(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 66-67, Note the Copyright!)
Few other countries in the world have so much landscape, history and culture to offer the traveller as does Italy. The beauty of the land bewitches, from the mountains of the North to the islands in the South. But Waldorf Education did not begin here as long ago as it did elsewhere. The first Association for Waldorf Education was founded in Milan in 1947, but the second and third not until 1973.
In 1984 there were eight schools and thereafter one or two were founded each year. By 1993 there were thus nineteen schools. Then a period of explosive expansion began with seventeen more school associations being added. At present Italy has 49 school associations and 29 actual schools: in Bologna, Merano, Bolzano, Trecallo, Florence, Gorizia, Sagrado, Imperia, Garlate, Livorno, Milan (3), Palermo, Padua, Cittadella, Rome (4), Sava, Trento, Rovereto, Turin (2), Treviso, Conegliano, Oriago and Zane, and six others which are not members of the Italian Federation of Waldorf Schools.
New education legislation opens up opportunities
The Waldorf movement is at present in a very dynamic situation. New education legislation in force since 1 March 2000 has brought profound changes to the education scene in Italy. For example the curriculum is being revamped, teacher training is being changed, and there are new possibilities that non-state schools might qualify for state subsidies which have hitherto been minimal. Simultaneously with this, the rapid spread of Waldorf Schools has generated a great demand for teachers which the existing training seminars are hard put to supply. The situation for upper schools is even more critical: the school in Milan is the only one with classes up to Class 13, and only eight others reach up to Class 8.
In recent years interest in Waldorf Schools has also grown in southern Italy. Apart from the school in Palermo - a kindergarten was founded there in 1987 followed by the school in 1992 - another one has been started at Sava, with more being planned.
The Italian Federation of Waldorf Schools was not founded until 1992 to represent the concerns of the various schools. It is located at Oriago de Mira near Venice where it shares premises with the teacher training seminar. Representatives of the Federation had been working with the Ministry for Education for several years and had already achieved positive results prior to the new legislation. The work had been quite difficult because apart from its state schools, Italy has hitherto only had confessional schools and private schools run for profit and had no experience of a pluralistic education system.
The exhibition mounted by the Friends of Waldorf Education in a busy shopping arcade in Bologna in the year 2000 and corresponding work with the media brought Waldorf Education to the notice of a wider public.
“Bologna 2000: Education in freedom for freedom”
Thomas Homberger from Zurich, Switzerland, reports:
I have been working sporadically in Italy for 25 years, usually within the Waldorf movement but also in state schools and teacher training colleges. The congress in Bologna from 17 January to 3 February 2000 on “Education in freedom for freedom” (Nelle libertà educare alla libertà) has surely been a high point in all these years. During the congress I met the European Council of Steiner Waldorf Education in which Waldorf Schools from all over Europe are represented. The foundation stone for a new school building in Bologna was laid on the occasion of that meeting.
That new building represents a milestone in the history of this school movement in Italy: for the first time a school is building its own home from scratch designed in accordance with its own requirements. The land including planning permission was donated by the city of Bologna. The parents of the Bologna school have also made tremendous efforts financially, but without the help of the Friends of Waldorf Education the matter is unlikely to have progressed beyond the planning stage. Now, in May 2001, the building is nearly ready. It is a house with accommodation for a school with eight classes with possibilities for extension. It is simple and modest, and built from beautiful natural materials, a lively focal point outside the old city.
Bologna was the Cultural Capital of Europe in the year 2000. The “Education in freedom for freedom” congress participated in this frame-work and was even partially financed from funds set aside for that event. The exhibition demonstrated the educational and cultural contribution made by Waldorf Education world-wide and also by the exhibition put on by the Friends of Waldorf Education for UNESCO’s 1994 conference for education ministers. Never before had there been so much in the Italian press about Waldorf Schools. “La Repubblica”, for example, expressed great admiration for the fact that such a large school movement existed which was neither Catholic nor state-run.
Not only did “Bologna 2000” bring about new developments for the school there. It also opened up minds all over Italy. This is now especially important on account of the new education legislation that has been in force since March 2000. The legislation is still only on paper, but if the May 2001 elections bring it into force independent schools will have to get themselves noticed. “Bologna 2000” has made it possible for Italy’s Waldorf Schools to do this in the best possible way.
Curative education and social therapy in Italy are even younger than Waldorf Schools. A law passed in Italy in the 1970s stipulated that all children with difficulties must be integrated within state schools, both public and private. This meant that the special schools, perceived to be like ghettos, had to close. So there was no way in which curative schools or establishments could be founded. But now that the results of this integration have been evaluated, families with special needs children are beginning to search for schools that can do justice to the problems their children have, and many enquiries are addressed to the Waldorf Schools.
There is an acute need for special classes and for teachers with suitable qualifications. Initiatives have got under way in Italy for young people and adults with learning difficulties. The first social therapy establishment (Casa Loic) opened at Capena near Rome in 1989. Here the first social therapy training course in the Italian language started in 2000. And the Sagrado Waldorf School, for example, which has long been involved with the integration of special needs children, has now founded an association offering therapies, workshops, art lessons and vocational advice regarding children and young adults. The work here is voluntary and involves close collaboration with the school administration.
RITA AMADIO-DI TANNO
Research into electronics and semi-conduction physics at Milan University. Since 1985 teacher at the Waldorf School in Milan.
Rita Amadio-Di Tanno
Head of the Association for Curative Education and Social Therapy and of the Associazone Loic Francis-Lee in Capena.