Multiculturalism as an opportunity

Waldorf education with an intercultural focus

Since 2003, children and young people from various backgrounds and a deprived neighbourhood have been learning, playing and developing together in an environment of mutual respect at the Free Intercultural Waldorf School. The school in the Neckarstadt suburb of Mannheim is the first in the Rhine-Neckar region to combine the teaching approach of the Waldorf School with practised interculturalism. The teaching staff, who are also multicultural in nature, allow all children to take part in a form of education that takes place within a vibrant process of human encounter. The aim is to provide the children, including and especially those from educationally deprived homes, with the opportunity to learn and develop. 

A non-denominational curriculum which is nevertheless in line with general human values integrates intercultural topics in many academic subjects and includes certain special features. For example, lessons on culture allow the pupils to go on a fictional journey to different countries. With all of their senses they encounter foreign cultures and thereby become acquainted with and learn to appreciate that which is initially unknown. All children in the first and second years also receive two lessons a week in the "language of encounter". As a contribution towards mutual understanding across language barriers, these lessons are given to more than one school year simultaneously by a native-speaking teacher, currently in Polish, Spanish, Croatian and Turkish. Pupils who cannot speak German or who feel unsure when speaking it are targeted by lessons in "Deutsch als Vertiefungssprache" ("German as the immersion language" (DaV)). German is not the native language for about half of the pupils.

Furthermore, project work is an important part of the teaching concept at the Free Intercultural Waldorf School: this involves working with the hands, with the pupils' sensory perception being trained and sensitised and social learning and language practised. During the project week all pupils work on a joint topic in groups composed of members from different classes. The school project "The garden as a habitat and place of intergenerational and intercultural encounters" also enables the children to experience the annual rhythm of nature and its biodiversity and to learn environmentally-friendly forms of behaviour and how to take care of the environment. This project is maintained together with the Herzogenried and MaJuna interest group (Mannheimers young and old).

The social and personal skills of the pupils are promoted by taking part in excursions and school trips together. The young people can acquire their first experience of the world of work with numerous internships. These form part of the educational concept on career guidance, which is especially important for young people from disadvantaged families. Individual advice and support services are intended to enable the pupils to leave school with a direct placement on appropriate training courses and at companies and other businesses.


The Free Intercultural Waldorf School in Mannheim

The Free Intercultural Waldorf School was founded in 2003 in the Mannheim suburb of Neckarstadt by the funding body known as the Free Intercultural Waldorf School Association and currently has approximately 280 pupils in 12 classes and almost 40 teachers from different cultural backgrounds. The Free Intercultural Waldorf School is a comprehensive school with a special educational character. It is a member of the Association of Waldorf Schools and the State Working Group of Baden-Württemberg Waldorf Schools. With its concept, the school asks itself the question of how children from different backgrounds, nationalities and religions live together. In the development of young people, the ability to participate in an intercultural dialogue is encouraged. The pupils learn to appreciate that that which is unknown to them is something different from which it is possible to learn and benefit. 

In the Rhine-Neckar region the intercultural concept in conjunction with the teaching approach of the Waldorf schools is currently unique in this form and is considered to be a role model in the German educational landscape.

Funding period and outlook

The MAHLE FOUNDATION has been supporting the Free Intercultural Waldorf School in Mannheim since 2007. In the medium term the aim is that in cooperation with the Institute for Waldorf Education, Inclusion and Interculturalism, the school should take on the role of a competence centre for intercultural and inter-religious education and schooling and as such achieve an even greater level of visibility to the outside world. Furthermore, cooperations with regional companies, initiatives and business associations are to be consolidated and brought to life through joint events and collaboration on career guidance.