Following WWII, an educational body called The Hague Circle was set up for the protection of Waldorf/Steiner education. At that time, it was based in The Hague, Holland, with representatives from Europe, Britain and USA. The first Waldorf School was founded in 1919, in Stuttgart, Germany. Over the years the education expanded, new schools opened and the movement began to flourish. In the 1930s this all changed under the Nazi regime. The schools refused to exclude children or discriminate against them on the basis of race, religion or belief. Their doors remained open to all children and eventually this stance led to the closure of all Waldorf Schools under the Nazi regime. Following the war schools reopened and new ones opened, it was important that the schools be future protected.
In New Zealand the first Steiner School was founded in Hastings 1950 but it was in the 1970s that new schools opened. This expansion was experienced all around the world and with the growth of the movement, greater awareness was given to the question of safeguarding the education. Schools were often sponsored before receiving recognition that enabled them to be listed as a Waldorf/Steiner School. The rights for the Waldorf/Steiner name is legally registered in Germany and held by Der Bund der Freien Waldorfschule http://www.waldorfschule.de
There have been different waves of expansion. Perestroika in Russia and the demolishing of the Berlin Wall led to many schools opening in the onetime communist countries. Not all have survived the initial impulse but those that did have grown and strengthened. In more recent years the expansion has been in Asia and in particular China. New Zealand is well established and possibly our challenge is to find new impulses for growth. In China for example kindergartens and schools open every week. Freunde der Erziehung (Friends of Education) based in Germany actively supports mentoring of many new initiatives. Together with the International Forum they have worked to create guidelines towards registration as a Waldorf/Steiner School. Freunde raises funds and supports education and initiatives in what was eastern Europe, Russia, Africa, Asia, Middle East and South America https://www.freunde-waldorf.de The Pedagogical Section based in Dornach, Switzerland is the another initiative active in the International Forum http://www.paedagogik-goetheanum.ch Today a number of countries have their own Federation or Association of Waldorf/Steiner Schools. The responsibility of officially recognising a school lies with the country organisations who are responsible for notifying the Bund of any changes.
New Zealand has had a representative in the International Forum since 2007. In those years the forum has expanded to include representation from Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia. Sth America had membership earlier. What can the International Forum offer New Zealand and what can New Zealand offer the world. It would be easy to be part of a fragmented world, getting on with our own business and caring for our own schools, however there is much to be gained from shared experience. The pedagogical research done in a variety of countries is now available for use. Groups work together to meet the challenges faced in providing teacher training, especially for high schools. Every four years there is a World Teachers Conference at the Goetheanum and innumerable conferences in-between. Website Waldorf Resources www.waldorf-resources.org has been developed for teachers to share resources. Right now schools around the world are exploring how in 2019 they can celebrate 100 years of Waldorf Education. New Zealand schools are invited to find their way of celebrating this centenary. These impulses are all part of the work done by the International Forum.
Working with representatives from diverse cultures and countries, it is always wonderful to experience through the struggles and challenges, the flame for the education. As governments and ministries place increasing demands and restrictions on schools and kindergartens in some countries, it is important that we all work to strengthen the impulse within the education and be a respected presence in the world of education.
The International Forum meets twice each year, once in Dornach and the second elsewhere. I have been fortunate in recent years to visit Israel and USA. To have an opportunity to experience the education in a completely different environment, awakens questions that can hopefully lead to new insights and impulses. Working with the diversity can strengthen the impulse.
Sue Simpson, August 2016