The Bulletin

Waldorf Schools Expand in China’s Shift to “Softer Education”

Friday, March 2014

 

In last month's Bulletin we shared an article in the New Yorker magazine about the expansive growth of Waldorf schools in China. Now here is a second article, "The Rise of Alternative Education in China" from CNN about China's cultural shift from state-run schools to more humanist centered models of education. Here is the introduction to the artice (which you can read in full on the CNN website).

"When five-year-old Xiao Ge starts primary school in Guangzhou next year, she won't endure strict discipline and mountains of homework. Unlike the school life of most children in China, her days will be filled with art, music and creative learning at a private Waldorf school. Xiao is part of a fast-growing number of Chinese children whose parents are turning their backs on the state-run education system, which is based on rote learning and limited critical thinking. Instead, they are choosing independently-run schools that use the Waldorf, Montessori, or Reggio Emilia pedagogies.

Despite a lack of regulation over these schools, parents prefer the humanistic approach of these classrooms and the perceived softer learning environment. "Compared with studying under the public system, my daughter will get a healthier education and life here," says Xiao's mother, Lu Dan, when we met at the Hairong Waldorf School Xiao is attending in the southeastern city of Guangzhou....

...China has undeniably gained the world's attention for outstanding academic performance. Shanghai's 15-year olds lead in mathematics, science and reading, as seen in the 2013 Pisa survey by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, rating the performance of children across 65 regions....But the "tiger mom, wolf dad" approach to education is not without consequence. Chinese youth suffer higher levels of depression and lower self-esteem than their peers elsewhere. Last autumn, a 10-year-old boy in the city of Chengdu reportedly jumped 30 floors to his death after failing to write a 1,000-word letter of self-criticism demanded by his teacher.

“Perhaps in reaction to this phenomenon, China has seen a major expansion of alternative teaching establishments. These schools emphasize a holistic approach to education and use qualitative assessment methods, especially for kindergarten and primary school students.”

While there are no official figures for the current number of alternative schools in China, headmaster Wei estimates that some 40 schools and as many as 500 kindergartens operate across the country. His own primary school and three kindergartens in Guangzhou have about 300 students, each paying CNY40,000 (US$6,500) a year, with 300 more queuing to get in."

Click here to continue reading the article in its entirety at the CNN website, via the "On China" bureau. 
Photo credit: Johan Nylander

For more articles (and videos of news coverage) on Waldorf education please visit Waldorf In the News.