Steiner education, also known as the Waldorf School, isn’t a new educational pedagogy. But it is one which has increased in popularity over the past decade with a rise in enrolments, as well as additional schools being developed or expanded due to high demand.
Although rising in popularity partly due to its alternative educational structure, a secondary school teacher of nearly 30 years, Margaret Keable, tells Mamamia that she believes the structure “inherently flawed.”
Originating from the ideas of Austrian-born scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, who lectured throughout Europe in the 1800-1900s, the first school based on the Steiner pedagogy was opened in 1919 in Stuttgart, Germany. It has since spread to over 60 countries throughout the world.
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The first Australian Steiner school was opened in Sydney, in 1957. There are now over 40 Steiner schools and kindergartens in Australia.
According to Steiner Education Australia (SEA), “Steiner education provides enjoyable and relevant learning through deep engagement and creative endeavour, to develop ethical, capable individuals who can contribute to society with initiative and purpose.”
Focusing on a “holistic style” of education, Steiner schools use a different curriculum framework than government, private or other independent schools, called The Australian Steiner Curriculum Framework. Some of this framework, according to the SEA website, focuses on student directed creative play, intuition, artistic expression and arts-based learning.
Keable believes it is these particular curriculum focuses that are “inadequately preparing children for future educational experiences in non-Steiner based facilities” including secondary schooling or tertiary study if they wish to pursue that pathway.
“I taught for nearly thirty years and through that time, we had many Steiner primary educated students who came to the government school I was teaching at,” Keable tells Mamamia. “Across the board they were behind their peer group academically.”
“The biggest issues these children faced was the fact that their literacy and numeracy levels were behind the majority of their peers, often quite substantially. They would often need special programmes to assist them in catching up and this often wasn’t an easy task for them.”
According to a report by Margaret Sachs, a parent whose child attended a Steiner school in the US, the gap between her daughter’s language skills and that of her peers was exceptionally wide.