Waldorf education in Kiev

By Ellen Niemann, May 2020

On 25 and 26 November 2019, a two-day international conference took place in Kiev on occasion of the hundredth anniversary celebrations of Waldorf education; the first day on the premises of the Ukrainian National Academy of Educational Sciences (NAES) and the second at the Sofia Waldorf School in Kiev.

The Ukrainian Waldorf movement has taken huge steps towards public recognition, crucially advanced by Olena Mezentseva, member of the International Forum of Waldorf schools, and Iryna Shastal, both on the council of the Ukrainian Waldorf Association. The welcoming speakers included Professor Volodymyr Logovyi, vice president of the National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine (NAES) and Professor Oleg Topuzov, director of the NAES Pedagogical Institute. The latter was part of the delegation from Kiev which in April 2017 visited Alanus University. A cooperation agreement between the Academy and Alanus University was concluded at the time with the goal of supporting Waldorf education academically.

As part of the centenary celebrations, a first result of this cooperation was presented: the translation of the over 1000 pages of the Handbook on Waldorf Education and Education Studies by Professor Jost Schieren. In his address at the presentation of the translation, Topuzov highlighted that now Waldorf education was represented in the academic community of Ukraine. The meeting also provided the occasion for the renewal of the cooperation agreement between Alanus University and the Pedagogical Institute. The next goal is the development of a joint study programme for the qualification of Waldorf teachers.

On the second day of the conference, parents and teachers from the Ukrainian Waldorf schools and initiatives met in Kiev’s Sofia School which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in October 2019. The school is in the same building as and under the directorate of state “School 195” and is funded in the same way as the state schools. On different floors of the building, 444 Waldorf pupils learn alongside 390 state pupils in classes 1-11. “The collaboration between the two schools has not always been without its conflicts,” the parent representative from the Sofia School reported, “but we have meanwhile developed a good relationship and the pupils, too, have meanwhile dropped their distrust of one another.”

The lectures and workshops deepened the educational questions and questions of the school organisation as well as of teacher training and parent involvement. The discussion with parents and teachers showed that implementing the things which were heard in the previous day’s lectures about the ideal of collaboration in practice still required a lot of time and support.

Particularly the field of parent and pupil involvement appears to have found little interest so far. Collaborative responsibility and joint work in the school are still uncharted territory for many parents and teachers. The wish for more community does exist but implementation which works supportively and appreciatively in equal measure in the life of the school is still absent. Here, as in many other Waldorf schools in Europe, it can be seen that parents are lacking the foundations which are necessary so that they experience their involvement as more than a duty.

Pupil involvement is not really an issue either in the eastern European countries, according to Christoph Johannsen from the International Association for Eastern Europe (IAO). There are parent or pupil representative bodies neither at a school nor national level.

The next conference of the European Network of Steiner Waldorf Parents (ENSWaP) will take place at the Sofia School in Kiev in April 2020 under the topic “The Art of Recognition”. The organisers hope that it will lead to further impulses for parent-teacher collaboration at Ukrainian Waldorf schools.

About the author: Ellen Niemann has been a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Parent Council since 2007 and of the German Parent Conference since 2013. She works in the German Conference and the European Network of Steiner Waldorf Parents.

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