Waldorf Education in Singapore: Tarzan Rope and Handmade Dolls
Singapore: The Waldorf Steiner Education Association Singapore was founded in May 2003 by a group of parents and teachers. Inspired by workshops by Nila Chambers from Australia, who visited Singapore in June 2002, the initiative opened a kindergarten in January 2003. The goal of the association is to establish Waldorf education in Singapore, to train local teachers, and make Waldorf education accessible to as many children from Singapore as possible.
“I attended the first day of kindergarten with my daughter Arjoi. We quickly got to know the daily routine. We acquainted ourselves with the garden adventure (sandpit, water, tree stumps, and the Tarzan rope hanging from the gorgeous “peepal” tree), the snack time (the hand full of fruits), the natural play things (wooden pieces, handmade dolls, lots of fabric, a well equipped kitchen), the singing, the story and a simply elegant lunch (with beautifully stitched napkin holders) all done in a calm and rhythmic process.” (Experience of a Waldorf parent in Singapore)
On five mornings a week, the association offers a three-hour kindergarten program. Currently there are two mixed-age groups, which are attended by a total of 16 children. About half of the children come from families of foreign origin. The other half are children of locals or resident families in Singapore. Two teachers and one assistant run the kindergarten. It would be, however, much better to have a larger number of domestic or residential teachers from Singapore and therefore the association is always looking for potential teachers. Only in then will it be possible to create a solid foundation for future growth.
Furthermore the association offers two playgroups for toddlers, one in the west of Singapore and another in the east of the city. Both playgroups take place at member’s homes. In the future, the initiative hopes to find a more appropriate place, also for other activities of the association such as the craft group and the study group. Each playgroup can accommodate 6-8 children accompanied by a parent. These playgroup meetings are currently held in English. For the future the association hopes to have a Mandarin-speaking playgroup as well.
The Waldorf Steiner Education Association offers two regular activities for adults. Once a week a craft group provides young mothers and parents with the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and develop practical skills. In addition, every second Wednesday of the month a study group meets on the premises of the kindergarten.
In the long term, the initiative hopes to start a Waldorf school. Unfortunately there are some aspects that make such a step particularly difficult in Singapore. Firstly, there is the state education system in Singapore that allows residents only to attend government schools. Even attending a regular international school is not allowed except in special circumstances. Secondly, the initiative faces a high turnover as many members come and go. The majority of children in the kindergarten and playgroup come from families who are not permanent residents of Singapore. Many of them have only a limited visa, and often only stay in Singapore for a few years. The initiative must first establish two permanent kindergarten groups before it can take the next step towards a primary school.