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Alternative programs in the government system

PFSE has no particular view on any educational method that may exist believing that all groups are free to set-up their own independent or private schools. However, the PFSE actively opposes any of these alternative methods, particularly those with a spiritual or religious basis, being placed within the public school system with no public consultation, no monitoring and no compliance with guidelines as to their operation.

If the implementation of these specialised curricula is left up to "individual schools" as the government says, then there is no consistency across schools as to their dominance or accountability. The "educational method" of many of these alternative programs, and the benefits they imply, have never been researched or examined by educationalists and others in the public domain. In many cases there is no clear information on what they actually do teach.

About Steiner

There are currently over 10 government schools in Victoria offering a Steiner program. (The Department of Education does not keep track of exactly how many there are) along with the 45 or so independent Steiner schools operating in Australia.

Steiner schools (known as Waldorf schools in the United States) are based on the teachings and philosophy of nineteenth century mystic, Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). The philosophy is called Anthroposophy - spiritual science.

"Steiner expanded an exacting scientific method by which one could do research for her/himself into the spiritual worlds."**

The first school was set-up in 1919 for the children of the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory in Stuttgart. The curriculum was designed using the precepts of Anthroposophy and is still used in Steiner schools today.

What does it teach?

  • "A simple but profound principle underlies Steiner education. Just as humanity as a whole has passed through great cultural epochs, so also the child develops through stages that reflect human history."**
  • Steiner's theory of child development is based on reincarnation, karma, and "the etheric body," and "the astral body." He believed that children pass through three spritual stages, and the third stage (from age 14 to 21) is when "the astral body is drawn into the physical body, causing puberty."
  • Religious instruction is a large part of the Steiner teaching method. "Stories from the Old Testament form the basis of work for class 3 child. These stories deal largely with real persons and happenings..."**
  • Reading is not taught until the ages of seven or eight and in many cases, even later, as it is believed that reading comes from writing. It is also because, according to Steiner, children are not at the right stage of development for reading or writing until their adult teeth come in.*
  • Steiner education does not focus on academic achievement. "Early intellectual awakening can result in a weakening of the child’s vital forces, manifesting in frequent colds or other illnesses."*
  • The use of electronic media, television and computers is discouraged."There is no demonstrated advantage for a child starting to use computers at the age of five over a child who begins at age twelve or fourteen."*

* From the Steiner in Australia website:

** "Steiner Education - Frequently Asked Questions". A handout for parents at Footscray City Primary School.

General information drawn from an article in 'The Skeptic's Dictionary' website:

About Montessori

The Montessori method of education was developed by Italian, Dr Maria Montessori (1870 - 1952).

There is currently only one primary school offering Montessori in Victoria and that is in a government school in Mitcham Primary School. Around Australia, there are six Montessori primary and pre-schools and 20 Montessori preschools.

The Montessori website does not give a lot of information as to what Montessori teaches. A brochure outlines the Montessori philosophy, which states, under a sub-heading of "Natural Sprituality":

"The more she (Maria Montessori) worked with the children, the more convinced she was that they had precise 'inner guides' ..".

"She felt that that it was the spiritual nature of children that had been forgotten and denied...".

"Montessori schools therefore believe that each child is an individual and should be encouraged to work at the pace that is right for him or her. There are no grades or tests. Children are never in competition with each other".

About Reggio Emilia

The Reggio Emilia Approach to preschool education was started by the schools of the city of Reggio Emilia in Italy after World War II. We are aware of only one Reggio Emilia dual-stream school in Victoria, and that is based in Collingwood College, which also houses a Steiner stream.

"Reggio Emilia's approach does challenge some conceptions of teacher competence and developmentally appropriate practice. For example, teachers in Reggio Emilia assert the importance of being confused as a contributor to learning; thus a major teaching strategy is purposely to allow mistakes to happen, or to begin a project with no clear sense of where it might end."

"The schools for young children in the city of Reggio Emilia do not provide a model. There is no recipe for 'how to do it'. Although the phrase 'doing Reggio'. or 'we are running a Reggio Program' or 'we have a Reggio School' is often heard. It is not clear what is meant when educators use these phrases." (From the Reggio Emilia website in Australia.)

Source: Wikipedia. Retrieved 14 September 2006.




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