What Washington state can learn from the Finnish education model

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, EOI hosted Finnish education leader and author Dr. Pasi Sahlberg for a conference on educational systems in Finland and Washington state. At the conference, Dr. Sahlberg spoke to state policymakers and education leaders about the success of the Finnish educational model.

Here’s a sample of Sahlberg’s message, from The Seattle Times:

Pasi Sahlberg, an official with Finland’s Ministry of Education and Culture, is in Seattle this week to share the story of Finland’s success, and what states like Washington can learn from it.

Sahlberg’s message, although he is too polite to put it so bluntly: Stop testing so much. Trust teachers more. Give less homework. Shorten the school day.

Finland, in other words, has become an education star by doing the opposite of what’s happening in many U.S. schools and school districts, including many in Washington state.

In comparing Finland and Washington state, Dr. Sahlberg’s offered this message to our state’s education leaders:

Sahlberg spoke almost harshly about charter schools, which Washington voters have just approved, saying they privatize the public-school system. In Finland, he said, parents don’t angst over where to send their children to school. All the schools, he said, offer the same high-quality program.

Not that everyone should simply copy Finland, he said.

“I’m not here to tell you that if you just do what Finland is doing, you will be just fine. It doesn’t work like that.”

During his visit, Sahlberg made time to meet outside of the conference with other leaders in the Washington State education system, and presented at the Rainier Club downtown. He was also featured on KIRO Radio’s Ross and Burbank show (around the 12 minute mark of this clip) to speak about the Finnish system and its applicability to Washington state.

By EOI intern Bill Dow

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in An Inclusive Economy, Educational Opportunity


  1. Kirsi says:

    I attended the UW lecture portion of Mr. Sahlberg’s Washington visit and I did not get the same feeling that he was that harsh toward charters. Instead, he offered information about the Finnish education system, where the few “private” schools actually operate quite in the same way as the American charter schools, i.e. getting direct support from the local district while offering an education choice that normal schools are not equipped to offer. The Finnish “charters” (mainly Steiner, Montessori and International schools) are not open to all who want to get in. They have a selection process by which students who are mature, independent, and are the right fit for the school, are selected (http://turunsteinerkoulu.fi/). Even Mr. Sahlberg said that these different schools do have a place as an educational option when managed correctly, i.e the Finnish way!

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