Waldorf in China, Part I

DSCN0443.JPGWe have spent two weeks in China in March, 2013, and I would like to share my impressions and some photos with you. First, there is great news–my book, You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, is now under contract to be translated into Chinese by a large mainstream publisher in Beijing. This happened through Random House, not through any connections that I made here, but it occurred the very week we were in Beijing–funny how those things work!

DSCN0373.JPGInterest in Waldorf education is exploding in China–someone told us that in the past year there are 150 new kindergartens and there are now 30 schools. It reminds me a lot of the Waldorf movement in North America starting around 1980.  In many cases parents are wanting a Waldorf school for their own children, so are taking the teacher training and going back to their area to start a school–just like that!

The first Waldorf school in China opened in Chengdu about 12 years ago and now has full certification with the state.  It went through the big earthquake there. A Waldorf teacher training was immediately founded there, followed by teacher training programs in other locations as well, for class teaching, early childhood, and a foundation program as well.

DSCN0506.JPGUnlike in the US (even today), we have been told that many  new Waldorf classes have a waiting list as soon as they open–China has such a huge population and so many parents are looking for something different from the state-run schools, which force the children to work such long hours in such a regimented way. We have given talks for parents at three of the Waldorf Schools and really appreciate how couragaeous and pioneering the parents are, not really having full Waldorf schools to look to as successful models and not knowing how their children will fit into Chinese society after such a different education.

The first school we visited is called Beijing Spring Valley, after the Waldorf programs in Spring Valley, New York. Chris Schaefer has been instrumental in helping to found this school and several others, as well as the teacher training program that is held on the same grounds. No land is available within Beijing, so the school is located in a northern suburb, at the foot of the Phoenix mountains. DSCN0377.JPGThe complex also includes a biodynamic (BD) farm called the Phoenix Commune, which is the only Demeter-certified BD program in China. The farm is a wonderful place for the children at the school to visit. The school has been open for two years and has kindergarten through second grade.

DSCN0511.JPGWe also visited Nanshan School in another suburb of Beijing. It goes through grade 4 and has a lovely campus. It was started by a teacher who attended the Waldorf training in Chengdu, and has added a grade each year. We were there in the late afternoon (the children stay until about 4 pm), and gave a talk to about 30 parents after school.  It was very lively, with many questions about home life. All the schools throughout China offer English as a foreign language; a Eurythmist from Sweden alternates spending two months here and at the Spring Valley school.

From Beijing we flew to Xi’an, a city that is rich in history. I’ll tell you about our visits to Waldorf Schools there and in Guanzhou in Part II.

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