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Realising the Threefold Social Organisation in Schools


The two fundamentals which define a Rudolf Steiner school are its curriculum – formed from an understanding of the stages of child development – and its social impulse. These two are interwoven because Steiner wanted young people to go forth in freedom from school and participate in a society founded on freedom.


Education belongs (along with the arts, sciences, religion) to what he calls the cultural-spiritual sphere of society whose ideal is liberty; here we are concerned with the unfoldment of individual capacities. The ideal of human equality relates to the political-rights sphere, to the idea that every human being is equal beneath the law. Alive within the economic sphere of society is the ideal of fraternity, of working cooperatively to serve the needs of others. For more detailed information on the concept of social threefolding, click here.


These are the three spheres which make up the threefold social organisation and which are slowly differentiating in human civilisation. In early stages of human development we only find societies based on absolute power (theocracies, aristocracies, monarchies) where human freedom, equality and fraternity counted for very little. Still today the absolutist tendency of the modern state seeks to limit human freedom, even in the “free world”, through for example the bureaucratic control of education.


How do we act to realise this social vision in Rudolf Steiner schools? This is a key question of our time and for the mission of these schools. It is a striving, not a formula which can be applied. Here two important elements stand out:


●  striving to understand the threefold social impulse of these schools goes hand in hand with striving to understand the nature of the curriculum. For support in this direction, click here.


●  through understanding, striving to organise the institutions in ways which express the threefold social picture and allow the institution to become strong, viable and unique. For an example of a school governance document based on the threefold social organisation, click here.


In general terms, in the differentiated school organism we have:


● the decision-making College which is fully responsible for the cultural and spiritual aspect of the school, meaning everything connected with the pedagogical work. The College can be a sub-set of the whole teaching faculty and can have a defined term of office. The College can mandate groups to carry out specific tasks. Because a school belongs to the cultural-spiritual sphere of society, this is the primary sphere in the school microcosm.  The College is the heart and meaning of the school and the other two spheres serve it. 

● The school's Administration which is responsible for the legal (rights sphere) aspects of operation.

● The economic or "brotherhood" sphere which is mainly the responsibility of the Administration and the Board with input from and responsibility for the College in order to serve the pedagogical impulse. The Board may be composed of parents and Faculty. 


In Australia there is no state or federal requirement that a school is to be set up and governed by a chief executive officer in the traditional sense of the ultimate decision-making authority. The proprietor - which is the legal entity which owns the school - is free to determine how the school is to be run on a day-to-day basis. See for example here

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