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The History of Waldorf education in The Hague

The following is an expanded version of an article we published in ACCESS magazine about our history:

The history of Waldorf and the International Waldorf School in The Hague

How a living room in Columbusstraat was home to the first Waldorf school in The Netherlands

Immediately after the First World War, people were ready to try new things and the spirit of entrepreneurship was alive. At this time, Rudolf Steiner held lectures throughout Germany and later abroad, articulating his ideas on education. Austrian philosopher and social reformer, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), inspired the ‘Vrije School’ pedagogy. He is also the founder of anthroposophy, which he defined as “a scientific exploration of the spiritual world.” He believed that education needed to be extended, give children more opportunities for development, and be open to children from all levels of society. One of these lectures was held for staff at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. The factory workers wanted an education like this for their children and the factory director, Emil Molt, invited Steiner to manage the undertaking. The result was the first Waldorf school  in Stuttgart in 1919. During the Second World War, Waldorf schools were closed by the Nazi government, only to be reopened after the war. Nevertheless, Waldorf education was innovative, and gradually more Waldorf schools were established, first in Germany and then worldwide.

 

. In 1922, an enthusiastic group of people with an interest in anthroposophy attended a congress at the Haganum Gymnasium in order to hear Steiner speak. After the lecture, two of the attendees approached Steiner to ask permission to start a Waldorf school in The Hague. A group of individuals who supported the idea provided funding and accommodation. On the 9th of September 1923, ten children and three teachers came together in a living room in  Columbusstraat, the first Waldorf school in the Netherlands. The house belonged to a parent of one of the pupils, who offered an ensuite room and another room upstairs. The school started with three small classes. Then, as it grew, it moved to another house with more space. In November 1923, Rudolf Steiner visited the small school, which now had a total of 20 pupils. He was full of praise for the school and gave it the name “De Vrije School”, referring to a school ‘free of state interference’. Eventually, multiple neighbouring properties in  Van Speijkstraat were bought to accommodate the growth in pupil numbers. You can imagine the noise on the stairwell in between lessons and during break times! Only seven years later, the pupils and teachers moved to a large purpose-built school in  Waalsdorperweg. It still houses the Vrije School Den Haag today.

 

In the span of a hundred years, Waldorf education has organically spread throughout the world. Today, it consists of an established network of 1100 schools and 2000 kindergartens in nearly 70 countries..  A grassroots movement, which was fuelled by individuals invested in the idea of educating their children through the principles of Waldorf education, has grown into the largest independent pedagogical movement in the world.  The movement is not driven or controlled by any government, state or commercial entity.  It also has no official accreditation or certification system.  Yet, it continues to grow through the efforts of dedicated, enthusiastic and independent individuals – from around the globe – who seek to offer an inspiring, developmentally appropriate, and academically rigorous education to the children of the world.

 

 

 

As the birthplace of the Waldorf school in the Netherlands and the cradle of international cooperation, the International Waldorf School The Hague is a natural progression in this journey, as it sits comfortably within the existing infrastructure of international education in The Hague..

At IWSTH, the teachers make use of the English Steiner-Waldorf curriculum (edited by Rawson, Richter and Avison), whilst also keeping abreast of the latest trends and developments in international education. This allows children to move within both the international school system and other Waldorf schools throughout the rest of the world.

 

In 2017, the school’s management recognised an apparent demand for an International Waldorf School where the pedagogy could be made available to non-Dutch speaking children who move around the world with their parents. Following a thorough study, the Ministry of Education in The Netherlands granted permission (and funding) to establish the school. School principal Niels Schieman explains that there is a clear demand from families whose children do not have Dutch as their mother tongue. Additionally, The Hague welcomes many temporary international families, so there is a need for an international school.

 

In 2019, Waldorf education celebrated its centenary. This was marked in many ways within the community. One particular project in the 100 years’ celebration was the correspondence between the various Waldorf schools located around the world. At the ‘Vrije School’ in The Hague, a box of 1100 postcards was carefully compiled with messages, stories and illustrations made by the pupils. Every single Waldorf school received one of these postcards. And in turn, the school started to receive postcards from every corner of the world. They were displayed in school alongside a world map, with a location pin to show where the postcard came from. Niels Schieman says: “This tangible image of our global community brought home to me and everyone who saw it, the connectivity and solid foundation of the Waldorf tradition, built on 100 years of a grassroots movement.”

 

 

(photo from the first school guide of De Vrije School Den Haag – antrovista.com)

 

 

 

 

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