Tel Aviv's First Anthroposophic School to Open in September

Huldai slams 'wealthy' parents for taking advantage of laws to 'separate themselves from the underprivileged'

Tel Aviv's first anthroposophic school will open its doors in September, at the initiative of a non-profit organization run by parents. The municipality does not support this plan, but the demand for anthroposophic schools - which practice the Waldorf pedagogy - is growing rapidly. The number of children enrolled in such schools countrywide has doubled over the past five years.

Anthroposophic schools are based on the educational philosophy of Austrian thinker Rudolf Steiner, whereby studies are interdisciplinary - combining practical, artistic and conceptual elements.

Two anthroposophic schools already operate in the Dan region - one in Ramat Gan and one at the Hakfar Hayarok youth village. The demand for these institutes exceeds what is available, due to parents' dissatisfaction with the formal education system, among other thing.

Earlier this week, speaking at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Conference for Advanced Education, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai slammed "the rich and wealthy, who take advantage of the laws enabling them to undermine state education, and set up private schools that separate them from the underprivileged - and with the help of state funds."

"Tel Aviv already has six special schools that focus on a wide variety of interests and ideologies," a municipality spokesman said yesterday. "The existing policy does not allow the opening of additional ones."

The national Waldorf education forum director, Gilad Goldschmidt, says some 15 elementary anthroposophic schools - compared to five that existed five years ago - and some 50 anthroposophic kindergartens operate nationwide today. There are also four high schools, three of which opened this school year. Some 4,000 students are enrolled in these institutions, "twice as many as five years ago," he says.

'An answer to growing demand'

The anthroposophic school in Tel Aviv will probably be located in the south of the city, where the parents' organization is currently in negotiations over a building. It is expected to open with two kindergarten classes and a first grade class, and to expand over the years.

Tzuf Badani, the chairman of the parents' group, says 90 children have already enrolled in the school. "There are 11 Waldorf kindergartens in Tel Aviv whose children have nowhere to continue their education," he says. "This isn't some small group's esoteric initiative, but an answer to a growing demand on the part of many parents."

Until this year, Ramat Gan's Zomer school and Hakfar Hayarok's Urim school have enrolled those children in Tel Aviv interested in anthroposophic education. But Badani says the Ramat Gan municipality recently decided to give preferance to city residents who want to enroll in the school. The children who graduate from the kindergarten schools in Urim continue on to the school's first grade.

"There's no reason why parents who choose to live in Tel Aviv should have to send their children to school in the peripheral towns. Tel Aviv, the leader of progress and social-cultural pluralism, should accommodate anthroposophic education as well," he said.

The first Waldorf school, run by Rudolf Steiner, was founded in 1919 for employees' children at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Today more than 900 such schools operate worldwide.

"Western society and conventional education want to speed up processes, unlike anthroposophic education," says Badani. "A kindergarten child is in a 'dream consciousness' and if awakened too soon he will look for his childhood his entire life. Childhood must be given the respect it deserve."

In addition to the arts, anthroposophic education puts an emphasis on games and physical activity, with which every school day begins.