Waldorf Worldwide – Where is the Center?

Waldorf Worldwide – Where is the Center?

11 May 2023 Sven Saar 1366 views

Should curricula in other countries be based on a European ideal? Does that even exist? And what can European Waldorf schools learn from other cultures? Sven Saar, who is internationally active in teacher education, offers suggestions.

Does it make sense for children in Indonesia to knit socks (which no one would wear in that country) with wool imported from Europe, just because that is «on the curriculum» for fifth graders?

Should the Oberufer Christmas plays be performed in Japanese Waldorf schools?

How do mentors respond when Thai colleagues ask, «Besides Norse Mythology, what stories can I tell in fourth grade?» This is about more than finding the right answer: the fact that the question is even asked reveals a status problem which is worth investigating.

In the first phase of the worldwide spread of Waldorf Education, experienced and wise colleagues carried their proven practice with a lot of persuasive power to countries where they met open ears, hearts and a hands-on pioneering spirit among parents and initiators. Waldorf schools grew rapidly in capital cities, with an enthusiastic clientele of native educated middle-class and emigrant Europeans who found here familiar values and an internationally tested, child-centered curriculum. Today, many of these schools successfully lead young people to university entry, perform impressive artistic work, and are financially and socially stable and established. And yet one often comes across questions like the ones cited above, which indicate that people working here can experience themselves as part of an imported culture, having more or less accepted that what lives locally as wisdom and tradition is somehow inferior to the European Waldorf style.

This is aggravated by the problem that even after decades, most of these countries are unable to finance thorough teacher education due to a lack of state support. This is why – and this is happening more and more often in Europe as well – teachers find themselves in positions of responsibility in schools right after their first acquaintance with the Waldorf world, and are more interested in classroom strategies than in the foundations. In order to create a stable daily routine, one needs maps and signposts. A list of traditions, even one that appears foreign and old-fashioned as it, comes in very handy.

This excerpt comes from an article originally published in the (online exclusive) English Edition of the weekly Newsletter ‹Das Goetheanum›. You can read the full article on the website of ‹Das Goetheanum›.

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Image Sven Saar with pupils in Tuburan Institute, Davao, Philippines