Equal Opportunities in Waldorf Schools: New Doctorate at the Waldorf Education Research Training Group

Germany is still a long way from real educational equality. Students’ social and financial backgrounds continue to play a major role in whether young people graduate from high school and decide to pursue a degree. This is all the more true for young refugees, who often have to find their footing in their new home country after traumatic experiences. Their unique situation and experiences with the German education system are the subject of a doctoral dissertation recently completed at the Waldorf Education Research Training Group at Alanus University in Alfter. For her dissertation entitled “I don’t want to become a fairy tale”, scholarship holder Larissa Beckel accompanied refugee students at a Waldorf school for a year and a half, interviewing them about their situation.

Thanks to their self-governing structures and increased lesson planning flexibility, Waldorf schools could respond particularly well to the young people’s needs. When asked about the findings from her doctoral study in an interview published on the Alanus University website, Beckel said: “The holistic view of the young refugees’ life situation makes it possible to find individual offers of support and encouragement.” The associated commitment of the teachers to individual students is highly appreciated by the latter. The doctoral student continued by saying: “The young people reported that – as a result – they feel more seen and valued than at other schools. This helps their acclimation at the school and thus also in Germany and is an important building block to support their educational path.” At the researched school, the students are overseen by a multi-professional team that also includes school social workers. Some colleagues have additional therapeutic qualifications, and some have migrant backgrounds themselves.

The Waldorf Education Research Training Group at Alanus University, founded in 2015, awards scholarships for doctoral projects to stimulate research and fuel the talent pipeline of young academics in the field of Waldorf education. The programme is financed by SAGST, the Educational Research Center at the Association of Waldorf Schools and the Stockmar Company.