Waldorf education (also known as Steiner or Steiner-Waldorf education) is a humanistic approach to pedagogy based upon the educational philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. Learning is interdisciplinary, integrating practical, artistic, and conceptual elements. The approach emphasises the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. The educational philosophy's overarching goals are to provide young people the basis on which to develop into free, morally responsible and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny, the existence of which anthroposophy posits. Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.
The first Waldorf school was founded in 1919 to serve the children of employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. As of 2011 there were 998 independent Waldorf schools located in sixty countries throughout the world; as of 2001 there were 1400 kindergartens and 120 institutions for special education world-wide. There are also Waldorf-based public (state) schools, charter schools, and homeschooling environments; in addition, other state and private schools are increasingly using methods drawn from Waldorf education.
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