Since the year 2000 there has been a Steiner-inspired kindergarten in Vietnam within an orphanage, where the children are cared for from birth through adulthood. There are two more initiatives in other districts and newly opened or about-to-open kindergartens in Hanoi, Nha Trang, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City. There is also a new Steiner-based kindergarten in the Camphill community in Hue.
History. Vietnam has a long history of war and poverty. The wish to help the victims of these circumstances, who are the orphans living in Dieu Giac orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, first drew a group of Waldorf teachers and parents in Australia to form the Vietnam Children’s Project (VCP) in 1999. It was VCP who founded the three kindergartens. Also under the VCP’s guidance, two three-year part-time early childhood teacher training courses have started in Vietnam.
Early Childhood Training. For a number of years the Vietnamese Steiner-inspired kindergartens functioned under the guidance of Thanh Cherry, who founded the VCP and initiated the 3 kindergartens. They also received sporadic mentoring from other experienced international Waldorf teachers. In 2012 the formal teacher training project began with a group of 12 already practicing teachers. Over the next 3 years many international tutors gave generously of their time and expertise to come to Vietnam, and the group graduated in April 2015. A public ceremony was held in Ho Chi Minh City to celebrate this landmark event and with the publicity from media coverage a new wave of interest in Steiner/Waldorf education was sparked, with requests for another 3-year training course.
Currently there are two early childhood teacher training courses in Vietnam – one in Ho Chi Minh City with 28 students and one in Hanoi with 15 students. Both trainings will be delivered in 6 modules over 3 years and we are thankful to have support from IASWECE, IHF and the “FREUNDE” for the training program.
These two new courses provide basic training for Steiner early childhood teachers who wish to work in the expanding Tho Trang kindergarten in Ho Chi Minh City and also in the above mentioned new initiatives.
Primary education. Tho Trang kindergarten started its first Class 1 in September 2015 and a Primary Teacher training course was organized in January 2016 with 22 students. Tho Trang now needs larger premises to accommodate the planned 4 nursery classes, 4 kindergartens and all primary grades from 1-6. This new development will satisfy the great need in Vietnam for future generations of young children and, being the first Steiner/Waldorf School and Kindergarten in the country, it will undoubtedly depend very much on the generous support of sponsors and friendly Waldorf organizations over the world.
Birth to three. This year we are organizing seminars specially for the childcare facilities caring for children from 6 months to three years old. Currently in Ho Chi Minh City, Tho Trang School has a nursery class with children from 18 months to 3 years; Warm Nest Children’s Home will have a class for a similar age group. In the north, Hanoi Kindergarten runs a nursery class for 1- to 3-year olds; Hanoi Lucita Kindergarten has 2 similar classes.
- The need to meet stringent government requirements regarding curriculum and environment.
- We need to meet strict hygiene issues in cases of dangerous children’s afflictions such as foot and mouth disease. In some areas, almost every year there will be a breakout of this deadly illness and each time the toys need to be boiled and disinfected. The challenge is how we can provide suitable toys that will not be destroyed by this process.
- Many mainstream established preschools or educators would like to convert their premises into Steiner kindergartens but have little training or knowledge of the educational principles. The challenge of regulating the use of the Steiner/Waldorf trademark will be a big issue.
- There is a lack of local qualified mentors and the expense required to invite an international mentor is great.
- In under-developed countries such as Vietnam, the lack of financial resources greatly hampers the development of Steiner/Waldorf education.
- There is a need for more sponsorship and funding for the ongoing initiatives and new projects in the country.
-Thanh Cherry, chairperson of VCP, and Shirley Bell, core member of VCP, are from Australia and active in Vietnam and China.