8 min readWhere education is child’s play, yet not

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 15, 2012

 

WHAT would your child do if she or he was never allowed to watch television throughout her or his childhood? What will your child do?

To many, this may sound unimaginable. But to an education system that strives to develop the natural curiosity of each child and help him explore the world to feed and nurture that urge to learn, it is one of the requirements.

And no, a child who is nurtured in such a learning environment will not lack for anything, even if his peers will be handling all kinds of gadgets and he still has to see one. And this is because, when the natural curiosity and eagerness to learn is there, fear of not being able to do something yet untried is minimized if not removed. It is that fear which holds us back. Even adults would be heard saying, “Ay, baka masira ko ito!”

A child who has learned the concepts of prying into what is, will just need to figure out how things work confident in one’s analytical approach, excitement on the impending discovery overcomes fear.

Now imagine…

How much better would your child turn out if he is schooled in an environment where rich and poor get the same learning advantage and each child brings in the experiences and realities of where he comes from? Beyong just the drive to learn is the openness to understand. Are in Utopia yet? No. But this is the learning experience the Steiner/Waldorf education has introduced worldwide, which has been gaining positive response from parents who only want the best for their children.

In the website, whywaldorfworks.org, it says:

“For the Waldorf student, music, dance, and theater, writing, literature, legends and myths are not simply subjects to be read about, ingested and tested. They are experienced. Through these experiences, Waldorf students cultivate a lifelong love of learning as well as the intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual capacities to be individuals certain of their paths and to be of service to the world.”

Developed by Rudolf Steiner in 1919, the Steiner/Waldorf education is based on the understanding of human development, which addresses the needs of a growing child.

Thus teachers do not just impart lessons as designed in a textbook and expounded on in a lesson plan, rather, they consciously transform education into an art, thus educating the child not just as a mind that has to be filled with age-appropriate information but as a heart to be touched, a hand to reach out and touch, and a head to figure out how everything else works.

“Teachers in Waldorf schools are dedicated to generating an inner enthusiasm for learning within every child,” whywaldorfworks.org states.

STEINER/WALDORF HERE

This kind of education will be introduced to Davao City this coming school year in June through Tuburan Institute at the Blissful Family Village in Buhangin. Tuburan means wellspring and its mission is “to become the wellspring of life in the educational landscape by replicating similar-intentioned schools in other parts of Mindanao.”

The institute is to be run by young teacher Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck and Katherine E. Estember.

Tuburan opens this relatively new approach to teaching to parents who are, first and foremost, willing to do without television at home.

Tough. But, aren’t parents supposed to do everything they can for the good of their children? What if this is really for the good of your child?

“We really encourage parents to attend our orientation so they can have a full grasp of what Waldorf/Steiner is all about,” Vandenbroeck said. “If they are open to have a home school partnership with Tuburan, then first is that we really discourage TV viewing and parents will have to sign a memorandum of agreement that they will reinforce what the children have learned in school.”

Vandenbroeck grew up without television as her parents encouraged her and her brother to instead engage in open discussions with their parents instead.

Both Vandenbroeck and Estember underwent the Stiner Education Training in Iloilo by the Gamot Cogon Institute.

INSPIRED BY GAMOT COGON

The idea to put up such a learning institution here was inspired by the Steiner/Waldorf school in Iloilo, specifically in Libongcogon, Zarraga — the Gamot Cogon School.

Gamot Cogon – A  Waldorf-inspired school in Iloilo.

Libongcogon is a poor rural community, and yet, children of rich people from several kilometers away are entering its doors, sharing learning space with the children of farmers.

As in any learning institution that drums up quality of teaching and learning, the first that will cross a parent’s mind is the cost. Quality education these days costs a lot.

Not quite.

Vandenbroeck explained, the full tuition is P40,000 a year. There is a big but to that.

“That’s why we really encourage people to go to the school orientation to understand better because each family will pay differently,” she said.

The parents will have to state their income, and the appliance they have and use, as a gauge of their living standards and how much they can afford to send a child to school.

And then there is the interview where the main agenda, especially for those who are tight in regular cash, is to negotiate for the tuition.

