(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 94-95, Note the Copyright!)
Lithuania, the southern-most and largest of the three Baltic republics, has a landscape of forest and countless lakes. Its biggest river is the Memel (Nemunas) which debouches into the Baltic via a wide delta. Like all the countries of eastern Europe, Lithuania experienced a severe economic crisis during the years following the fall of Communism, but meanwhile the situation appears to be improving. The country’s education system is changing only slowly. In 1992, for example, a resolution was passed stipulating an increase in the humanist elements of the national curriculum. It has only recently become permissible to found private schools. But Waldorf Schools remain under the umbrella of the state so that children from poorer backgrounds will be able to attend them.
Contacts in every direction
The first impulses for Waldorf Education came to Lithuania from Tallinn and Moscow after the fall of Communism. It is said, however, that lectures on Waldorf Education were given at the teacher training college of Marianpole before the Second World War. The first Waldorf classes were set up in 1992 within a state school at Kazlu Ruda, and in 1995 at Kaunas and in Vilnius. A curative education initiative began in 1999. Further Waldorf initiatives exist at Panevezys, Igonava, Utena, Silute, Kleipeda, Druskine and Kupiskes. The education work was accompanied by lectures on Waldorf Education given from 1992 to 1996 at the Periodic Seminar in Moscow and from 1996 to 1999 by speakers from Denmark. Further training seminars on Waldorf Education have been taking place since 1993 at the Waldorf Centre, a kind of federation of independent Waldorf Schools in Lithuania established with the active support of Danute Ziliene who has tutored many teachers. Courses on Waldorf Education have also been taking place at the state institute for further training in Vilnius.
Translation into Lithuanian
The first literature in Lithuanian on Waldorf Education was published in 1996. From 1993-1996 Gintautas Simeta (1965-1999) studied the education in Stuttgart. Before his premature death he and his wife translated R. Steiner’s “Soul, Economy and Waldorf Education”, Anthroposphic Press, 1986, into Lithuanian. A second book by Steiner has meanwhile also come out in Lithuanian: “The Education of the Child”, Anthroposophic Press, 1996.
The state as a burden and a support
All three Waldorf Schools in Lithuania are at present for the most part financed by the state. Although it is forbidden, the state schools expect to receive contributions from parents in addition. These are needed to finance the art and craft work as well as eurythmy, and also for maintenance and renovation of buildings. In view of the state’s involvement there is a constant need to make compromises with the official curriculum. In Classes 4, 8 and 12 the pupils have to sit exams to prove that their achievements are equal to those of children in conventional schools. Although there are no barriers to working with block periods in main lesson, the class teacher period has to be reduced from eight to six years.
Lithuanian culture is still very much bound up with church tradition; 80% of the population are Catholic, and the Church is critical of Waldorf Education to such an extent that recently surreptitious representations were even made to the Ministry for Education. The Federation of Independent Waldorf Schools in Lithuania is working towards getting the schools recognized by the state as independent schools. For legal and economic reasons such recognition has so far not been forthcoming. Since the Ministry for Education is stepping up its scrutiny of the schools, efforts are now being made to re-work the curriculum so that it can fit in with the ministry’s requirements. A group of experts has been formed comprising representatives of the Ministry for Education, the national educational institute and Waldorf teachers. One solution, for example, would be the introduction of two class teachers per class, one for the humanities and one for the sciences.
The Ministry for Education has now decided to implement an interesting method of financing education which is to be introduced in 2002. Every pupil will receive a voucher, so that each school is paid according to the number of pupils attending. This method means that the right of parents to choose their children’s education will be respected, a right which, though laid down in the constitution, is often not allowed for in practice. Schools would need 25 pupils per class to balance their budget. Since Waldorf Schools are still small this means that they will need to find new ways of publicizing their work to make what they can offer more widely known.
Over the past few years partnerships have been built up between German and Lithuanian schools. Pupils in Vilnius are in contact with the school at Esslingen, and the school at Kazlu Ruda is partnered with the school at Stade. In a project which brought together pupils from Stade with those at Kazlu Ruda a group from both schools repainted the Kazlu Ruda school building and made a mosaic floor there. Social projects such as this promote intercultural understanding and open up new horizons in a foreign country.
Participated actively in Lithuania’s “singing revolution”. Founded the school in 1992. Studied Waldorf Education in Stuttgart 1994/95.