Steiner schools celebrate hundredth anniversary with emphasis on internationalization

While the schools and educational movement inspired by Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) first spread in German-speaking countries and then in other areas of the Western world, they are now present in other cultural surroundings as well. But the success of Steiner’s educational principles at the 100th anniversary of the first school’s founding may also lead to a dilution of the specific Anthroposophical legacy he pioneered, writes Kai Funkschmidt in the EZW Newsletter (January). For a century, Anthroposophy, which considers itself an esoteric “spiritual science,” has met with significant success in developing initiatives that would have a wider impact on society, far beyond the ranks of the Anthroposophical Society and related organizations. One could mention biodynamic farming and Demeter products, Anthroposophic medicine and Weleda products, trends in arts or architecture, as well as the significant role played by Steiner’s impulse in alternative educational fields with the network of Steiner schools (also called Waldorf schools). All are seen as “applied Anthroposophy.”

While the German schools were closed by the Nazi regime, activities resumed after WWII. Today, one percent of all German pupils are enrolled in a Steiner school, with 90,000 children and teenagers enrolled in 245 schools. The global spread of the schools has been striking in recent decades. The first school in America opened as early as 1928 in New York City, but it was only in the second half of the 20th century that the global spread of Steiner’s educational system increased markedly, and even more so in recent decades, with 1,100 schools and 2,000 kindergartens currently established in some 80 countries, according to the movement’s own statistics. Each school is formally independent and the result of a local initiative, with associations playing a coordinating role. However, all schools remain based on the worldview and specific educational instructions provided by Rudolf Steiner. However, Funkschmidt observes that the noticeable presence of the Anthroposophical approach varies from one school to another. From time to time, some Anthroposophical periodicals have been asking for a stronger emphasis on Steiner’s legacy and the Anthroposophical ethos in the schools.

(EZW-Newsletter is a free newsletter in German sent once a month:; a website has been launched for celebrating the Steiner school anniversary and includes a two-part documentary movie on the schools around the world: