Comments in response to ABC Reports and Newspaper articles. Australia 2007.
Rudolf Steiner put forward his ideas on education after World War One, in 1919. The first Steiner/ Waldorf School started after his lectures on human development, and practical advice to teachers. His ideas on child development are consistent with, but not contained by, developmental understandings found by Piaget and other theorists. Sounds more like 20th Century really. The way the schools grow and the education develops you could even say 21st Century.
Where does this idea come from? I can see no reason why parents should have to pay for the choice in education that they make for their child. Lyn Kosky as Minister of Education (Victoria, 2006) stated clearly that “Parents want and should be able to choose the educational environment that most suits the learning needs of their child. By including this principle in the Act (Education and Training Reform Act 2006) we are reflecting the realities of 21st Century education and acknowledging the diversity of choices within and across sectors.”
The other angle on this is that Steiner streams are ‘equivalent to running two schools’. This is false. Schools have a clear leadership and management structure. Guidelines for School Councils are clear. When these can be allowed to flow there is no extra expense for a school.
The Steiner stream also brings increased numbers of children into a school. This entitles the school to extra funding, and extra staff for the benefit of all students at the school.
In practice FCPS has found the working of its School Council has been obstructed. This has been a concerted policy of people with an unspoken (in 2006) political agenda;
not the work of Steiner parents,
nor the majority of parents across the school.
‘Parents …are divided over the issue’ (Australian July 9th).
Footscray City Primary is not a divided school. It has three parts to it. A Western English Language School, and two curriculum offerings; one called ‘mainstream’ and one called ‘Steiner’. The teaching staff is energetic, talented and united, supported by a strong leadership team, capable support staff and administration. It’s a great place to send your children. (Check out the web-site http://www.thebee.se/comments/plans1.html to find out more about plans to attack schools.)
What is high quality education?
For the first time in Australia research has been done on students who had completed their education in a Steiner school and gone on to university. Informal study has already been done by staff at one university (you can see the results of this on the RSSA website www.steineroz.com).
The new research however is inclusive of all students who left the school between 1991 and 2001, and went on to university. Their results have been outstanding. The average pass rate is 76.1%. The average pass is in the distinction category. The failure rate is 3%.
When compared with students in Science (15% fail year one) and Arts (18%) the Steiner students scored 10% higher in the sciences, and 5% higher in the Arts.
97% of all students from this one school got a pass or better: 83% got credit or better; over 50% got distinction or better.
All parents are entitled to choose the education for their children.
Choice does not mean some choices are free and some cost.
It’s a fairly simple argument.
(See Geoff Riordan’s comments ‘Life Matters’ 2.08.07)
But ‘it is pointless to thrust increasing loads of reason at emotionally driven behaviour.’ (Margot Cairnes. ”Staying Sane in a Changing World.”)
Steiner/ Waldorf pedagogy is proven, and accepted around the world. At present there are over 1000 schools in 66 different countries.
The only states, which have prohibited Steiner education as far as I am aware, were Germany (under the Nazis) and the Soviet Union (under the Communist regime).
Today there are 178 schools in Germany, and 26 in Russia (which is a smaller nation than the former USSR), the Ukraine has 7, and Hungary 17.
Tony Blair in his focus on ‘education, education, and education’ facilitated the setting up of a model ‘academy’ school for Steiner education in the UK.
In New Zealand Steiner schools became state funded under the terms of the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act (1975) in 1989.
Can anything be free from dogma? Isn’t it preferable to be upfront about the dogma or ‘frameworks’ you do have? In fact the Education and training reform Act 2006 does define secular. “The legislation clearly states that the government school system is secular, and open to the adherents of any philosophy, religion, or faith.” And further “…education provided by a teacher ‘about the major forms of religious thought and expression characteristic of Australian society and other societies in the world’ is acceptable.
In Steiner classrooms the day begins with a verse. A mood of reverence is set for the work of the day. In State parliament in Victoria the sessions begin everyday with the saying of the Lord’s Prayer.
Is what the politicians are inviting any different from the way Robert Martin describes his work, and his inspiration? (Australian, July 28-29). Anthroposophy does not form part of the teaching in a Steiner school. The Steiner streams are free from sectarianism, and indoctrination.
Anthroposophy simply means the study of the human being. Rudolf Steiner characterised it as “ a path of knowledge which intends to lead what is spiritual in the human being to what is spiritual in the universe.”
It is not a faith. It is not a religion.
It is a stimulus.
“ Whatever is to be taught and whatever education is to be practised must arise solely out of an understanding of the growing human being and his or her individual capacities. Genuine anthropology should provide the foundation for education and teaching.” (The Essentials of Teaching. RS 1924). Hmmm that’s 20th Century isn’t it?
Now we come to the part about currency. On John Cleary’s show Steiner’s ideas were classified as 19th Century and by implication likely to be out-of-date. His ideas were put forward in 1919, which would suggest to me that they are at least belonging to the 20th Century. That Steiner schools continue to grow and develop around the world would also suggest that they still have currency. If they are based on a picture of the human being then how much has that changed over the last 90 years?
It was curious that the Chairperson of VICCSO quoted the Education Act of 1882 and its declaration that education should be ‘universal, secular, and free.’ Now how come these ideas which are truly from the 19th Century can be valid, and ideas from the 20th Century not?
The reporter on the Religion report has some difficulty with the word ‘occult’. Perhaps he needs to disclose his dogma and his frameworks. In a serious debate about religion shouldn’t we assume that occult simply means hidden. There is no necessary negative connotation to it.