TABLE 1. The number of Rudolf Steiner schools functioning between 1919 and 199219
Germany Europe Overseas
In parallel, the number of Steiner kindergartens and Waldorf teacher-training establishments has also risen. Against the background of this impressive wave of newly founded establishments, particular emphasis must also be placed on the fact that Rudolf Steiner schools are not planned by the school administration or organized by a single person. On the contrary, they grow out of an independent initiative by parents and educators who must sometimes make considerable sacrifices of time and money (monthly school bills paid by the parents and donations of the parents or voluntary reduction of salary by the teachers and educators).
The main reasons given by many parents and teachers for taking part in the foundation and development of Rudolf Steiner schools are the following: (a) a rejection of the constant selection of pupils through marks and scales of marking; (b) a criticism of the unilateral emphasis on cognitive, scholastic learning; (c) an aversion for the bureaucratic straightjacket; and (d) the lack of transparency coupled with pluralist anonymity in the major school complexes under state administration. The parents of children attending Rudolf Steiner schools are for the most part drawn from child-oriented, academically trained circles of the upper middle class. This group encounters a new form of community in the Rudolf Steiner establishments and hence that social prop which the traditional institutions of the church, local parish and relatives can no longer give them.
The Rudolf Steiner schools are not only successful in themselves. The educational results of the pupils who have attended them in Germany are also impressive. This is already reflected in the fact that in 1990 almost twice as many pupils of Rudolf Steiner schools (57.5%) attained the qualification necessary for university studies than pupils of the same year attending state schools;20 and this despite the fact that their work had not been sanctioned for twelve years by marks. An earlier quantitative survey of former German pupils of the Rudolf Steiner schools (born in the year 1940/41) revealed significant differences between this group and a control group in the following areas: higher geographical and social mobility; more pronounced leisure activities in the areas of reading, interest in art, practice of a musical instrument and ability in craftwork; and an interest in further training.21 A recent qualitative study of the educational biographies of former pupils of a Rudolf Steiner school with a double academic and professional curriculum (Hibernia School at Herm, Germany) also showed that these pupils were better equipped to face the challenge of life and, in particular, more capable of dealing with technical tasks. They showed greater self-confidence and a wider range of interests, were open to new ideas and were particularly willing to accept social responsibility.22 The Rudolf Steiner school investigated in that case revealed all the central characteristics of a good school: (a) child- oriented and methodically competent teachers; (b) a harmonious school style guaranteed by agreement on the basic pedagogical principles; (c) permanent reflection on the teachers own action at educational conferences and advanced training courses; and (d) an awareness of continuity through the creation of a school tradition.
This profile is typical of the schools based on the principles of New Education and holds good for many other Rudolf Steiner schools. However, the educational successes of these schools do not result solely from their particular educational slant and from the strong identification of the parents with the school that they have chosen for themselves, but also from the privileged social status of their clientele. Since they are private schools at which attendance is an act of free school choice by the parents, the Rudolf Steiner schools have, even if unintentionally, taken upon themselves the role of perpetuating certain social distinctions. They therefore automatically escape many problems that inevitably arise in the environment of a normal state school open to everyone.