The Developing Human Being
The basis of the Waldorf curriculum is the developing human being and the aim is to prepare children for life. We believe that Waldorf Education has the power to awaken in growing human beings those forces and abilities that they will need for the rest of their lives in order to work competently for their community of contemporaries and to have a livelihood that will sustain them.
Many different competencies are needed for the individual to develop and thrive in the conditions current in the world today and in the South Africa of tomorrow.
Learners today live in a knowledge-based world and a knowledge economy, in which technology has transformed many aspects of life and work. Young people can look forward to working lives demanding flexibility, frequent shifts between employers and roles and a high degree of adaptability. They will also be expected, and may indeed prefer, to take responsibility for their own destinies in regard to education and training and financial security. It will fall to them to define their own career patterns. This new and often insecure world will offer enormous opportunities as well as make enormous demands on individuals and it is vital that they are properly prepared for this.
Within the context of Waldorf education, competence is regarded as the ability to understand and do. This aptly sums up the essence of Waldorf educational aims, not only to be able to understand but to be able to do as well. One might add, to understand and do out of insight in freedom.
One of the key competencies that we aim to teach is the ability to learn from life. Rudolf Steiner, the founder of this form of education states, *
The important thing is learning to learn, so that, however old one is, one can remain, up to the very year of one’s death, a student of life….It is important that we discover an educational method where people can learn how to learn, to go on learning from life their whole life long.
* Ref lecture 18 May 1919: A Social Basis for Education
At the same time children come to school today with many more weaknesses and learning disabilities. Their concentration and ability to take in information is weaker. The capacity to be part of a group is weakened because they are less aware of others around them and are used to more instant gratification of their wishes. Their motor co-ordination is less developed because life presents them with too few opportunities to develop it at the right age. Children’s hearing is less focused and often damaged due to exposure to loud music through earphones and because it has been de-sensitized by background incidental music. They have learned to filter out and that hinders their ability to distinguish the essential from the inessential.
As educators, we have to look at the situation of children as objectively as we can and create environments, both physical and cultural, in which they can develop the base skills and competencies they need at the right time. Sometimes this means deferring some experiences, in other cases it means getting on with things we used to leave until later.
Instead of keeping education mainly theoretical and remote from real life (the main trend for the last hundred years) Waldorf education teaches learners to learn from life, learn through doing and making – ways of learning that the latest research shows is far more effective.