• Beth Cuenco

An Education for Our Time

How can schools provide an education fit for a future we can only imagine?


The children of today will, in adult life, be part of a workforce employed in jobs, many of which have yet to be invented. It is therefore of the utmost importance that they are supported by an education that nurtures creativity, curiosity, compassion and critical thinking skills, because it is these that will enable our children to embrace both the challenges and opportunities in this fast changing world.



A recent report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights that as the labour market changes, social skills will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills. The top 10 skills desired for 2020, according to the WEF are: Complex Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Creativity, People Management, Coordinating with Others, Emotional Intelligence, Judgement and Decision Making, Service Orientation, Negotiation and Cognitive Flexibility.


Esteemed Education professionals such as Sir Ken Robinson and Yong Zhao are also passionate advocates for the principles that underpin Waldorf education.


“We have to go from what is essentially an industrial model of education, a manufacturing model, which is based on linearity and conformity and batching people. We have to move to a model that is based more on principles of agriculture. We have to recognise that human flourishing is not a mechanical process; it’s an organic process. And you cannot predict the outcome of human development. All you can do, like a farmer, is create the conditions under which they will begin to flourish.” Sir Ken Robinson


“To prepare global, creative, and entrepreneurial talents … The most desirable education, of course, is one that enhances human curiosity and creativity, encourages risk taking, and cultivates the entrepreneurial spirit in the context of globalisation.” - Yong Zhao, 'World Class Learners, Education Creative and Entrepreneurial Students'


A recent documentary by The New York Times shows that parents from varying backgrounds and industries are turning to Waldorf education for their children. In Preparing for Life entrepreneurs, Stanford researchers, investment bankers, and parents who run some of the largest high tech companies in the world, have contributed their views on what children need to navigate the challenges of the 21st Century in order to find success, purpose, and happiness in their lives.


Within the context of the challenges we now face with Covid-19 and all that this virus means to humanity, the Waldorf approach is becoming increasingly relevant; offering a paradigm-shift in education that has the potential to significantly shape our future.



The Importance of Health & Happiness

Too often we read about the increasingly poor mental health of children and the latest initiative designed to address the symptoms. This is a deficit model that is short-term and mostly ineffective. We need to be bolder and more courageous and to hold children's wellbeing at the heart of school life. Children learn best when they are happy.


Allowing space and time for conversations, questions, self-expression, playfulness, creativity, exploration and development of personal initiative is so important if we want to enable young people to understand the world around them and to thrive. We need to also allow time for children to play and to work through the complexities of social relationships, developing empathy and other vital social skills for life. While the performance-focused systems of mainstream education may have largely eroded opportunities to foster these capacities, Waldorf schools aim to provide the environment and curriculum to support the happy and healthy all-round development of every child, without compromising on academic performance.


Things that are gaining currency within the world of education now, have been integral to Waldorf education for 100 years - the importance of experiential learning, creativity, of developing sustained relationships with teachers and peers, of spending quality time outdoors and nurturing a relationship with nature. Rather than filling children with facts, Waldorf education nurtures the qualities of each child so that they can fulfil their unique potential.


The Phase II of the Survey of Waldorf Graduates (2007) from the Research Institute for Waldorf Education, has reported the following typical profile of a Waldorf school graduate, demonstrating a healthy self-image and positive outlook on life:


  • Highly values interpersonal relationships at home and on the job (96%)

  • Is self-reliant and highly values self-confidence (94%)

  • Highly values verbal expression (93%) and critical thinking (92%)

  • Practices and values life-long learning (91%)

  • Highly values tolerance of other viewpoints (90%)

  • Is highly satisfied in choice of occupation (89%)

  • At work cares most about ethical principles (82%) and values helping others (82%)


Whilst the jobs and life choices of Waldorf graduates are hugely diverse, what seems to unite most, is a passion and ambition to use their capabilities for positive good within the world. Another commonality, is the love they have for their school which can often be seen at festivals and fairs when they all return to support and reconnect with old friends and teachers. When asked what they value, most talk about how they were allowed to be individual and were valued for who they are by teachers and their peers. There is a strong feeling that it is this that has given them the courage and self belief to follow their passions and to value happiness as a success factor in life.


Choosing a school is a tough choice and one of the most important decisions a parent makes. If you haven't invested in education before, you may have been wondering about the difference that will make this investment worthwhile. The stunning150 seater theatre, beautiful buildings and classrooms and the idyllic site providing lots of outdoor space in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty might capture your heart, but other schools have these and some certainly have better facilities. For me, the key question is whether your child will be happy and if the answer is yes, I believe you have found the right school.


We hope to be able to show you around soon!


Beth Cuenco,

Headteacher



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