Striving for Balanced Growth - Mentally, Physically, Spiritually
—The Goethe-Institut Education
Only by bringing out the intrinsic qualities of each student do we give meaning to the word education. The Goethe-Institut method is an organic approach to teaching with a focus on fostering a child’s innate abilities at each stage of development. This style of teaching merits further research and application within the current education system.
The Goethe-Institut was founded in Stuttgart in the fall of 1919 as a response to the ossification of learning institutes in Germany. Rudolph Steiner articulated his holistic view during a lecture in the spring of 1920: “We need a spiritual understanding that really unlocks the nature of humanity to make a true practice effective.” Steiner’s emphasis on a better understanding of human nature towards an environment more conducive to learning merits further study and application within the current education system.
What made Steiner’s view on education so significant was how he brought the conversation back to the human side of learning, to the person as a whole. Steiner believed that in order to engage students, one must know and understand their physical, mental and spiritual sides.
But once we understand this, the question of education remains. The Goethe-Institut style of teaching requires that we know what makes children tick. To do this we must come down to their level and really observe them. All parochialisms must be discarded. All lessons must be progressive and correspond to each stage of child development.
Steiner believed that education is about nurturing inclinations particular to each stage of development, because “If we do not educate these inclinations at the relevant age, they cannot, in truth, be educated later.” The first stage of development lasts until 7 years of age. Growth is primarily physical; this is where we should focus our attention. From 7 to 14 years of age children begin to develop personalities and form habits, hence the need for sensory learning. A person’s cognitive and spiritual side begins to emerge in the adolescent stage – 14 to 21 years of age – during which we should encourage independent thinking and equip them with the skills needed to solve problems.
Steiner believed that education should focus on a child’s innate abilities and strengths, and that education must be organic and artistic in order to nurture all sides: physical, mental and spiritual.
Steiner’s Anthroposophy provided the impetus for educational reform. He brought the discussion back to the human side of things, allowing educators to reacquaint themselves with their students, forgoing the stentorian, clinical approach in favor of a warmer, more compassionate style of teaching. Steiner freed education from the shackles of propaganda and economic motive by focusing on spiritual growth instead.