History of Waldorf Education

Waldorf schools, also known as Steiner schools, are schools based upon the approach to education founded by Rudolf Steiner in response to a request by industrialist Emil Molt, who in 1919 wished to start a school for the children of employees of his Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart, Germany. Now there are more than 900 recognized Waldorf schools and nearly 2,000 Kindergartens in more than fifty countries of the world, making this the world's largest independent and nondenominational school system. There are also about 500 additional schools providing education for children with special needs using Waldorf principles; many of these are within the Camphill movement.

Three-quarters of the Waldorf schools today are located in Europe; the movement is growing especially quickly in Eastern Europe, where communist regimes forbade Waldorf schools until their overthrow in 1989. In the English-speaking world, there are about 170 schools in the United States, 100 in Australia, 40 in Great Britain, and 30 in Canada; there are also many schools in New Zealand and South Africa.

Waldorf and Steiner are registered and protected names, and in the United States, the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA) protects this usage. Schools that use substantial portions of the methodology of Waldorf education but are not independent enough to apply all of the latter's principles refer to themselves as Waldorf-method, or "Waldorf Inspired" schools; these are primarily found as charter schools which are part of the public school system in the United States and, as government schools, are not included in the above figures.