There are 25 Waldorf kindergartens in India. Some are well-established and a few are very new developing initiatives. India is a large country and all these kindergartens are spread all over the country. The first two Waldorf schools started almost simultaneously in Hyderabad and Mumbai in the late 1990’s. Slowly the movement spread and now we have 25 kindergartens and few more inspired ones.
Schools and kindergartens emerge and run on private funding only. Early childhood education laws almost non-existent in India, so there is no support or recognition from the government. All kindergartens take care of children from age 3 to 6, and most of the Waldorf kindergartens also have playgroups for children from 2 to 3.
Training. Some training seminars happen every year, such as the Khandala Seminar, where trainers from other countries dedicate their time to train the Indian teachers. IASWECE has supported this initiative for several years. There are also two part-time teacher training courses which offer kindergarten blocks and another one in Navi Mumbai is completely focussed on kindergarten training. We still do not have a complete full-time early childhood teacher training in India. We are hopeful and working toward the challenge to have a full-time course.
Trainers from other countries are also sometimes invited by individual school to offer specific training and mentoring or sometimes this is open for all. In some new initiatives mentors stay for six months or more and impart training and look after the new initiative until it can function on its own.
Working together. In 2014, an association of Waldorf early childhood teachers called “Sadhana”was founded. Among the tasks this group has undertaken are organizing regional and national conferences, supporting new initiatives, and coordinating the mentoring and development of the training.
1) Reaching out to parents and spreading awareness. Parents want a change in the early childhood education but lack awareness. Orientation is much needed. Some parents attend a workshop or seminar on Waldorf education somewhere and then search for kindergartens.
2) Waldorf kindergartens have increased in number in many urban cities.
3) 50 percent parents agree with the fact that reading and writing need not be achieved in a hurry.
4) Parents have a concern for the continuity in this philosophy as there are very few Waldorf Grade schools.
5) It is difficult to get educators due to trainings happening on a piecemeal basis.
6) Sadhana is focussing on how to help schools as start-ups mostly run on self learning and are not based on a thorough understanding of the philosophy.
7) The schools have tried their best to adapt the curriculum for India by bringing in culture and local songs and customs wherever applicable.
8) Retaining trained teachers with the same school is difficult. Teachers get trained , work for two or three years, and then leave the school for various reasons.
Looking back. The Waldorf movement in India is approximately 18 years old. In the beginning , the kindergarten teachers got on-the-job training by Miriam Haenen and Tina Brusma. Both mentors visited India for training for six years. Eventually , more international trainers started coming to India and Indian teachers also started to attend conferences and seminars both in and outside of the country.
Sucheta Garud is a former Waldorf kindergarten teacher. She is a member of the Board of Sadhana and an IASWECE Council member. Website of Sadhana: http://www.siwka.org/