The Bulletin

Malaysian Education Dignitaries on a National Tour visit CWS

Colleen Everhart, CWS College Chair; Luke Goodwin, CWS Administrative Director; Muhammad Hana Pizi Abdullah, Chief Imam, State Government of Kelantan; Shaipolbahari Salleh, Assistant Registrar, Institute Al Quran, Terengganu; Surraya Abu Bakar, Deputy Principal, Adni Islamic School, Kuala Lumpur; Salmy Gheblawi, Translator, US Dept. of State

In the exchange of ideas about human learning and child development, Waldorf Schools benefit from an international presence in countries across the world. Waldorf schools embody a global perspective founded on universal human capacities strengthened by the diversity of communities and cultures who embrace the "Waldorf way" in education.

I like Chicago Waldorf School's focus on creativity in education. Teachers and students have the freedom to engage in creative activities and they are not stressed out.   -Muhammad Hana Pizi Abdullah, Chief Imam

This past December a US Department of State sponsored delegation of Malaysian educators asked to visit Chicago Waldorf School to study our programs and discuss administrative and pedagogical practices with CWS leaders. We hosted a panel discussion with the Chief Imam from the State Government of Kelantan, the Deputy Headmistress of Sekolah Islam Adni and the Assistant Registrar of Institute Al-Quran. After a spirited exchange of cultural inquiry, sharing perspectives and discussions of best practices for administrative and pedagogical goals the delegation expressed interest in pursuing further study of the various Waldorf Schools currently established in Malaysia. We bid them farewell as they continued their tour of American cities and schools. A few days later, after they had continued on to Los Angeles and reflected on their visit to CWS, the delegates generously shared with us some of their observations about our school. 

Shaipolbahari Salleh, Assistant Registrar, Institute Al Quran, in Terengganu said, "I am impressed with this school because it is not exam-oriented. The curriculum encourages students to be independent learners. I find it remarkable that the students can create their own portfolio and that they do not use textbooks in class. It also shows that they understand the subject that they are learning and that it is not rote memorization."  His analysis of the Waldorf approach reflects a shared understanding of the goal to activate a student's passion for inquiry. This child-focused approach was also detailed by Ms. Surayya Abu Bakar, who commented that a strength of the Chicago Waldorf School is it's,

...emphasis on developing the child as a human being; less concerned with testing, but more about what they know and how they apply it, which is reflected in the portfolios they produce. Even though the focus is on play and creativity, at the end of the day, the students excel at their core subjects.  - Surraya Abu Bakar, Deputy Principal, Adni Islamic School, Kuala Lumpur


Sandwiched between largely Buddhist Thailand, predominantly Muslim Indonesia, Hindu India and the predominantly Catholic Philippines, Malaysia is a nation that historically was subject to different religious and cultural influences, but retained its own strong identity. Although there are many old and new external influences within the country, its culturally diverse society is striving for its own way, and investing in preparing their children for the future.

Malaysian parents have met Waldorf Education with keen interest. Private institutions are frequently attended during early school age, and Waldorf kindergartens are very attractive option because they teach in several languages, have collaborative interaction as a key principle, avoid the strict state curriculum - which is mandatory from kindergarten onwards - and offer a child age-appropriate education.

The Malaysian Waldorf Movement began by the end of the 1990’s. In 1997, Junko Suzumoto and Ong Kung Wai established the first Waldorf initiative, Nania, in Penang. Through the support of the Friends of Waldorf Education this initiative grew steadily in Malaysia over the years.  Expatriate families dominated early enrollment, but from 2002 onwards, interest from Malaysian parents increased. In 2004, another initiative, Taska Lin, was established in Penang. In 2008, the third initiative, Kelip-kelip, was established in Klang Valley, in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur. And interest in play oriented pre-school education is growing. Several initiatives have emerged, some new, some incorporating Waldorf methods to their existing system.

took its name from the “Narnia” stories by C. S. Lewis. Like ‘Narnia’, Junko Suzumoto wants Nania to be a place children want to visit and return to again and again; to be a school where they encounter self-development challenges and experiences that prepare them for their life's journey. The enrollment of local and foreign children, with multi-ethnic and various national and cultural backgrounds posed a challenge at the beginning. What is fitting and relevant for all? So the school adopted festivals from different cultures to facilitate nurturing moods and to establish seasonal rhythms. These festivals are celebrated as cultural events without religious overtones. By 2012 Nania reported operating at full enrollment of 52 children with a yearlong waiting list.

Another home-kindergarten project called Taska Lin is also located in Penang and was founded by Lee Swee Lin and her husband Yang. Lin got to know Waldorf Education 15 years ago through Junko Suzumoto.  Her visit to Nania was so touching that Lin chose to be an assistant teacher, instead of selecting a more commercial job. In 2000 Lin took up study at Melbourne Rudolf Steiner Teacher Training College. Taska Lin, has enrolled 38 children from age 1-1/2 to 4-1/2 years. The children are from expatriate families from different countries and about 20% are Malaysian. At Taska Lin, the children play and sing in Malay, Mandarin and Japanese, as well as in English. During Family Day at a public indoor playground other visitors with young kids are often impressed with Taska Lin’s children for being so confident and playing well together.

Klang Valley, located in the vicinity of Kuala Lumpur, is the centre of the Malaysian Waldorf movement. It all began with Kelip-kelip in 2008, when the founders and married couple Da Vid and Wan Yee, graduates from Melbourne Rudolf Steiner Seminar, started out with 10 children. This all lead up to early 2011, when Da Vid started Kelip-kelip Waldorf School, the first Waldorf school in Malaysia. Kelip-kelip quickly outgrew it's facility and needed a bigger location to accommodate the children wishing to enroll. A supportive parent purchased land to build a new school. And there is a plan for the new school, to initially be built with six classrooms. Fortunately there is hope for Kelip-kelip's growth, as the interest in Waldorf education increases among the school’s community.

Two years after Kelip-kelip, two other Waldorf kindergartens started up in Klang Valley, as well as a Waldorf doll making class. In Malaysia, Waldorf education is still in an early stage of development. However the founders of Waldorf education in Malaysia believe they are on the right path, doing the best thing for the children, for society, and for the world through Waldorf education.

As reported by Ong Kung Wai,
founder of Nania Waldorf Kindergarten
Malaysian photos/historical content edited from Waldorf Worldwide.