(from: Waldorf Education Worldwide, pp. 108-109, Note the Copyright!)
Surrounded on all sides by speakers of Hungarian and Slav languages, Romania forms an island full of people speaking a Romance language in the far eastern part of Europe. Since the First World War this country has been a multi-national state which included Slav, Bulgarian, Turkic and Hungarian influences. Even before the political and social turn-around of 1990, news of the social unrest in Romania awakened in some the wish to introduce Waldorf Education there.
Still in 1990, immediately after the change of political direction, expatriates and some Germans went to Romania to organize the first public meetings. Representatives of the state at that time were very open to new ideas, and at the first meeting with Education Minister Mihai Sora it was astonishing to hear him say: “Yes indeed, I know about Rudolf Steiner, and I’m delighted to hear that you wish to introduce Waldorf Education to Romania.” During the subsequent five years the Ministry for Education gave much support to the development of the education there by paying full salaries to teachers who wanted to study at the one-year seminar in Bucharest and also permitting them to lodge in student residences.
A beginning made by isolated Waldorf classes
The first graduates of the seminar returned to their home towns where they founded Waldorf classes within state schools without, however, preparing the parents thoroughly for this. The stronger of these initiatives attracted newcomers which quickly led to a social problem: Where could the new teachers live? An educational problem also arose in the difficulty of providing adequate support for such a far flung education movement. Some of the initiators had to abandon their projects, others were never visited, and some looked for friends and helpers from abroad. The spread of isolated classes in 25 separate locations has meanwhile consolidated into twelve independent schools. There are also still several groups of classes which feel they belong together although they do not form a school as such, i.e. they have no building and no unified representation in the wider community.
Co-operative agreement with the Ministry for Education
It is impossible to imagine the development of the teacher training and the different establishments without seeing that all of it has been accompanied by the Friends of Waldorf Education. It is their efforts with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation that have led to the provision by the state of means with which to procure buildings and support pluralism in education and self-administration by schools in Romania. Together with the Romanian Federation of Waldorf Schools and the teacher training seminar, the Friends of Waldorf Education entered into an agreement with the Romanian Ministry for Education in 1996. This agreement forms the basis on which the Waldorf Schools collaborate with the authorities.
Teacher training seminar on the way to accreditation
The teacher training situation changed in 1995. The one-year course which had been intended as further training for trained teachers was extended to three years, and the process of attaining accreditation for state recognition began at the same time. This seminar has the character of a condensed university course for teachers which allows graduates to enter the third year of other faculties for a further two or three years of study. Teachers who complete the three-year Waldorf training have the right to work as class teachers for Classes 1 to 4 and as sport and art teachers for Classes 1 to 8. The class teacher system is not recognized in Romania. Successful attempts and cases in which a teacher has accompanied a class for several years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. A few courageous individuals have, however, succeeded in taking a class right through to Class 8. Since the Waldorf teacher training seminar in Bucharest is not yet fully accredited, other forms of training and further training are called for. In service and weekend seminars have taken shape at Bacau, Braila, Bucharest, Constanta, Cluj, Iasi, Simeria, Timisoara and Turda. Courses for further training during vacations, run mainly with the generous support of the International Association for Waldorf Education in Central and Eastern Europe (IAO), have proved a great help in building the upper schools.
Romanian education legislation stipulates that upper schools, called lyceums, shall be distinguished according to profiles. To give Waldorf Schools their own profile would have required a change in the law. Since the Waldorf movement does not have sufficient political clout for this, the teachers of the first upper school decided to take the route of creating a Waldorf Lyceum with a humanities profile. The National Curriculum Council made staff available to work out the curriculum for the Humanistic Waldorf Lyceum and it was through this collaboration that the curriculum for the Waldorf upper school came to be accorded official recognition. It is of course not easy to juggle the requirements of the state and those of Waldorf Education, but as the state subsidizes the financing of teachers’ salaries and school buildings the Romanian Waldorf movement has to “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”. So the choice of teachers, the time-table and, to some extent, the content have to be adapted to state criteria if pupils’ transition to other schools and the status of the school-leaving exams are to be recognized.
The country’s increasing poverty is engulfing more and more parents who have to take two jobs simply to afford basic necessities for their children. So they have less and less time to spare for matters of schooling, which makes it difficult to inform them in depth about the education. This means that material of a general nature is required, but despite all the generous support that has been given over the years by Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary it is paradoxical that so little publicity material has been produced. This has undoubtedly had consequences. The publication of “Education Towards Freedom” in 1994 was a tremendous boost, but it soon sold out. In the year 2000 a general pamphlet on Waldorf Education was produced and published which has led to the schools becoming better known in their locality. Nevertheless priority will have to be given to more publicity work in the future, together with work on consolidating the schools.
Before the political turn-around of the 1990s, parents in Romania, as elsewhere, were expected to place their disabled children in the care of state-run institutions, so-called psychiatric asylums where they were seen as ineducable and given the bare minimum of care. Today Romania has three curative homes based on anthroposophy, in Simeria Veche, Urlati and Bucharest, all founded by Romanians with the help of western advisers. The children live in a community set-up or attend the curative school or workshops as day-pupils. Through these establishments Romanian society at large is gradually discovering that even children with disabilities are capable of development. Collaboration with the authorities, who contribute to running costs, is close but also sometimes heavy-going owing to their hierarchical structure.
Since 1998 business manager of the Romanian Federation of Waldorf Schools and teacher at the Liceu Waldorf in Bucharest.