China: Highgate House School is located in Hong Kong, the gateway to China. Since 1992 the initiative includes a kindergarten, which turned into a Waldorf kindergarten in 2001. Here the children find a transition from their own home to the following school years and while they pass the bridge, they discover the joy of learning. The kindergarten is one of the more and more spreading alternatives to the Chinese state kindergarten system.
Support programs for mothers and their few months old children, courses for children aged one and two, in which the infants solve mathematical tasks and practice concentration, exam preparation for the admission exam to kindergarten when the children turn three – these are all offers that are part of everyday life in Chinese cities and are only a question of money.
In China Education is highly valued by a significant number of parents, as it is looked upon as a crucial tool in order to seize the opportunities of one’s own life. The parents wish for happiness, success and reputation for their children. In their eyes education cannot start early enough in order to reach this goal and sometimes almost all financial resources of a family are used for this purpose only. However, in the shadow of China's education sector yet another reality leaves its shocking mark. The increasing figure of crime and suicide among children and young people provides a challenge as significant as in hardly any other country.
The staff of Highgate House School strives a comparison to explain this phenomenon: "…the butterfly to be emerged damp from the chrysalis. It cannot use its gorgeous new wings until it has dried them in the air. If it uses them too early, it is crippled for life. Our children will someday be butterflies, most quite beautiful in their own ways, in their own time. They should not be pushed to preen, or to fly, before they are ready.” (Attributed to "The Over-Scheduled Child", A. Rosenfeld, M.D. and Nicole Wise)
Accordingly many things are different at Highgate House School: First, there are no entrance examinations and second, the daily schedule provides time periods for games, stories and rhythmic exercises. The venue of the kindergarten alone, which was chosen so that the children may play in the garden, reveals the other priorities. The teachers explain these differences in detail so that the parents understand how fine motor skill, concentration, coordination and willingness to learn can be achieved in a way that avoids the necessity of hard drill, conveyed in private courses.
In an effort to promote an understanding of Waldorf education, a busy-working parents group has emerged. The kindergarten is, however, forced to charge for kindergarten attendance, because in communist China the initiative might otherwise not survive in private ownership. Therefore it remains an important task for the future to ensure that Waldorf education is open to all parents irrespective of their social background, incase they wish to send their child to an alternative kindergarten.