Russia: Samara Waldorf School – one of the first Waldorf Schools in Russia ever – hosts grades 1-11. Since 2004 the school is publicly recognized and enjoys a huge demand. Currently the school receives more even requests than the number of students they can admit. Samara Waldorf School has excellent relations to schools in Germany, which give reason for language trips and mutual encounters from time to time.
Russia at times of Perestroika and Gorbachev: When a teacher, who used to work in a library rather than a public school, had to witness how her son started to change after starting school, she decided to use the new freedom, which has politically been allowed, in order to develop an alternative school program. With the help of various people she was able to offer complementary lessons for six children. The support of the school principal of the neighbouring district eventually lead to the official approval of the initiative as an experimental class for the following three years. With it, the foundation stone for a future Waldorf School in Samara was laid.
A characteristic of the Russian school system proved itself as quite a challenge for the Waldorf Movement all over Russia. Here the regular school time ends after ten years, which made it difficult to frame the curriculum. After that, the students have to participate in military service during a period of two years, which can only be avoided by passing the entrance examination at university. Therefore it was crucial to structure the Waldorf curriculum in such a way, that the challenge of the university exams would be well manageable by the students. At least one gained a little bit more time, as the government accepted the request of an eleventh school year.
Apart from the regular school routine, there are also many initiatives in Samara, supplementing the school community beyond their commitment. On weekends for example, some parents, teachers and student play volleyball and basketball together and prepare for competition. Some of the children look after abandoned animals at a care facility; again others organize concerts and collect money for children in need.
As time passed, Samara has developed into an innovative Waldorf School. With the recently received status as a training initiative, the teacher college is now able to pass on their experience to the parents of the city. Seminars, open lessons and general open days give information to those who are interested in a healthier lifestyle and quality of education.
The transparency and liveliness of the school served as a reason for the German TV-network ZDF to produce a documentary in Russia with a report on Samara Waldorf School – as an example for innovation and democracy in the Russian education area.