South Korea: Purunsup Free School was founded in 2002 and moved to Gwangju-si, near Seoul, in 2008. There the school bought a vast property n a valley, which was subsequently sold to parents. Through the proceeds of the sale, the school was able to fund the property purchase and build a large two-winged building for grades 1-8. Behind the building is a large space, which is used as a sports field. The upper grades are taught in an array of colourful little buildings.
Due to the high influence of Confucianism, education is of utmost importance in Korea. Even today it is still a fact that education determines social status. South Korea has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, and the well-educated population is considered to be one of the main reasons for the strong economic growth during recent years. The South Korean education system is, however, more and more subject to critique, mainly due to the high pressure on students to perform. Therefore it is not uncommon for students to have a 12-hour day and visit several cram schools called “hagwon”. The final exam is crucial in order to be able to attend university. This in turn is essential for future job prospects and social status.
Within the public school system in South Korea, grades 1-6 are considered elementary school. At the end of grade 12 students from independent schools or Waldorf schools attend the government’s final exams. Independent schools do not have to be officially recognized by the Korean government. In South Korea education is compulsory between grades 1-9.
Many parents see Waldorf education as a welcome alternative to the public “performance institutions”. The Purunsup Waldorf School offers grades 1-12. The class sizes vary greatly between 3-24 students per class. The school even offers class trips to India and China for the upper grades.
Recently the Waldorf teachers have joined forces in South Korea and founded their own teachers union. This will strengthen the networking opportunities and will provide possibilities for mutual assistance.