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Home: Freunde Waldorf

Achievements of Former Waldorf Pupils

(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 34-35, Note the Copyright!)

From the moment they are founded Waldorf Schools and others are permanently evaluated not only by official supervisory or licensing authorities and via graduation examinations either imposed or supervised by such authorities, but also by parents’ choice in voluntarily sending their children there. Parents have a direct and concrete interest in the future success of their children and most are well aware of what the education system as a whole has to offer.

Schools that have an unusual profile, e.g. experimental or independent schools, can be more pressed than state schools to prove their success. But even the latter are increasingly expected to submit to international evaluation studies such as TIMSS.1 Experimental schools have always endeavoured to document their successes though perhaps more to show that they come up to the standards achieved in mainstream schools2 than to emphasize their special successes.

From the moment they are founded Waldorf Schools and others are permanently evaluated not only by official supervisory or licensing authorities and via graduation examinations either imposed or supervised by such authorities, but also by parents’ choice in voluntarily sending their children there. Parents have a direct and concrete interest in the future success of their children and most are well aware of what the mainstream education system has to offer, so their choice is in itself a form of evaluation.

To date scientifically reliable empirical studies are rare. Since they presuppose a reasonable duration of development while also requiring additional resources and supportive interest from public authorities and scientific bodies, any studies that exist refer only to countries with a long tradition of Waldorf Education coupled with a sufficient number of schools. Understandably therefore it is too early to expect any that refer to the countries of southern Europe, eastern Europe, Asia, South America or Africa. It is expected, however, that the trends in existing studies will show up in the newer schools as well (verbal communication from the Czech Republic) although the results can only refer to a specific country and the generation investigated, and will arise from specific evaluation methods. One must also consider that to be fully representative the results would have to be compared with those of other schools while the study should refer to a specific point in a subject’s biography that is decisive with regard to that person’s further professional life. It follows that results for any particular year can only emerge 30 to 35 years after the date of birth of the subjects studied. On the other hand one must assume that after such an extended period of time profound changes will have taken place both in technology and society so that the results will no longer provide a reliable basis on which to assess either a school’s or an individual child’s present and future performance.

It therefore seems more sensible to me to bear such limitations in mind rather than issue placatory results of studies that cannot be fully reliable in detail.

Existing studies give satisfactory answers to some questions that worry enquirers, e.g. regarding the academic level achieved on leaving school or the personal development of individuals. Sufficiently reliable indications are also available regarding, for example, the range of professions chosen and the degree of success achieved. But there are as yet no reliable indications regarding a further group of questions, such as: What and who is educationally fruitful? Are there, as is often claimed, actually any characteristic deficits in the schools?

All the existing empirical, quantitative studies3 (from smaller groups < 100 school-leavers to whole annual intakes > 1000) show that most former pupils (Germany, Sweden: 60-80%) enjoyed their schooling and would send their own children to a Waldorf School if they could.

The type and level of school-leaving certification is often regarded as a yardstick for academic success at school. But this varies from country to country depending on the duration of schooling or how many classes a Waldorf School has, and would also need to be compared with local standards of other schools and their school-leavers.

It is possible to state generally that former pupils of Waldorf Schools always achieve comparably high university graduation standards (at least 25% but also 60% in one class of university graduates). They do equally well in non-academic but advanced professional training courses.

The list of former Waldorf pupils compiled at The Hague, Holland, shows them in virtually all walks of life with some tendency towards more socially-oriented professions. Data on people’s actual life situation or their view of it can also be important. There are indications showing satisfaction with one’s life situation (Sweden: 87% very good and good), and success in one’s profession or achievement of one’s first-choice professional training (Switzerland: 80%, Denmark: not: 21%, and showing a lower degree of unemployment compared with others born in the same year (Denmark, Norway).

In addition to the above, qualitative studies4 also provide detailed explanations on the training of important social skills such as responsibility and initiative. Individual instances reveal an allround attitude to work that can be very important and lead to considerable success in modern situations which call for a high degree of self-responsibility (see the example of Nursing Services Director in Gessler 1988).

Last but not least, Waldorf pupils on the whole appear to enjoy better health5 than those in mainstream schools. And they are also more satisfied with their schooling, both during and after, than those in comparable surveys on other schools.6

It is obvious that one can explain what are on the whole the positive results deriving from Waldorf Education. The schools’ autonomy7 enhances the individual’s powers of self-responsibility and enthusiasm so that the schools as such provide pupils with a model of long-term, effective commercial and service functioning. They carefully train experiential skills that are becoming ever more important in media-oriented environments. They also develop physical, psychological and mental faculties in an allround way. Individual reports and biographical portraits on selected persons (Netherlands > 300 professions) confirm this. On the other hand this could also be connected with other factors such as social group, pre-selection and value-oriented milieus. However, this cannot be used as an objection to the achievements of Waldorf Schools. Firstly there are successful schools with a similar social profile. Furthermore, I do not consider this to be merely an effect deriving from the parents social standing; I regard it as an effect of the Waldorf Education. This education attracts those who are looking for and willing to support an education with a qualitative profile and thus reinforces its own long-term effects. But for the future it will be essential for both the material (state subsidies) and the psychological and mental (specialized orientation, e.g. teacher training) prerequisites to be assured.


