(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 126-127, Note the Copyright!)
Kazakhstan is the second largest country in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). It encompasses the vast steppes of southern Siberia and is bordered at its south-eastern edge by the Tian-Shan and Altai mountains. Its population is diverse and includes Kazakhs, Russians, Germans and Ukrainians who live together not always without tension. In 1941 Stalin forcibly resettled hundreds of thousands of Russia’s German-speaking population here. To this day there are whole villages with a majority of Germans who continue to cultivate their language, culture, traditions and religion. It is thus understandable that when Kazakhstan won its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 there should have been a move to found German schools.
German Waldorf School in Kazakhstan
One of those schools arose ten years ago in Ust-Kamenogorsk as the German-language section of School Number 10, although German could be used as the teaching language up to Class 4 only so long as the school still lacked its own “profile”. In their search for an alternative type of education the headmistress Natalia Ustinova and the German teacher Natalia Bakanina opted for Waldorf Education without knowing about its anthroposophical background. They contacted the Federation of Waldorf Schools in Stuttgart (Germany) and the International Association for Waldorf Education in Eastern Europe (IAO). Thanks to support given by the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Federal Office in Cologne it became possible for 14 teachers from Kazakhstan to attend the Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar in Stuttgart. Teachers from the school at Göppingen (Germany) spent several months at a time in Ust-Kamenogorsk as advisers as the new school was being set up.
A great variety of languages
Pupils at the Waldorf School in Ust-Kamenogorsk are taught in German up to Class 6, learn English and Russian as foreign languages and also cultivate the Kazakh language. They can conclude their schooling with the extended German-language diploma which permits them to attend a German university without sitting an entrance exam.
The great success of this school led to its becoming independent in the year 2000 with the name Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium No. 12. Sixty percent of its costs are borne by the town.
Waldorf Education in the capital city as well
Apart from the school at Ust-Kamenogorsk there is a small school at Uralsk that has integrated some elements of Waldorf Education. Two of the teachers come to Ust-Kamenogorsk regularly for further training. This little school does not receive state subsidies.
The teacher training college of Alma-Ata regularly invites two Finnish teachers to give courses on Waldorf Education. These courses, which receive state support from Finland, took place for the fourth time in 2001. They provide insight into the lower school teaching in a Waldorf School.
The college of teachers at the Ust-Kamenogorsk Waldorf School look to the future with optimism and are confident about the new values brought to teaching by Waldorf Education. They are sure that these values will increasingly come to be appreciated by modern society.
Waldorf teacher, at present head of the Alexander von Humboldt Gymnasium in Ust-Kamenogorsk.