Educate like an Estonian? Not sure if that will become a catchphrase, but with so much hand-wringing and dialogue about the fate of our nation’s schools, I offer up what the Baltic country of Estonia declared in the process of attempting to rethink their own system.

In 1992, Estonia passed the Education Act, with the clearly expressed goal of creating “favorable conditions for the development of personality, family and the Estonian nation.” In Estonia, schools are seen not just as a way to teach children the basics of reading, math, and science — they’re a means for making students better citizens. But wait, that’s not all: Another key objective of the Act is to support the development of minorities within Estonia’s borders.

BTW, they spend nearly 4% of the country’s GDP on education. Estonia’s system outranks the US in test results too, but that’s not the point. The point is that other countries like Estonia seem to grasp what the US can’t get its head around.

There is only one thing that proves to be more expensive than education in life: the lack of it. We need to consider how every child has equal access to finding his or her passion, play and purpose. And with that in mind, we could do worse than to emulate the ways of this gentle Northern European nation. (They’ve got universal healthcare and generous paid maternity leave, too — but that’s a subject for another time.) For now, bring on the black bread and lingonberries!

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