A private primary school based on the educational philosophy of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) will open in April next year in Chonanmachi, Chiba Prefecture–a project led by Michiko Koyasu, 73, pioneer of Steiner education in Japan.
Provisionally called the Ashita-no-Kuni Rudolf Steiner Gakuen Primary School, the new institution got the go-ahead to begin construction from the Chiba prefectural government in October last year. It is expected to get official permission for its opening the next spring, becoming the second Steiner school in the country to be accredited by a local government.
Before the official opening, the school will start teaching 20 first-year students in April as a so-called “free school”–a term that describes an alternative educational institution without government accreditation.
The Steiner method involves 12 years of education from primary to high school level, and focuses on stimulating children to learn “through the five senses” in accordance to individual personal characters and developmental stages. The new school will follow this philosophy, while at the same time conforming to the nation’s official school curriculum.
In contrast to normal primary schools, where children get a new homeroom teacher each year, at the Steiner school each class will be assigned a “main lesson” teacher who stays with them for their whole time at the school. Instead of studying several different subjects each day as at a normal school, students at the Steiner school will focus exclusively on one subject for a few weeks at a time, covering all required subjects in the course of the academic year.
Instead of using official textbooks, the students will create their own “textbooks” on which they will write down what they learn through words and pictures. Their main lesson teachers do not impose testing on their students or give them numerical evaluations, instead providing written evaluations of their work.
At the time of its official opening in April 2008, the Chonanmachi school will start with first- and second-year students, with each class having 32 children, including the 20 students studying under the free-school status for the 2007 school year. It plans to expand to cover the full 12 years of education by the 2013 school year.
Koyasu, a scholar of German literature, first came across Steiner education 36 years ago, when her daughter attended a Steiner school in Munich while the family were living in the German city.
Through essays and other publications she introduced Steiner education to Japan, and became determined to set up such a school in her hometown.
Although Koyasu was once involved in setting up some Steiner schools in Japan as free schools, the expert later shifted her focus to setting up an educational corporation to run an accredited private school–and in fact established a nonprofit organization in 2004 for the purpose.
“Steiner schools feature a pedagogy that fosters [children’s] insight and reading comprehension, and therefore are exactly the kind of school we need today. They can become a great alternative [to mainstream education],” Koyasu said.
(Mar. 22, 2007)