1 Third International Mathematical and Science Study (8th and 12th class).
2 See the first and to date most comprehensive study of Waldorf Schools: Hofmann et al, 1981. About 10 studies, the most important being: Hofmann et al 1981, Jackson 1996, EFRSTSP 1996, Thomas 1999.
3 About 5 studies, the most important being: Gessler 1988, Masterson, no year.
4 See Zdrazil 2001.
5 See Randoll 1999.
6 See Götte 2001.

• Arvar, F. / Öhmann, I. Kristofferskolan, en utvördering fran tidigare elever (The Kristoffer School, an evaluation of former pupils), Stockholm 1994.
• Brater, M. / Wehle, E.-V. Bildungs- und Berufsbiographien ehemaliger Kasseler Waldorfschüler. Erfahrungen mit der Integration beruflicher und allgemeiner Bildung in der Freien Waldorfschule Kassel. Nachbefragung von Absolventen einfach- und doppelqualifizierter Ausbildungsgänge (Educational and professional biographies of former pupils of the Kassel Waldorf School. Experiences in integrating professional and general education), Frankfurt 1982.
• Bruijn, M.A. de Spiegelend Perspectief. De Vrije School DenHaag 70 jaar. Levenservaringen en reacties van out-leerlingen op hun vroegere school (Life experiences and reactions of former pupils to their school), The Hague 1993.
• EFRSTSP (European Federation of Rudolf Steiner / Waldorf School Parents) After School. Careers of Former Waldorf /Rudolf Steiner School Students, no place 1996.
• Gessler, I. Bildungserfolg im Spiegel von Bildungsbiographien: Begegnungen mit Schülerinnen und Schülern der Hibernia-Schule (Wanne-Eickel) (Educational Success Reflected in Biographies), Frankfurt 1988.
• Götte, W. Die Geschichte der Waldorfschulen als Autonomieerfahrung (Steiner Waldorf Schools as Experiences in Autonomy) (doctoral thesis) Bielefeld 2001.
• Hofmann, U., Prümmer, C.v., Weidner, D. Forschungsbericht über Bildungslebensläufe ehemaliger Waldorfschüler. Eine Untersuchung der Geburtsjahrgänge 1946 und 1947 (Research Report on Educational Biographies of Former Steiner Waldorf School Pupils. Birth Years 1946 & 1947), Stuttgart 1981.
• Jackson, B. Old Scholars Research. A report produced for the Steiner Schools Fellowship in December 1995, Forest Row 1996.
• Kemp, G. Graduate Survey 1994, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, 1994.
• Masterson, M (project manager) Learning to Learn. Interviews with Graduates of Waldorf Schools, no place, (AWSNA Publications, 3911 Bannister Rd., Fair Oaks, CA 95628, USA).
• Randoll, D. Waldorf-Pädagogik auf dem Prüfstand: auch eine Herausforderung an das öffentliche Schulwesen? mit einer vergleichenden Untersuchung zur Wahrnehmung von Schule durch Abiturienten aus Freien Waldorfschulen und aus staatlichen Gymnasien (a comparative study of how graduates of Steiner Waldorf and state schools view their schools), Berlin 1999.
• Rudolf Steiner School in Odense Investigation of Class Twelve Leavers. What do the Students do after Class Twelve?, Odense 1992.
• Rudolf Steiner i Norge En sporreundersokelse blant elever som har fullfort Steinerskolens videregaende trinn (A study of upper school classes in Norwegian schools), Oslo 1995.
• Thomas, R. (Ed.) Befragung ehemaliger Schülerinnen und Schüler von Rudolf-Steiner-Schulen in der Schweiz. Eine Laufbahnuntersuchung (Study on former pupils of Steiner Waldorf Schools in Switzerland), Büro für Bildungsfragen, Kilchberg/Zurich 1999.
• Marjan, A. van der Onderzoek naar schoolverlaters aan het einde van de Vrije School tijd (Study of school leavers of Steiner Waldorf Schools) Holland 1991.
• Viinisalo, K. Steiner Schools and Research, Helsinki 1982.
• Zdrazil, T. Gesundheitsförderung und Waldorf-Pädagogik (doctoral thesis), Bielefeld 2001.

Harm Paschen
b.1937 in Switzerland. Grew up in Hamburg. Studied Germanics, Geography and Pedagogy in Hamburg and the USA. 1971-1980 Professor at the Pädagogische Hochschule Kiel. From 1981 Chair of General Education Science at Bielefeld University. Long-term parents’ representative and member of the Training Council of Waldorf Schools.

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