Brazil is a very large and diverse country. If one travels from north to south there are strong changes in climate, vegetation, wildlife and traditions. It is also the fifth largest country in the world and with over 192 million people, the largest population in South America. Waldorf education has adapted to this diversity and in an open and dedicated way the Brazilians have embraced and developed this educational philosophy.
The pioneer school Escola Waldorf Rudolf Steiner, which was founded in 1956 by German immigrants, had a strong European influence and is considered the first anthroposophical initiative in Brazil. As time went by, more and more locally trained Waldorf teachers joined the initiative and the school developed an own Brazilian identity, as gradually more lessons in Portuguese were added to the curriculum.
Today there are more than 80 Waldorf kindergartens and schools in Brazil. Many small new initiatives have joined the movement in recent years but there are also many full-scale Waldorf high schools that can be found mainly in the south and southwest. Among the majority of privately funded schools, there are already some schools that are supported by the state such as the initiatives in Bahia and Minas Gerais. Over the years, accompanied by many supporters, the social project “Monte Azul” in São Paulo was able to build many social institutions, kindergartens and also a Waldorf School leading up to grade 5.
Interest in Waldorf education in Brazil is increasing and not all parents receive a school place for their children. Therefore, the movement is always on the look out to train more teachers in its nine training facilities in Brazil that are offering an excellent training program. One of these training facilities is the teaching seminar in São Paulo, which trains educators and classroom teachers and has evolved since 1970 to become a recognized training centre.
Despite financial and personnel difficulties the Brazilian Association of Waldorf Schools (FEWB) tries to support schools and new initiatives in a sufficient way. The so-called “Federação” also works on educational challenges and discusses new government regulations. Furthermore every two years there is a conference for Waldorf Education in Brazil and every three years for all of Latin America.
The growing number of initiatives and the strong interest of the parents gives hope for a continuous positive development. There are, however, still several challenges that have to be mastered such as teacher training, government regulations, or the question of state funding as well as the search for a Brazilian identity of Waldorf education.