What is Steiner Education?

Steiner education, based on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, is aimed at giving each new generation of children an education entirely free from partisan political, economic, sectarian and racial influences. Steiner schools strive to release into the community unprejudiced, well informed, well-balanced and creative young people who are practical contributors to society’s renewal and evolution.

The basis of Steiner education rests on the concept of a universal pattern of child development. A key feature of this perspective is the threefold nature of the human being and how the three aspects of thinking, feeling and willing unfold as the child develops. Every aspect of Steiner education seeks to develop the relationship between these faculties and in so doing holistically addresses the child’s intellect, and physical and emotional development.

Steiner identified three main phases of development of children:

In the first seven years, the children are developing their physical bodies and are primarily living in their will. During this period, learning is primarily through physical actions and imitation.

From the ages 7 to 13, the child becomes increasingly aware of a wider world outside of the family and begins to develop a sense of self. Between the ages of seven and fourteen, the child is primarily a being of feeling, imagination, and aesthetic sensitivity. The thinking and intellectual capacities are beginning to develop but do not dominate until puberty. For this reason, all instruction in the primary years is presented in an artistic way and involves and develops the artistic sensibilities and capacities of the child.

The period from 14 to 21 marks the transition from childhood to adulthood and is characterised by the development of thinking. The role of the teacher and curriculum in this period is to guide the student’s use of critical thinking into constructive ends, and to help them to develop self-direction and independent judgement.

The rote learning techniques of the past fail to teach children the joys of learning. Steiner education’s approach instils a joy of learning in children, a context and an understanding of the learning process, which encourages a lifetime of learning. Steiner wished for his educational ideas to develop in a manner that was consistent with the principles of Steiner education whilst also evolving to ensure relevance for the society with which children interact.

Over the past eighty years, this has encouraged the emergence of more than 800 Steiner/Waldorf schools in some 40 countries around the world, each uniquely relevant to the social, cultural and economic conditions faced by its own community within the broader global context.

Almost all forms of Steiner’s philosophy have seen rapid growth in their practical use during the last few decades, notably in areas such as Steiner Education, Biodynamics, Anthroposophic medicine and ethical banking (an example being the Triodos Bank in the Netherlands).

Further detailed biographies of Rudolf Steiner are available at the following websites:

Wikipedia biography about Rudolf Steiner.

Rudolf Steiner biography on the Steiner Books website.

Background to Steiner, Anthroposophy and Education.