The idea is to share the system of learning to as broadest possible spectrum of children that can be handled with utmost care by one teacher in a class. After all, each child brings with him the life experience and perspective of his family, which when handled with the desire to nurture can enhance every other child’s development.

“Whatever their school fees, all children will get the same education. It is inclusive of merienda that they prepare together in class, as well as writing materials, art materials, and musical instruments,” Vandenbroeck’s paper on Tuburan reads. “Moreover, students do not need to buy uniforms but are instead encouraged to wear simple, plain clothes, shoes, and bags devoid of any brand names, logos, and cartoon characters. Students also do not need to buy standardized textbooks because each creates his or her own illustrated summary of coursework in book form inspired by the creative lessons that teachers put together out of the resources available in the faculty room.”

Gamot Cogon, the school that inspired Vandenbroeck and Estember to bring the system her, was established in 2005 and now has classes ranging from a small nine students in Class 9, and as many as 25 students in Class 3. There, even children of very rich families arrive in school in rubber sippers.

WHEN LIKES VOLT IN

The two ladies work closely with Nicanor Perlas and Bella Tan, the co-founders of the Manila Waldorf School.

The circle that brought them to the Waldorf School is Perlas’ campaign that gave birth to the Movement of Imaginals for Sustainable Societies through Initiatives, Organization and Networking (Mission).

“Kate and I are part of Mission, a movement of Filipinos who have from different institutions and concerns who vow to support each other for a better Philippines,” she said.

The putting up a Stenier/Waldorf inspired school here was given the final push when they attended Mission’s three-week Aletheia workshop.

“It was during that three weeks workshop when we decided to quit our jobs and start Tuburan,” she said.

The Aletheia Vandenbroeck is referring to is Mission’s Aletheia Course, which is the acronym for Advanced Leadership Training for Human Empowerment thru Integral Awareness and Action. Aletheia is also a Greek word which means “Truth”. In this context it means “truth” as a foundation for effective action in the world, Mission’s website reads.

“The curriculum of the Aletheia Course is built around this journey of unlocking the deepest and most profound potential that resides in us and channeling and shaping these energies for the benefit of society. Societal innovations require new capacities,” the page on Aletheia course further explains.

Vandenbroeck, however, added, “This has been a life dream to start something that will effect change in Mindanao’s educational landscape. Aletheia just gave us the final push to quit our job and focus on Tuburan.”

PIONEERING 40

Tuburan is opening in June 2012 with only 40 slots for children between ages 3 to 6 (kinder level students). Each year, only one grade level will be added until there are 240 students from kinder to grade 12 in 2020.

n the paper Vandenbroeck sent as additional information, she pointed out that just recently Department of Education (DepEd) introduced the Kinder to 12 Years of Basic Education System (K-12) in recognition of the worsening quality of education the children are getting.

“As a result, school pressure has increased even more: enrollment has been moved to an earlier age, reading and writing are taught earlier, competition is intensified, lots of tests, classes become more intellectual, less movement, no arts, no playing,” the paper reads.

“Our IQ-focused education ignores naturalistic and existential intelligence and disregards emotional, moral, and spiritual intelligence. Our IQ-focused education leaves us prey to super machines which will soon take over all IQ-dominant tasks, easily replacing educators, medical doctors, and other professionals working solely on the basis of IQ,” the paper continues.

This early, the idea sounds too radical, but the results are trickling through the Waldorf schools in the country that are now enjoying the growing confidence of more and more parents.

As one of Vandenbroeck’s friends in Facebook said as greeting for Tuburan wrote, “I was not a believer of the Steiner method until my nieces went to Manila Waldorf. Good to know you are now in Davao.”

Suffice it to say that this friend comes from a well respected family with a thriving business here.

So far, they have been getting encouragements from like-minded friends, but hesitation from mothers who are not yet willing to let go of the high quality of education promised by the top private schools, as well as their television habits.

But if you just search the Internet about Waldorf School, and you were the adventurous and curious child who had to be repressed most of the time, you will feel a sense of disappointment for having been born too early.