J. Waldorf schools (Steiner Gakuen)& yagaku moral education a la Steiner philosophy reported

What is Waldorf education (Steiner Education)?
The first school that was based on Steiner’s educational philosophy was established in 1919 in response to the request of Emil Molt, owner of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company in Stuttgart, Germany. This is where the name “Waldorf” has originated. The pedagogy and schools based upon his educational philosophy are now called “Waldorf education” and “Waldorf Schools”, respectively.

Prof. Yoshida explained the concept of Waldorf education briefly because some of the participants are not very aware of it. “Waldorf/Steiner Schools have neither textbooks nor exams. A single teacher loops with a class throughout the elementary school years, teaching at least the principal academic lessons. These schools are not directed by a principal or head teacher. Student’s parents and teachers discuss to decide the amount of school fees. Doctor stays in school everyday. They have original teacher training course.”

In Steiner’s philosophy, there are three main spheres of power comprising human society: cultural/spiritual, economic, and political. These three spheres must be autonomous. Education, a part of the cultural sphere also should be separated from economic and political spheres. In Waldorf schools do not use any textbooks that are influenced by the contemporary educational policy of the government.

In Germany, a child’s future is decided by his economical or political environment once he has finished his four years of elementary school (Grundschule). Steiner proposed that one teacher should be with a class for 8 years in elementary school in order to make education available to all children in the same environment. This is regardless of the ability of families to pay for it (now, one teacher teaches one class for 12 years in Waldorf school).

Long term communication between one teacher and children enables the teacher be to understand and respect each child’s temperament. Also, it establishes a good relationship between teacher and parents and help teachers to know the children’s temporary condition without any examination.
After studying in Waldorf School for half year, Prof. Yoshida’s daughter read her school report, which evaluated her temperament correctly. “I want to go again!”, she said.

Curriculum in Waldorf school
In most Waldorf elementary schools, a regular school day generally starts with two-hour academic lesson that focuses on a single theme and this takes place in a course of 4-6 weeks. As children concentrate on a single theme for a certain period, there is a tendency that they would forget the subject until they study it again next time. It is important to forget what they’ve learned in order to integrate all the knowledge of subjects once they’ve remembered it. This encourages to educate the child as a whole.

They emphasize the artistic element in education and offer enough time to experience painting, singing and playing of instruments, and making handicraft. Eurythmy is one of the largely unique subjects in Waldorf Schools. It is an art in the form of movements that is usually accompanied by spoken texts or music. Even in usual practice in mathematics, language, and other subjects, they begin with an introduction that may include singing, playing of musical instruments, and or recitation of poetry. Academic lessons give importance to feeling and understanding as means to educate children and discourage the cramming system of education.

In Steiner’s pedagogical model of child development, childhood is divided into seven-year development stages, each having its own learning requirements. Early childhood (age 0-7) is largely experimental, imitative and sensory-based. They imitate parents, their wills grow and basement of the body is formed. In elementary school years (age 7-14), the approach emphasizes in developing children’s “feeling life”. Adolescence (age 14-21) is the time when they meet the developing capacity for abstract thought and conceptual judgment. The emphasis is on learning through intellectual understanding.

Considering the model described above, elementary school children should not be filled with subjects and exams, like in Japan.

Steiner’s philosophy not accepted in Japan
Waldorf education is a very good educational method. However, it has been unacceptable in Japan for long time because of Steiner’s spiritual background. In Steiner’s philosophy, human consists of body, mind, and spirit. Human body is also divided into visible “material body” and invisible “etheric body”, “Astral body”, and “ego”. It also composes the idea of everlasting life. Educational field in Japan could not accept such a kind of religious/spiritual idea of Steiner.

Dr. Michiko Koyasu, a former Prof. of Waseda Univ. has been studying Steiner’s philosophy. She allowed her daughter go to Waldorf school in Munich and experienced Waldorf education as a parent in 1970’s. She later introduced the Waldorf education in Japan base on her own experience.

During that time, Japanese Economy was growing rapidly and children had to study very hard to go to “good” university. Introduction of Waldorf education without any examinations must have been so shocking because Japanese schools are always full of exams.

Recently, Steiner schools are becoming more popular than before. Steiner Gakuen (Elementary & Middle School) in Fujino town, Kanagawa Pref. was established in 2005 as the 7th Waldorf school in Japan. Its application was accepted and supported by Koizumi cabinet’s deregulation program called Kozo Kaikaku Tokku which allowed schools to be established without having to possess their own land and/or buildings as well as unstandardized curriculum. Dr. Koyasu plans to establish a new Waldorf School in Chiba Pref. in 2008.

Over the allopathy
So, what the Waldorf education can do in Japanese Education? Prof. Yoshida proposed;
“Waldorf education may contain fundamental solutions to each problem and they may be called homeopathy, not allopathy. Actually, there are particular problems like the founder’s spiritual philosophy, no textbook, no standardized curriculum and others. These elements are not acceptable in Japanese schools. On the other hand, children do not need to compete with each other in exams. They make sound groups, comfortable place to stay for children and develop good relationship in which children can feel relaxed. Since one teacher takes charge of one class for 8 years continuously, teachers and students (as well as teachers and parents) will be able to know and trust each other.

If we consider “dependence on school counselors” in Japanese Schools as an allopathy after bullying/school refusal happened, “Waldorf education”, which emphasizes good relationship between children, teachers and parents and comfortable place for children may be called a homeopathy.
Prof. Yoshida is not so aggressive to popularize Waldorf education. However, when someone asks him for a lecture, he is always pleased to accept it. He goes to the place (sometimes no money is paid for transportation), help people to understand Waldorf education and discuss educational policy.

“I venture to be out of the mainstream of the educational policy.” Prof. Yoshida says. “If I am in the mainstream, I cannot see the whole society.” Never forgetting Steiner’s word, “Don’t be a fanatic” and his academic basement of Japanese educational theory and practice, he studies and teaches at his own space.

For information on yagaku workshops: Contact 747-84, Kamihara, Tsukuba-city, Ibaraki Email:  info@ritzn.jp 

Excerpted from: Ritzn.jp

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