Since the 1960s there has been a broad kindergarten movement working on the basis of Rudolf Steiner’s pedagogy. It has always been practised by many pedagogical and curative teachers in state kindergartens. In the 1980s, the movement experienced a great expansion with the founding of many new kindergartens.
Today there are about 70 Rudolf Steiner kindergartens with mostly 1-2 groups in the four parts of the country: German, French (Valais), Italian (Ticino) and Rhaeto-Romanic Switzerland. In addition there are about 40 playgroups and 10-15 day-care centres and just as many parent-child groups.
A full-time, practice-oriented, in-service training programme for kindergarten teachers was in place in Bern from 1977 until a few years ago and was led for decades by Elisabeth Moore-Haas. From the beginning she linked international cooperation with Switzerland through her involvement in the IVW (International Association of Waldorf Kindergartens), or later the IASWECE.
Both the kindergarten seminar and most of the kindergartens were and are run by private kindergarten or school associations and are run independently by the kindergarten teachers. Most kindergartens have always been fully integrated into the schools.
About 20 years ago, when major reforms were introduced at the state kindergarten level, the kindergarten teachers began to join forces and gave themselves a new organisational structure.
In 2000, the Coordination Office for Elementary Education (KEp) was founded: www.elementarpaedagogik.ch. Today, 2020, integrated into www.steinerschule.ch
The Coordination Office for Elementary Education (KEp) has as its task the fulfilment of the concerns of Steiner education with regard to the education of children of pre-school and first school age (0 – about 8 years).
– The KEp promotes these concerns to parents, teachers, therapists, medical practitioners and public institutions in the preschool sector.
– Through contacts and discussions, the KEp tries to stimulate open exchange, to convey understanding, to network people and institutions and to support existing institutions.
– The KEp takes note of educational policy developments in the pre-school environment and communicates them to the best of its knowledge to the teachers in the pre-school sector of the Steiner schools, as well as to the Working Group (ARGE) of the Steiner schools.
– The KEp helps to build bridges between the various contact partners of the specific institutions in the pre-school sector (day families and day care centres, playgroups, kindergartens and after-school care centres), who are responsible for the areas of care and education that are separated by political sovereignty.
– In addition, it pursues the goal of raising awareness for an understanding of childhood from birth to first school age as a total educational area.
– The KEp works to ensure that children’s needs are recognised and that children are given rights and respect accordingly.
– The KEp impulses, accompanies and networks projects and concepts that serve the further development in the pre-school sector against the background of Steiner education.
In the KEp, about 12 women work together in the Commission of the Coordination Office (KoKEp), who are responsible for various areas: all regions, training, international cooperation and those specifically responsible for the early childhood sector.
Themes that KEp works on in projects and at conferences over a longer period of time are:
– Early childhood education/ transitions
– Free play
– Dealing with media/prevention
– Language development
– Relationship education/prevention of abuse
At the time of the founding of the KEp, the call for family-supplementary forms of care alongside the provision of kindergartens became louder in society.
As a result, in addition to the Rudolf Steiner Kindergarten Seminar in Bern, a part-time training course for kindergarten teachers and playgroup leaders was set up at the Academy for Anthroposophical Education in Dornach, as well as further training opportunities for childminders and daycare centre staff.
The training to become an “early childhood educator” also began at that time. Since 2019, an additional training course for parent-child group leaders has been established.
Major changes followed over several years, which after 10 years resulted in the concept “Elementary level”, as a basis for the entire developmental area from birth to the end of the 8th year of life.
Today, the elementary level is an integrated part of Rudolf Steiner schools almost everywhere: www.steinerschule.ch
The elementary level is made possible by the cooperation of all teachers teaching in the developmental area, the support and therapy group, the parents and the school doctor.
At the elementary level, the school mission statement for the first and second grade merges with what is described by KEp and the Working Group of Rudolf Steiner Schools Switzerland as the mission statement for the pre-school level.
The elementary level forms a child’s experiential space which is divided into cross-age play and age-appropriate learning. During the first seven years, much attention is paid to the physical and sensory maturation processes in the elementary level, so that intellectual and emotional competences can build on a healthy foundation. At the elementary level, the child’s free play is highly valued as a creative and social learning experience.
The transition from kindergarten to the school learning period is designed in the elementary level as a transition with spatial separation. It takes place when the child has reached school readiness, usually in the 7th year of life. This level of maturity, as well as other modalities of the transfer, is decided in consultation with all those involved in education as mentioned above. At this point of development, the school’s admission procedure begins.
The deliberate introduction of the cultural techniques of arithmetic, writing and reading is only started after the child has transferred to the school learning period of the elementary level.
The elementary level includes:
– Parent-child groups
These are for children from about ½ year old to playgroup age (3 years). In these groups, fathers and mothers have the opportunity to share and do things together with other parents and an educator and to receive stimulation for the children’s play and everyday education, while the children are accompanied and supervised in their play by the educator.
Here, children aged between about 2 ½ and 4 years are given the opportunity to make their first social non-family contacts once, twice or three times a week for about three to four hours in small groups of about 6-10 children. In a secure, sensitive atmosphere, the children can indulge in their joy of playing and find peace beyond the hectic pace that everyday life often demands.
In the kindergarten, the children are usually between 4 and 7 years old. The group size varies between about 12-24 children. It takes place in block times for 4 hours in the morning, plus here and there in the afternoon for children who are getting ready for school. Locally, there are supplementary lunch offers.
– Day care offers
Day care centres include toddler as well as playgroup and kindergarten age in their social structure. The services offered vary from extended opening hours with lunch, off-peak care to full-day care. Through the joint education of the different age groups, different skills such as tolerance, consideration, helping and supporting are developed. In the mixed-age group, the children experience community as an element that allows them to practise social skills and enables behavioural orientation.
– 1st and 2nd class with moving lessons
Specific to Rudolf Steiner schools in Switzerland is that they should be accessible to all, but are financed entirely privately without state financial subsidies.
Since the elementary level (0-9 years) has been an integrated concept of the Rudolf Steiner schools in Switzerland, the colleagues at the schools work together in weekly conferences, as well as in additional regular elementary level conferences.
Once a year the Working Group of Rudolf Steiner Schools, together with the Academy for Anthroposophical Education in Dornach, organises the national in-service training days for all teachers.
Within the KEp we organise a specialist conference once a year, which takes as its starting point topics moved by the IASWECE or other topics for in-depth study. Regular exchange meetings take place in the various regions with parent-child group leaders, playgroup leaders, day-care centre leaders and kindergarten teachers to meet and deepen pedagogical knowledge.
- institute for elementary education: offers for training and further education in the early childhood sector, www.elementarpaedagogik.ch
- academy for anthroposophical education: training to become a kindergarten teacher, www.afap.ch
- accompanying art – training to accompany parent-child groups,
For coordination: email@example.com (since 2019)
For the Council: firstname.lastname@example.org
Status September 2020