A Wonderful Atmosphere, Two Foreign Languages, No Grade Marks, Individual Attention
(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 54-55, Note the Copyright!)
The Principality of Liechtenstein borders on Switzerland in the West and Austria in the East. The history of Waldorf Education in Liechtenstein began in 1984 at Schaan which lies in the upper Rhine Valley. The Waldorf School Association of Liechtenstein was founded there in February 1984 at the instigation of Werner Büchel who, among much else, was able to gain the enthusiasm of Liechtenstein’s President, Richard Schierscher, for Waldorf Education. In September 1984 the association received permission (with a time-limit) to run a school in accordance with the education principles of Rudolf Steiner. Lessons for eight children began in 1985. A Waldorf Kindergarten was founded at Schaan in 1988 and another at Rankweil from which many children have since progressed to join the school at Schaan.
Conflicts regarding school structure
Initially the school grew rapidly, but in 1991 the first serious disagreements arose among members of the college of teachers which resulted in polarization so severe that it endangered the whole school project. Several colleagues and some parents with their children departed, and the resulting financial difficulties were only overcome because others stuck by the school and supported it generously. How to structure the school remained on the agenda for discussion but meanwhile, despite everything, the first steps were taken to put up a new building to accommodate nine classes. This was completed in 1992. A crisis management group set up in 1995, consisting of parents, teachers and members of the board, finally brought the conflict to a conclusion which has led to constructive collaboration founded on mutual recognition.
School leaving qualifications and state subsidies
The pupils of the first Class 9 left school in 1995. Those from Switzerland and Liechtenstein possessed the compulsory school-leaving certificate giving them the same access to further education as that enjoyed by pupils from state schools. All the pupils of Class 9 sit the Austrian school-leaving exam which gives the Austrian pupils access to all varieties of further education there.
From the beginning the board of management had been endeavouring to create a solid financial base which it hoped would include commitment on the part of the Liechtenstein education authorities. Success came in 1999. The Waldorf School was invited by the highest authority to participate in consultations aimed at changing Liechtenstein’s laws on private schools. These changes have made it possible for the school to receive subsidies from the state of Liechtenstein in the form of specified contributions per pupil. The Liechtenstein Waldorf School at Schaan sees itself as a “three-country-school”, and this is now further emphasized by the fact that the state subsidies cover all pupils of the school and kindergarten, regardless of whether they are from Liechtenstein or not. The 1999/2000 school year saw 115 pupils at the school, of which 50% came from Austria, 25% from Liechtenstein and 25% from Switzerland.
An opinion survey
In 1999 the Schaan Waldorf School conducted a survey in Liechtenstein, Vorarlberg, Austria and neighbouring Switzerland. The 200 returned questionnaires showed that 46% (Liechtenstein), 43% (Vorarlberg) and 50% (Austria) of those questioned knew about the school, mainly through its annual bazaars. Some of the reasons given for sending children to the Waldorf School were: a wonderful atmosphere, two foreign languages from Class 1, no grade marks, individual attention. Arguments against were: too far to travel, fees too high, uncertainties regarding transition to state schools.
Intercultural exchanges in the classroom
From the teacher’s point of view the “three-country-school” in Schaan is full of opportunities because various cultures and nationalities meet in one and the same classroom. Customs, habits, dialects, songs, destinations for school trips, currencies, stories and legends, and indeed even spelling, are unbelievably varied. A simultaneous variety is what pupils get to know. Of course every school strives to work at social integration, but here the field in which it can be practised is wider, not only for the pupils but also for parents and teachers. The education system in this region is anyway to some extent supra-regional, and in the Waldorf School at Schaan this aspect is brought right down into the very youngest class. Borders are necessary in certain matters, but overcoming borders in such areas as education and training is a task which needs tackling today, a task in which the school at Schaan is resolved to play its part.
Class teacher at the Waldorf School.
Class teacher, also teaches technology and French.