Monday, January 10, 2011

Hero of the Week: Rudolph Steiner

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Rudolf Steiner believed that education should be designed to meet the changing needs of a child as they develop physically, mentally and emotionally. He believed that it should help a child to fulfil their full potential but he did not believe in pushing children towards goals that adults, or society in general, believed to be desirable.

His approach was systematic, and appears to have been based on his own extensive experience of working as a tutor, and on his study of 'anthroposophy' or 'spiritual science'.

Here are some of its key points:

  • Up to the age of seven encourage play, drawing, story telling, being at home, nature study and natural things.
  • Do not teach children younger than seven to read.
  • Teach a child to write before you teach them to read.
  • Do not keep changing a child's teacher: allow one teacher to carry on teaching the same class for seven years.
  • Allow children to concentrate on one subject at a time - do history two hours per day for several weeks and then do geography for two hours per day etc.
  • Find links between art and science.
  • Engage with the child and make sure that they are enthusiastic about the material being covered.
  • Give a moral lead but do not teach a particular set of beliefs.
  • Encourage learning for its own sake. Do not just work for exams.

He made specific curriculum suggestions for history, geography, mathematics, languages, literature, science, handwork, gymnastics, painting, music, shorthand and many other subjects that were taught in the school in Stuttgart. Obviously, some of these are more appropriate than others to today's conditions.

It is important to remember that although an idealist who never compromised what he believed, Rudolf Steiner was also a pragmatist. He made an agreement with the authorities in Stuttgart that his school would not follow the same curriculum as the state schools but that its pupils would be able to transfer from one to the other at certain key ages. He was very rigorous in ensuring that this promise was fulfilled, and modified the work done in the school to ensure that the children had covered the same subject matter, and attained the same skills, as children in other schools at the appropriate ages.