Unlike the Montessori or Reggio Emilia approach, the Waldorf approach is quite uncommon among pre-schools in Singapore and is often used in combination with other approaches. In this article, we will be exploring on how the Waldorf approach came about, its view towards childhood education, what are the key features of a Waldorf classroom and what it means for parents.

A Brief History

The Waldorf Steiner approach is developed by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner and opened its first school in 1919 to serve the children of the employees of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Company, hence it is where the “Waldorf” name came from. Political interventions from both the Nazi and communist regime in Europe limited the proliferation of the approach and it only caught on in the 1990s after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

The Waldorf Perspective

The Waldorf approach considers human beings as consisting of a transient body, a developing soul, and an eternal spirit, and that each of us is a reincarnating individual who has come from and is destined to return to a spiritual world. The philosophy underlying such a view is known as “anthroposophy”. Waldorf pedagogical theory considers that during the first years of life, children learn best by being immersed in an environment they can learn through imitation of practical activities performed by adults (e.g. role-playing as a cook). Exposure to electronics media, such as TV and computers are discouraged as it will cause children to be physically inactive and expose children to undesirable content. Formal instructions in academic disciplines are not introduced until elementary school as Steiner believes that abstract learning will adversely affect a child’s growth and development. It is noteworthy that the Waldorf approach usually extends all the way from pre-school to secondary school in western countries, but this is rare in Singapore.

The Waldorf Classroom

  • Little or no academic (e.g. reading, writing, science, and mathematics) will be involved in the curriculum. Perhaps this is the main reason why this approach find it hard to catch on in Singapore.
  • The role of imagination in learning is emphasized through activities such as imaginative play.
  • The schedule of Waldorf pre-schools will be based around a regular daily routine intended to emphasize rhythms inherent to daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal cycles.
  • Lessons will not be conducted using electronic media like TV or computers
  • Class teachers are normally expected to teach a group of children for several years as they play a mother-like figure to the children under her charge.

How Does This Benefit My Child?

  • Proponents of the Waldorf approach purport that the curriculum is age-appropriate as studies have shown that pre-school children are not capable of processing words and mathematical concepts.
  • Zero-tolerance towards media also meant that children will not be exposed to undesirable content directly, as well as indirectly through interaction with his/her classmates. It also prevent the stifling of creativity in your child.

We hope that the article will be able to help you understand a little bit more about the Waldorf approach. However, do note that there is an on-going debate on the merit of the Waldorf approach and you are encouraged to do further research on this issue.


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