This is a great breakthrough for education. It will solve some of the problems faced by those in the Steiner stream who are trying to work with the State system.
Steiner program for state schools
David Rood, The Age October 4, 2006
ALTERNATIVE education, such as the Steiner approach, will be allowed for the first time in state schools, drawing criticism from some parents and school councils that it will undermine public education.
The new policy permitting Steiner and Montessori programs is a significant shift for the Bracks Government, allowing parental choice in education.
The policy, outlined in a Department of Education memo, allows the alternative programs provided they meet strict guidelines. The programs also need department approval.
The Steiner system is based on the teachings of Austrian educationist Rudolf Steiner. Among its distinguishing features are that children do not start reading until age seven and have the same main teacher for the first eight years of school.
But parents and the group representing school organisations have warned that the Steiner approach competes with public education, causing division between parents, students and teachers.
One parent group said the policy would privatise public education by stealth.
Victorian Council of School Organisations president Jacinta Cashen said the policy undermined public education.
“Public education is about high quality education, but what is the professional education research that supports Steiner or Montessori philosophy,” she said. “We don’t want to try something just because we like the sound of it.”
Ms Cashen said most schools grab alternative education programs to attract students when enrolment numbers were falling.
Schools have offered alternative education against departmental guidelines.
There are at least six Steiner programs in state schools, including Footscray City Primary School and Castlemaine Secondary College. It is estimated that almost 3500 students receive a Steiner education in state and private schools.
The Australian Education Union welcomed the policy saying it had important criteria to ensure educational resources would not be diverted to alternative education. But it had concerns because Steiner education was not strictly secular.
Education Minister Lynne Kosky said the policy acknowledged choice. “Steiner programs and any other alternative programs should not be used to increase numbers in a school, they should be there to broaden the delivery of educational options,” Ms Kosky said.
She said the popularity of courses such as the International Baccalaureate and the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning showed parents wanted choice in state schools.
Jenny Lans, a Footscray City Primary parent and Parents For State Education member, said Steiner education could not co-exist with mainstream state schools because of competing philosophies.
Ms Lans, who has a child in the mainstream school, questioned why public schools needed Steiner programs when private schools offered them.
“This is not what a government school is for. It should not be used as a captive audience to promote a particular philosophy of life.”
Of its 412 pupils, Footscray City teaches 172 in the Steiner program.
School council president Andrew Marlton said Steiner programs offered choices to parents who might not be able to or want to educate their children in a private Steiner school. LEARNING THE
- Follows the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher who categorised early human development in seven-year epochs devoted to physical, emotional and spiritual growth.
- Steiner believed a child’s first seven years should be devoted to building a healthy body. Children are not taught to read and write until they are seven. Electronic games and TV are discouraged.
- From year 1-8, children have one main teacher, then specialist teachers in the last four years.
- Victoria has more than 30 Steiner schools. Steiner programs are offered in four state primary schools, Castlemaine Secondary College and Collingwood College.