Swadhaa - A Steiner School

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Steiner Education?

Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, often referred to as Waldorf education, Steiner education is based on a developmental approach that FAQsaddresses the needs of the growing child and maturing adolescent. Waldorf teachers strive to transform education in to an art that educates the whole child—the heart and the hands, as well as the head.

For more information please check – “Waldorf Education – An Introduction” on www.whywaldorfworks.com Steiner schools collectively form the largest, and quite possibly the fastest growing, group of non-profit, independent schools in the world. There is no centralized administrative structure governing all Steiner schools; each is administratively independent, but there are established associations, which provide resources, publish materials, sponsor conferences, and promote the movement.

Why should I send my child to a Steiner school?

The main reason is because Steiner schools honour and protect the wonder of childhood. Every effort is expended to make Steiner schools safe, secure and nurturing environment for the children, and to protect their childhood from harmful influences of an unbridled materialistic culture.

Secondly, Steiner education has a consistent philosophy of child development underlying the curriculum. All subjects are introduced in age appropriate fashion. Finally, Steiner schools around the world are known to produce graduates with a genuine love for learning and who consistently gain admission to top universities. In the Indian context: Our current mainstream educational system lauds intellectualism not wisdom. It is an education that addresses the head and therefore has created a society that equates success with money. To create a fulfilled individual, we need a healing education that addresses and nourishes the entire human being- Body, Soul and Individual Spirit.

FAQ2As parents ourselves, we have often wondered about the end result of conventional education with its emphasis on early learning; it’s one pointed goal of passing exams and getting good jobs, without much encouragement for the development of real knowledge and independent, creative thinking. This system for the most part, unknowingly moulds selfish and ambitious consumers rather than caring, engaged world citizens.

Waldorf Education has specific aims, the chief one being to enable the child to realize its potential by developing skills to meet life’s situations. It strives to produce individuals who are able, in and of themselves, to impart meaning to their lives and the lives of others.

How long has Swadhaa been in existence?

Swadhaa has just begun its operations formally in the year 2012-2013. However the founder members have been involved with exploring alternatives to conventional education for 3 to 4 years. Dedicated efforts in terms of extensive travel, visits to alternative schools, studying their models, attending various workshops and trainings, volunteering at both urban and rural set ups has been the initial ground of preparation before the making of Swadhaa. “Punarnavaha Open Learning Space” was founded in the year 2010 and it explored informal, unstructured learning. However Punarnavaha is now a registered Trust and Swadhaa structured initiative.

What is the curriculum like in a Steiner school?

Steiner/Waldorf education approaches all aspects of schooling in a unique and comprehensive way. The curriculum is designed to meet the various stages of child development. Waldorf teachers are dedicated to creating a genuine inner enthusiasm for learning that is essential for educational success. Preschool and Kindergarten FAQ3-(2)children learn primarily through imitation and imagination. The goal of the kindergarten is to develop a sense of wonder in the young child and reverence for all living things. This creates an eagerness for the academics that follow in the grades. Preschool and Kindergarten activities include:

  • Storytelling, puppetry, creative play
  • Singing, eurhythmy (movement)
  • Games and finger plays
  • Painting, drawing and beeswax modelling
  • Baking and cooking, nature walks
  • Foreign language and circle time for festival and seasonal celebrations

Elementary and middle-school children learn through the guidance of a class teacher who stays with the class ideally for eight years. The curriculum includes:

  • English based on world literature, myths, and legends
  • History that is chronological and inclusive of the world’s great civilizations
  • Science that surveys geography, astronomy, meteorology, physical and life sciences
  • Mathematics that develops competence in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry
  • Foreign languages; physical education; gardening
  • Arts including music, painting, sculpture, drama, eurhythmy, sketching
  • Handwork such as knitting, weaving, and woodworking

Why do Steiner schools teach reading so late?

FAQ3-(3)There is evidence that normal, healthy children who learn to read relatively late are not disadvantaged by this, but rather are able quickly to catch up with, and may overtake, children who have learned to read early. Additionally, they are much less likely to develop the “tiredness toward reading” that many children taught to read at a very early age experience later on. Instead there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Some children will, out of themselves, want to learn to read at an early age. This interest can and should be met, as long as it comes in fact from the child. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.

If reading is not pushed, a healthy child will pick it up quite quickly and easily. Each child has his or her own optimal time for “taking off.” Feelings of anxiety and inferiority may develop in a child who is not reading as well as her peers. Often this anxiety is picked up from parents concerned about the child’s progress. It is important that parents should deal with their own and their child’s apprehensions.

Will there be teachers to support the unique curriculum at Swadhaa?

Swadhaa Steiner School is associated with Centre for Steiner Education and Teachers Training (CSETT) Mumbai. The school is being mentored by them and the teachers are regularly trained by them through their various modules for each grade. Hence all the old and new teachers in the community will be regularly trained to support the unique curriculum.

If my child wishes to transition to a conventional school after kindergarten, will he be academically ready for Grade 1?
FAQ3-(4)

Yes she will be ready and we take complete responsibility to ensure that the child has a smooth transition into grade 1 in any regular school. There will be special grade preparatory sessions with the children, assisting them to be ready for grade school. We will need to be informed six months in advance about the transition so that we may prepare the child for grade-level work at a healthy pace.

How do you view tests, exams and a “healthy competition” thereby?

The true inspiration to learn, for anyone, is an inherent desire to know more. Any external incentive/pressure associated with the same, dilutes this most profound motivation (the inborn inspiration to learn). Children naturally compete with each other in a group, but to create a structured system that breeds on this need for competition, unnaturally intensifies it to an extent that the idea of winning and losing transcends all else. If somebody wins, then somebody out of necessity has to lose. The goal of our learning environment is to not create winners, but to create a foundation for every child to develop him- or herself into a free human being with a capacity to find his or her ethical values and life task. Therefore, we do not pit them against each other but encourage co-operative learning.

Also, when it comes to ‘testing’ competencies, there are many non-judgemental and creative ways of doing the same where the teacher and the student can have fun while the true purpose of the ‘test’ is being met.

How will children be assessed? How do they move to the next level?

Though tests and exams have been in existence for a long time to assess a child, but their assessment criteria are very questionable. Even when we were students we knew that the exams did not really assess us and our understanding completely. They, to an extent, assess the ability to reproduce and the speed for the same but not the overall understanding.

FAQ3-(1)Steiner schools do not give reports in the form of marks or grades, but through the teachers’ verbal/written qualitative assessment which describes the child’s temperament, his/her behavior, strength and weakness, general progress in the various subjects throughout the year. These details are based on the close observation and interaction of the teacher with the students. The teachers provide feedback to students and parents informally as often as necessary but formal and written feedback is provided once every year.

This form of report is accepted by other schools or institutions, which the child may change over to, but if a mark-sheet is needed, the Waldorf teacher will readily oblige.

We will individually look at the understanding developed by the child, and her confidence and readiness to move ahead.

Are you really “non-hierarchical”? What does that mean, actually?

Swadhaa is a school run by teachers and we do not have the customary designations of “principal”, “head of department” etc. across the structure of the school. There are no management or executive committees. Every member of the school forms a part of a learning community which takes collective decisions based on a premise of preserving the ethos of the school.

Credits:

From “Five Frequently Asked Questions” by Colin Price; originally printed in Renewal Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003

www.whywaldorfworks.com