Taiwan: The roots of HaiSiann began in 2000 with one nursery school in WuQi township experiencing good growth, leading to the opening of two others in the area. By 2006 and under the urging of the parents, work began on the process of opening a school, the initial campus being temporarily shared with ShanMeiZhen kindergarten. After two years, the school began to outgrow the campus and so began to look for a new site, finally settling down to where they are now. All these groups (kindergartens and nascent school) worked within both non-profit and non-governmental guidelines, necessitating the formation of the Taichung County Waldorf Education Society. With the physical move came the need for a new body, the Haisiann Waldorf Education Association as a legal adjunct.
There is a very strong wish to bring the traditional aspects of Taiwanese culture back into modern life, to re-ensoul the often fragmented and hectic existence the society is into. Whether this occurs through songs, plays, stories, agriculture, craftwork or any other medium, the aim is the same: to reinvigorate traditional Taiwanese culture as a way of strengthening the coherence or meaningfulness of life as an anodyne to the one-sidedness of our modern times.
As Christopher Clouder notes, “Waldorf education is a social impulse for all humanity but it cannot be transplanted wholesale from one culture to another.” To this end, the curriculum is being localized. The school teaches in Class 6 about the Spring and Autumn Period (771-453 BC). The Spring and Autumn Period was a dynamic period marked by a high degree of cultural development, the time of Laozi, Sun Tzu, and above all, Confucius, who promoted the notions of equality, and ren dao or benevolence to all, as well as the development of ‘laws of the land’.
Any way in which the school can overcome the deficit of nature experienced in urban life will prove beneficial. The rhythms of agriculture and the natural world weave in with the seasons and festivals, and embed the students in the cycle of life. A local biodynamic farmer has supplied the school with biodynamic preparations which were worked with during the Spring festival, while an ongoing compost heap deals with the kitchen scraps.
At present there are around 100 pupils in classes 1-7. The teachers have all had in-house training over the years, as well as instruction from guest teachers from Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. The Principal is Dr. Yi-Ling Zhang who, along with Dr. Hui-Feng Lee have been energetically and tirelessly working at building the school from the inside out.
Current projects include a parent-toddler group at the Da-De campus about one kilometer away, and a Junior High School (Grades 7-9) across the road, both in rented and decorated buildings. The local public high school has also welcomed us onto their campus to use their science facilities which greatly simplifies our science provision and for which we are truly grateful.
Waldorf Education is gathering strength in Taiwan, which is not without significance for the social future of this small island nation.