Kindergartens in Turkey

By Peter Lang, July 2012

If something in the world is to change for the better, there must be people who feel a personal responsibility for it and place themselves at the service of the task. There are such people in the kindergartens in Turkey. Peter Lang, lecturer and seminar mentor in many countries throughout the world, reports.

Tarhan Onur studied drama in Vienna in the 1970s where she met anthroposophy. Back in Turkey, she started to translate texts by Rudolf Steiner and wrote articles on Waldorf education and biodynamic agriculture. Her wish to realise Waldorf education in Istanbul, indeed the whole of Turkey, continued to live in her. In 2006 it became clear that it might be fulfilled. In that year a school exchange started between Hamburger Waldorf schools and a German-language school in Istanbul. In the context of this partnership the Waldorf teacher Marie-Luise Sparka asked Ms Onur in 2008 whether there was an interest in Waldorf education in Turkey. 

This question led to a group of people coming together in Istanbul to lay the foundation stone for a Waldorf initiative. A radio broadcast about Waldorf education in Turkish, English and German produced a lively response.

Public symposia and the first Waldorf graduates

In order to get a more precise idea of the interest in Waldorf education, a public symposium was held in Istanbul in March 2009. Two hundred people from the whole country attended. Lecturers from Hamburg, Istanbul and Stuttgart were involved.

At the end of the event lists were put on display in which those participants could enter their name who wanted to know more about Waldorf education or were interested in part-time advanced training; 80 people signed.

On the basis of this experience, Turkish activists established the association “Friends of Education to Foster Anthroposophy and Waldorf Education in Turkey” in summer 2009 in cooperation with German teachers; they were intensively supported by Murat Özmen who coordinated the work of the lecturers in Istanbul from Ham­burg. A curriculum for a two-year part-time training was drawn up; a college of lecturers was formed and in the autumn of 2009 the course started in Istanbul with 34 participants. They will present their final theses this year.

Working with parents has to be learnt

The members of the Turkish “Friends of Education” association also see the active work with parents as one of their tasks, and not only in Istanbul but also in other cities. It just so happens that one of the seminar lecturers, Nurtac Perazzo from Berlin, is Turkish and not only has a good insight into the mentality of Turkish parents but is also familiar with the Turkish education system. She organises parents’ evenings in three cities every two months at which it is also one of the aims to make parents aware that it depends on their initiative if a kindergarten is to happen. That is a new perspective for many participants as people are used to the state primarily taking care of kindergartens. Her work bears fruit. On the Asian side of Istanbul, parents have set up a play group in collaboration with a seminar graduate; there is a similar play group initiative on the European side as well as in Bodrum.

An emancipated parent body criticises the education system

It is hardly possible to talk about childhood in general – the living conditions of children and adolescents, boys and girls, are too different in Turkey. In rural areas there is a traditional, patriarchal view with clear assignment of roles and the corresponding mechanisms of suppression. In the rapidly growing cities, in contrast, a good school and professional education for boys and girls becomes important. Parents invest a lot of time and money to give their children good job opportunities. Another factor is that people do not just emigrate from Turkey but many also return. Qualified Turkish specialists return to Istanbul and find the corresponding job opportunities here. Some of these emancipated parents take a critical view of the existing education system. The “basic issues” are a trend to make the whole of kindergarten too much like school as well as moving the school starting age forward. In total that means a one-sidedly intellectualised education and upbringing, paired with the “dynamisation of childhood and adolescence” in the sense of “the earlier and faster, the better”.

Delicate plants

The plight of their children is the basic motive for increasing numbers of parents in Turkey to look for alternatives and in doing so they have also discovered Waldorf education. The commitment of the Waldorf kindergarten teachers, who have now completed their training, in cooperation with the parents shows that the still delicate Waldorf plants have found good soil. Thus there is justified hope that Waldorf education in Turkey can grow and thrive.

Note: Some of the texts on “The right to childhood – a human right” published by the German Association of Waldorf Kindegartens are available in Turkish translation. They can be ordered from:

About the author: Peter Lang is lecturer on Waldorf education and a council member of the Vereinigung der Waldorf-Kindertageseinrichtungen Baden-Württemberg e.V.


Caron Scanlan, Colorado USA, 23.03.14 20:03

We will be in Istabul for two weeks beginning March 27 and wondering if you have any upcoming events with your Branch. We are representative from our Branch. We will be exhibiting at a congress at your big convention center for our medical business.

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