What Makes for an Outstanding School System?

Finland has developed one of the most successful school systems in the world. Although the United States education system as a whole does not reflect the methodologies used in Finland, the Waldorf School system does.  

So, what makes the Finnish model so different from most American schools, yet so similar to Waldorf Schools? 

In both Waldorf education and Finland’s educational model, students experience a holistic curriculum. This includes movement, play, art, world languages, and music – alongside math, science, reading and writing. 

Both education models prioritize outdoor learning and play, and minimize high stress, high stakes testing and test prep. 

The result is an educational model that benefits students’ mental, social-emotional, and physical health. In these models, students are joyful, focused, engaged, and academically thriving.


The Hechinger Report article, OPINION: How Finland broke every rule — and created a top school system, by William Doyle states: 

“Instead of control, competition, stress, standardized testing, screen-based schools and loosened teacher qualifications, try warmth, collaboration, and highly professionalized, teacher-led encouragement and assessment..” – William Doyle, Fulbright Scholar and Bestselling Author


What Makes Waldorf Schools Outstanding?

1. Child-centered education and a deep understanding of how children learn best. Summerfield Waldorf School teachers focus on what is developmentally appropriate for each age group. They understand that students of all ages need need creative play, daily rhythm, sensory development, movement, and art. All of which build foundational skills that are critical to social-emotional health and academic success.

2. Limited media use, inside and outside the classroom. Modern science is validating what Waldorf teachers have known for a long time: the consumption of media by infants, children and young people inhibits their healthy development.

Our media policy at Summerfield Waldorf outlines the ideal and expectation that all of our students are screen and electronic media-free until at least 6th grade. In grade 6 and up, teachers and class communities discuss, craft and update agreements to shape the measured introduction of media when developmentally appropriate.

3. Freedom in teaching. Summerfield teachers have the freedom to innovate and experiment, while teaching the core Waldorf curriculum to their class. 

The Hechinger Report article states that Finnish teachers are encouraged to constantly experiment with new approaches to improve learning. Unfortunately, that may not be the case for every teacher in America, but in Waldorf schools it a top priority. 

4. No standardized tests. The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America believes that standardized testing is not an accurate or complete reflection of a student’s knowledge, intellectual capacities, or ability to learn. 

Thus Summerfield’s curriculum does not put focus on standardized test-taking preparation, particularly in the lower and middle grades. In high school, SAT and ACT preparation courses may be offered, or interested students may pursue independent or external preparation coordinated through college counselors.

5. At Summerfield Waldorf School & Farm, we know that play-based early childhood education is the most effective and developmentally appropriate way for children to learn at that age. 

Children at Finnish schools are given not only subject instruction in math, language and science. But they also learn through-play-based early childhood programs, arts, crafts, music, movement, and outdoor free-play breaks. These are all key components of a Waldorf education as well. 


“Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States.” – Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education


Both Waldorf education and the Finnish model of education are outstanding school systems. Students experience a holistic curriculum that includes movement, play, art, crafts, music, and language, in addition to the core humanities subjects, mathematics, and science.

The goal of this outstanding school system is that our students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally. 


Learn more about Summerfield or apply now!