The curriculum, always in the eye of the hurricane, criticised by many teachers, apparently rigid in many countries and flexible in others. In Germany independent (private) schools have a lot of freedom to develop their own school curriculum. In this interview we talk to Henning Kullak-Ublick, representative of Waldorf German Association and Coordinator of Waldorf100 . He tells us that we have to get rid of the idea that politicians know what children need better than the people who are with them every day.
You can see the full transcription of the interview below:
«We have a high amount of freedom. For us is more a question of teacher training.»
Speaking about the Curriculum is always something which is also related to the conditions which the states or the politics have for schools to work in. You have countries where you have a very wide range of possibilities and you have other countries where the curriculum is very strict which goes for all schools no matter of they are state run or independent.
In Germany we have a very high amount of freedom in the independent schools to develop our own curriculum so for us the very important question is the teacher training. How do we train teachers to be able to actually excess these needs of the children, the developmental needs of the children regarding they are using their will forces, regarding their emotional skills, regarding their social skills and of course regarding the trust they can develop in their own thinking, so they are not dependent on lights but they can actually trust what they found out themselves and in relation with others.
So it’s very much a question of teacher training and we have to get rid of this idea that God told some state politicians or administrators that they knew better what the children need than the people who actually meet them every day.
It’s also a question about finding ways of exchanging the teachers. We need ways of exchanging our experiences with each other which gives us the strength and the confidence that we can do the right thing for the children.
«The teacher must have artistic experiences themselves»
So in the Waldorf teacher training it’s very important that they have those artistic experiences for themselves because of your teacher is able to make music, or paint and do things like this, he develops new forms of perception which just helps him to perceive things which you wouldn’t do otherwise.
If you ask how a teacher can relate to the children in order for them to be able to develop their all these different soul forces like thinking, and willing and feeling and being able to cope with the curriculum at the same time, you need teachers who have enough imagination, who have enough knowledge of what they are talking about but also creative imagination and the capability to perceive the actual needs of these children. So they can actually find the right images, the right experiments, the right things which they do with the children so they can develop both at the same time.
But this is a very demanding standard which we have to develop and we have to develop it because it’s not there. And there’s no teacher, also not in a Waldorf school, who just has it, you have to develop over and over again. And that’s actually what we are working at in our faculty meeting and in the exchanges we have with each other. Impose knowledge on the children it just won’t work, you will just have to try and perceive the children better and better and better and relate them in a way that you can give them the experiences which they need.
Teaching in the Waldorf centers is creating a situation or an environment or a field of experiences within which the children can develop all these ideas and capabilities themselves because there is no other education than self-education that goes for the teachers that goes for the parents and it goes for the children but you have to create the surroundings for the children so that they can have the right experiences.
«People want to go to Waldorf schools and of course politicians want to know why»
Policy makers they are very interested in what happens in independent schools in general and in Waldorf schools as well. There is one very obvious reason for this because there is a very big run to so-called private schools, we rather call them independent schools. People want to go there and of course is interesting for politicians to know why they want to do this.
So this is a very basic interest and then again those people who run schools they are interested in some things which they just see that work, like all those drama things we do in school and the artistic approach and the practical things all those things are being adapted slowly but in parts in the state run schools as well.
Or for example Waldorf schools always have at least one or two second languages from class one and this is something which is sort of slowly coming into the other schools as well. So there is more, there is an interest in what’s going on and we have quite a confident way of speaking with the politicians about what we think should be done and about the freedom which we need in order to be able to develop our own school further.
«Different concepts and educational approaches can inspire each other»
Because we are very convinced that it’s good for school, education in general, if there are different concepts which sort of work parallel to each other because we can inspire each other with different things but if you just have one very strict curriculum for all well then how shall any new things develop from this.
And this something we talk about with the politicians but it’s no so easy because there is one thing about politicians, they change every few years so as soon as we have educated them so they understand what education is all about, then they move to other totally different thing they suddenly start building roads or something. So this is a very long process which was on and on but I think it has changed.
In early years when there were not so many Waldorf schools, they were suspicious and now they just know that it works what we do, many things at least. We have some problems but they know in general that it works what we do.
We have many famous people who had this Waldorf education for example the doctor who got the medicine Nobel prize in 2013. He says that «his scientific thinking goes beyond what is already there» and that’s something you learn at the Waldorf school.