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Holistic approaches to education are shedding their somewhat ‘new-age” tag and are being successfully incorporated into modern mainstream education systems.

Willem van der Velden, administrative head of the Centre for Creative Education in Plumstead, Cape Town, says that the government’s outcome-based education system now reflects many of the principles central to the Waldorf Schools’ teaching system, which is based on the principles of Austrian philosopher and educationist Rudolph Steiner.

The emphasis in Steiner’s system is on making education relevant to both the inner and outward development of a child. Imaginative expression, independent thinking and learning through physical activity are also stressed. ‘The teacher is the facilitator in this process rather than just the source of information,” says Van der Velden.

The growing common ground between conventional schooling and the Waldorf alternative shows an increased maturity in government schooling, particularly in recognising the potential and the advantages of creative approaches to teaching, says Van der Velden.

The Centre for Creative Education was established 11 years ago as an institution to train teachers for South Africa’s 20 Waldorf schools. As of November last year, however, it now offers an accredited four-year B Ed degree. ‘We converted our diploma course to the degree course and the students are now not limited to teaching at Waldorf schools only,” says Van der Velden.

There is a maximum annual intake of 25 new students, who can complete the degree course part-time over six years. As of next year, full-time study will be on offer.

Van der Velden insists the rewards for teachers are as great as those of the learners in the Waldorf approach. ‘The children respect the teacher more as a person. The teacher also has more creative freedom and space to take the initiative in the classroom without having first to go to the principal or head of department to get the go-ahead,” he says.

The teaching is indeed quite different, including subjects such as eurhythmy, which involves using the body and body movements to express the art forms of music or poetry, speech and drama. Eurhythmy was developed by Steiner in 1912.

‘These are the realms in which the human soul and the spirit live and through which the human being expresses different moods and contents,” the Waldorf proponents believe.

For those who are already teachers, but who are not necessarily interested in the Waldorf teaching principles, the Centre for Creative Education also offers the more conventional B Ed degrees. Other working teachers interested in gaining the internationally accredited Waldorf qualifications can complete a two-year part-time course at the centre.

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Ufrieda Ho
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Sukasha Singh
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