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Research on Waldorf School graduates.

Excerpts from an article in the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" December 14, 1981 on a German government-sponsored study. Waldorf Schools were rounded by Rudolf Steiner in 1919 and now number more than 900 worldwide.

Waldorf schools, generally reputed to produce "beautiful souls" weakened for the tasks of real life, actually do quite the opposite-- reports a study which could even favorably influence the evaluation of "Gesamtschulen" (twelve-year schools which include both those students preparing for college and others as well).

During the current school year, 32,000 students are being educated outside the state school system, in 72 Free Waldorf Schools, according to the pedagogical concepts of the anthroposophist Rudolf Steiner. They attend a school which, according to the aims of their founder, aspires to transmit not only knowledge and ability but also content helpful for life and a perspective on life's purposes. Their school day does not follow the 45-minute beat of strict timetables, but runs according to the rhythm of "blocks" and, during the first eight years, with strong artistic emphasis. Their career is not accompanied, year after year, by reports, marks and promotions, but is free of selection* and pressures of grading - a tempting perspective surely, but for many parents hardly a realistic one or an adequate preparation for the battles of life.

This view is now being shaken by a scientific study of "The educational background of former Waldorf students"- the first empirical research of the Waldorf Movement.

Three independent scientists, paid by the Bonn Department of Education, interviewed 1,460 former Waldorf students born in the years 1946 and 1947 and came to a "prevailing positive result in favor of Waldorf schools." Their students have achieved, so the examiners have discovered, "an educational level well above the average."

The results appear to be formulated conservatively. For it is just this achievement of the Waldorf schools that holds surprises for the educational policy-makers. Twenty-two percent of the students polled passed the "Abitur"** at their own Waldorf school - even back in the years 1966 and 1967, almost three times more than in the state schools. Moreover, 40% of those polled, who had "never attended any other school than a Waldorf school" from grade 1 through 13, passed the "Abitur."

These statistics appear even more significant when the conditions under which the exams were taken are considered - for instance the fact that "the Abitur does not lie within the interests of Rudolf Steiner% pedagogy"as stated by Stefan Leber, Board member of the Association of Waldorf Schools. Practically speaking, this means that the students are taught according to Waldorf guidelines during their twelve years at school and are not especially prepared for the diploma examination. Only in the voluntary thirteenth year is the curriculum oriented toward the requirements of the state schools and the Abitur. On top of this, the exam itself was "an altogether unfamiliar Abitur, given under the strictest conditions: all tests came from outside the school; the exam was policed by a state team of examiners." Proponents of the conventional school system must be irritated by such results because after all, the Waldorf school is a "Gesamtschule" of the purest type. Nevertheless, it was now proven, says Bernhard Vier who headed the research team, that "among the students who were taught for twelve years on a non-selective basis, an even higher percentage are able to pass the Abitur." All this, says the educator, "the academicians have never wanted to believe possible."

Furthermore, the study supports what Waldorf educators such as Leber have always felt: "That our students are thoroughly capable in life." At the time this study was made, more than 80% had concluded a professional training (51% academic, 24% vocational) and 42% had already finished a second training.

The Waldorf students showed a preference for occupations in the educational and social fields (20%), in the medical (12%) and in the artistic-linguistic field (12%); legal and technical professions were "under-represented." The graduates obviously took their incentives for professional choice from the Waldorf values. Success, prestige, recognition and career potential, also income, played at best a subordinate role. As "personally especially important" in making their decision, the graduates named as foremost their own inclinations and abilities, independence and interest; followed by social and altruistic aspects.

Abitur statistics, as well as professional choice, are obviously closely related to the length of school attendance. The study shows "distinctly", say the researchers, "that beyond almost all matters of personality, it is the group of those who attended the Waldorf school for eleven years and longer which distinguishes itself from all other groups." This insight has significance because during the past ten years the founding of new schools has hardly been based any longer on the initiative of anthroposophically-oriented parents. According to the study, after 1969 schools came into being because of "negative experiences of parents and teachers with public schools."

Translation by Renate Field

* A term used for the policy of allowing only the fittest to continue and leaving the others behind.

** An examination which, in the United States, admits a student to the sophomore year in college.
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Title Annotation:in Germany
Publication:Special Delivery
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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