Waldorf education is attracting lively interest in Turkey. An alternative to selection

Marie-Luise Sparka

An initial public weekend conference in Istanbul in the spring of 2009 created the basis for the further development of Waldorf education. In the same year still the “Friends of Education in Istanbul” (ESDD) association was founded. The tasks of the association include the training and further training of Turkish educators. A curriculum was prepared together with German trainers which will lead to a Waldorf qualification. Thirty people signed up for the subsequent course. 

Waldorf education in Turkey owes its growth in the country to the rise in interest among many parents in alternative school models which seek to establish a balance to the strongly cognitive selective state school system. The state education administration faces exceptionally great challenges because the proportion of younger age groups in the Turkish population is large in comparison to Germany. In 2010 almost half the population comprised 0 to 24-year-olds in comparison to barely a quarter in Germany. Although a good school education has traditionally been greatly valued, it cannot be taken for granted due to the great demand: anyone wanting to go to university cannot do so without sitting the nationwide entrance exams. About a million pupils compete for the approximately 100,000 coveted places. The Waldorf schools, which reject the vertical school system with its associated principle of selection, break through this constraint. With its holistic educational approach and supportive teaching, Waldorf education represents an alternative educational path which aims to enable successful learning without performance pressure and the stress of exams.

The initiative seeks teachers

The Waldorf kindergartens in Istanbul, Bodrum and Alanya have for some considerable time enjoyed a steadily growing number of children. But that requires trained Waldorf teachers. Local ongoing training and further training of teachers is therefore vital. This task has been taken on by the in-service kindergarten seminar in Istanbul. In order to cover the demand in the region of southern Turkey, a three-year postgraduate course in Waldorf education is currently being planned which is particularly aimed at Turkish teachers in Alanya and its surroundings. At present experienced staff from Hamburg, Dortmund and the USA are working in the still young kindergartens in Turkey. There will be an in-service course for Turkish teachers who want to obtain a Waldorf training.

A school initiative in Alanya

Orhan Demirtas, the founder of the Alanya initiative, grew up in the German town of Heilbronn and has lived in Turkey since the age of 16. He concluded his German studies with a thesis on language teaching in Waldorf schools. The foundation of the school was preceded by the establishment of a preschool class which started work in September 2012. This unexpected opportunity arose through the wish of the kindergarten owner, Revan Kaptan, to open her kindergarten to Waldorf education. The Waldorf teacher Gisela Akturan taught the preschool children in the start-up phase. A report in this journal about the Waldorf initiative in Istanbul, which had just been started, aroused her interest in Turkey. A Turkish teacher is now continuing her work.

The building at the ascent to the castle of Alanya offers a view of the sea and is located in a garden full of fig, lemon and mandarin trees. Next year Gisela Akturan’s charges want to go to a Waldorf school. “Perhaps this article will help us to find people who are just as enthusiastic about developments in Turkey as I was four years ago and who want to support us in this work,” she says hopefully.

About the author: Marie-Luise Sparka is a founding member of the Verein zur Förderung interkultureller Waldorfpädagogik in Hamburg e.V.

Link: www.interwaldorf-hamburg.de