I wrote a comment earlier today about how I don’t think my children were harmed by sitting tests from a relatively early age at school, and that this did not seem to be a stressful experience for them in any way.
A reader had previously commented that the way Steiner schools make much of the lack of testing, and that this is used as a selling point worked for them as an extremely attractive feature of Steiner education.
Of course Steiner schools do feature some exams later in school life – at 16, so presumably the stress only kicks in there. I could argue that exams at age 16 will be much less stressful for children who have been used to sitting exams all their school lives.
Anyway my point in this post is that it is probably not the actual sitting of the tests themselves that parents want to protect their children from – after all it is about an hour at most every few years, and infants and juniors are not fazed by this.
What parents probably see as attractive is the freedom for their child from being taught what are considered in mainstream education, as the basics of learning for the rest of their lives.
I have many times heard Steiner proponents criticise mainstream education where they believe “force-feeding “ or “spoon-feeding” , “sitting down all day” or “herding like sheep” takes place.
These myths spread among the Steiner community are a way of perpetuating the idea of Steiner education as superior in some unspecified way. In fact copying and reciting are methods widely used in Steiner schools and if this is not spoon-feeding, I don’t know what is.
As someone pointed out in a letter to Stroud Life last week, most of the “extras” advertised by Steiner schools are what the potential Steiner parents would provide anyway – country walks, home baking and art materials. These activities provided in the home will arguably be of more benefit to a child if shared with the family, and will not detract from what most people would say education is for – to provide a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding.
Steiner Waldorf exploits and plays on parents’ fears that mainstream education will somehow not be good enough for their child and that the perceived “natural” lifestyle of the schools will be better.
All parents have their own ideas about the best ways to bring up children, and although I personally do not put country walks in school time above learning to read, some clearly do.
I would be interested to hear from anyone who does, and to know whether I am right about the reasons why the lack of testing is attractive to them; if it is not the tests themselves, it must be that what the children would be tested on is not considered of value.