What is Waldorf doing in Europe? The European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education (ECSWE)

By Richard Landl, February 2020

The European Council (ECSWE) consists of representatives from 26 Waldorf associations which are represented in 28 European countries with a total of 712 schools and 159,230 pupils (as per 2016/17). Its office is in Brussels near the European Parliament.

Photo: © Charlotte Fischer

Cooperation between the European Waldorf schools

A significant part of the tasks which ECSWE has set itself is for Waldorf schools to inform and assist one another and discuss matters between one another; also, to support the political work of the Waldorf schools in the member states through involvement in the negotiations with ministries. Thus it was possible this year, for example, during our most recent conference in Rijeka, Croatia, to support the school there in its discussions with the mayor about a new school building. It was also possible to give positive support in a further meeting in the ministry in Zagreb on questions of financing for independent schools.

In a dramatic situation at a number of English Waldorf schools threatening their existence, ESCWE approached the education ministry with supporting letters.

Activities at the EU Parliament

In the past year, two important documents on education issues were adopted by the European Parliament with a large majority. In both cases it was possible for ECSWE, with the support of other NGOs, to introduce aspects of particular importance for Waldorf schools. 

The first one was a “Report on modernisation of education in the EU”.

We quote some of the passages from the document which had out input.

“... whereas the right to education includes the freedom to set up educational establishments, on a basis of due respect for democratic principles and for the right of parents to ensure that their children are educated and taught according to their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions;

... Encourages, with regard to increasing inclusiveness and ensuring freedom of educational choice, the provision of adequate financial support for schools of all categories and levels, both state schools and not-for-profit private schools ...;

... Draws attention to the fact that granting schools more autonomy regarding curricula, assessment and finance has been shown to result in increased pupil performance ...;

... highlights the need for age-appropriate ICT and media curricula that respect child development and wellbeing and emphasise the importance of both responsible use and critical thinking;

... Expects the Digital Education Action Plan to support the Member States and educational institutions in the increased, more effective and age- and development-appropriate use of state-of-the-art technology, in learning, teaching and assessment ...;”

The second one is the “Report on education in the digital era: challenges, opportunities and lessons for EU policy design”.

Let us also quote a number of passages from that:

“...whereas excessive use of technological and digital equipment, such as computers and tablets, can cause problems related to health and well-being, including sleep deprivation, a sedentary lifestyle and addiction;

... whereas mastering basic transversal skills, such as numeracy, critical thinking and social communication skills, is a fundamental prerequisite for the acquisition of digital skills and competences;

... Stresses, while recognising the need for more digital skills, that the impact of digital technologies on education is not at present easy to assess, meaning that it is vital to take into account neurological research into the effects of digital technology on brain development;

... Stresses that teachers and trainers should be at the core of the digital transformation and therefore require adequate initial preparation and continuous training, which must include modules on age- and development-oriented teaching practices;

...  Stresses the value of school autonomy in achieving innovation in education;”

These documents allow the national representatives of the Waldorf movement to refer in their political negotiations to the basis in the European Parliament, adopted with large majorities by the 28 member states. In this way it can be made clear that these are not just concerns of the Waldorf movement but a consensus of the EU.

Erasmus + Project

A central ECSWE project is being financially supported by the European Union. The project is called: “Future skills: achieving the skills for the twenty-first century through effective and innovative learning, teaching and performance assessment.” The initial issue for this application which we made together with the Learning for Well-being Foundation is the advocacy of different performance indicators from just tests, particularly centralised tests. Here the formative recording of performance plays a central role, including self-assessment by pupils, as is the case in the portfolio method. 

Waldorf100 – Festival in Brussels

On occasion of the big anniversary of the Waldorf movement, a festive event was held in Brussels on 7 November 2019 under the title “The art of education: Empowering our children to shape their future”. The guests attended a varied programme of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, artistic contributions and creative exercises for the audience. 

Details at: http://ecswe.eu/event/waldorf-100-brussels-conference/

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