ask, "What will happen to my child in the world if he doesn't learn to read and write very early?" . . . The issue is that the child's greatest strength for survival in a world of madness is to be whole, sane and in touch with the heart. The beauty of the Waldorf School is that it keeps children intact until they are ready to move out into the world as whole individuals. [5]
Joseph Chilton Pearce, Author: "The Magical Child", "The Crack in the Cosmic Egg"
  • I am deeply grateful for Waldorf education, which woke me up and helped me rediscover my imagination.
Michael Ende, Author: "The Neverending Story", former Waldorf student[2]
  • Waldorf education has been an important model of holistic education for almost a century. It is one of the very few forms of education that acknowledges the soul-life of children and nurtures that life. It is truly an education for the whole child and will continue to be an important model of education as we move into the 21st century.
Jack Miller, Professor, Coordinator of Holistic and Aesthetic Education in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Toronto[2]
  • Steiner was a free-spirited school that encouraged creativity and individualism.
Jennifer Aniston, actress and former Waldorf pupil[2]
  • Waldorf schools generally turn out young people who get into the colleges of their choice, but more importantly are well prepared for life. I hope this form of education becomes the basis for public school curriculum throughout the United States. And I hope it happens soon.
Eric Utne, founder of, publisher, and editor-in-chief of Utne Reader[2]
  • Waldorf education enables young people to be in love with the world as the world should be loved.
Marjorie Spock, Author: "Teaching as a lively art", teacher, sister of Dr. Benjamin Spock and inspirer of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring"[2]


  • Receive the children in reverence; educate them in love; let them go forth in freedom.
    • Rudolf Steiner

See also further quotes here


  1. quoted in Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education, ISBN 0-87659-246-9, p. 11
  2. a b c d e f g h i [1]
  3. John Taylor Gatto, preface to Jack Petrash, Understanding Waldorf Education, ISBN 0-87659-246-9, p. 8
  4. Waldorf Early Childhood Association
  5. Joseph Chilton Pearce, A Humanist Talks About Waldorf Education , in Pamela Johnson Femmer, et. al., Waldorf Education, A Family Guide 82 (1992)


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