What is Waldorf education?
Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner education is based on an anthroposophical view and understanding of the human being, that is, as a being of body, soul and spirit. The education mirrors the basic stages of a child's development from childhood to adulthood, which in general reflects the development of humanity through history from our origin, far back in past times up to the present.

The central focus for the Waldorf teacher is the development of that essence in every person that is independent of external appearance, by instilling in his/her pupils an understanding of and appreciation for their background and place in the world, not primarily as members of any specific nation, ethnic group or race, but as members of humanity and world citizens. 

Thus, the Waldorf kindergarten cultivates and works in support of the pre-school child's deep, inborn natural attitude, belief and trust in and basic reverence for the world as an interesting and good place to live in. 

In the lower grades in elementary school, this leads over to more of a stress on using artistic elements in different forms (rhythm, movement, color, form, recitation, song, music), not primarily as a means of personal self expression, but as a means to learn to understand and relate to the world, building an understanding for different subjects out of what is beautiful in the world in the broadest sense of the word. 

And in the upper grades and high school, this leads in steps to an ever more conscious cultivation of an observing, reflecting and experimental scientific attitude to the world, focusing on building an understanding of what is true, based on personal experience, thinking and judgment.

The goal of Waldorf or Rudolf Steiner education is to enable students as fully as possible to choose and, in freedom, to realize their individual path through life as adults. 

While anthroposophy forms the philosophical and theoretical basis of the teaching methods used in Waldorf schools and is reflected in the attitudes of many Waldorf teachers and in the general structuring and orientation of Waldorf education during the different stages of development, anthroposophy is not taught as such to the students in the overwhelming majority of Waldorf schools world wide. 

If anthroposophy is taught in some form by an individual teacher, this is done against the basic Waldorf tradition and in complete contradiction of the intention of Waldorf education, as expressed by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Waldorf education.

Most of the c. 870 Waldorf schools world wide in different countries (beginning of 2004) are non-profit, independent schools, starting with no public financial support. But an increasing number of Waldorf schools are supported by government funding in different countries. In the U.S., a number of schools have been established as Waldorf-methods "charter schools" within the public school system.

In the future, Waldorf schools may increasingly be based on school vouchers. This will make a basic Waldorf oriented education freely available to all as one option among others, irrespective of the socioeconomic status of the parents.

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A more in depth description of the origin, goal and methods  of Waldorf education, as described by its main founder, Rudolf Steiner, can be found online at the site of Steiner Books. See also the site of Rudolf Steiner Archive.

For more on Waldorf education, see our articles section and links page, and also Waldorf Answers.