In this episode of MEP, I interview Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Lessons and visiting professor at Harvard Graduate School of Education. Pasi talks about the Finnish education system, and we discuss what we can deconstruct to apply to the American public education system today.
Pasi Sahlberg is a visiting Professor of Practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, MA, USA. He is experienced in classroom teaching, training teachers and leaders, coaching schools and advising education policy-makers around the world. Pasi is an international speaker and writer who has given more than 300 keynote speeches and published over 100 articles, chapters and books on education.
Pasi has lived and worked in England (King’s College), the United States (World Bank in Washington DC) and Italy (European Training Foundation in Torino) and worked in 50 countries around the world. He earned his PhD from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) in 1996 and has been invited speaker in Harvard University, Stanford University, Columbia University and Vanderbilt University in the U.S. and Parliament Houses in England, Scotland, New Zealand and the European Union.
Pasi is a member of the Advisory Board of the Center on International Education Benchmarking and former member of Board of Directors of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) and IASCE (International Association for the Study of Cooperation in education). He is Adjunct Professor at the Universities of Helsinki and Oulu, and former Director General of CIMO (Centre for International Mobility and Cooperation) in Helsinki, Finland.
His book “Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland?” (2011) won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award and he received the 2012 Education Award in Finland and 2011 Upton Sinclair Award in the United States. He is also known as international “school improvement activist” because his direct links to practitioners and their communities. He is active in social media and public debates about education.
(02:38) Pasi’s background
(03:43) I want to start off the conversation with the history and political atmosphere in Finland. Can you talk about education before the 1970s and the evolution of how it has become where it is today.
(06:09) One of the issues you discuss in your book is the focus on competition in the US and other countries, and Finland’s focus on collaboration. Can you speak about this further?
(09:11) Do you think that if the United States could get away from this competitive culture, would that be a much better way to try and get to a more focused equity type culture?
(11:20) One of the things that really resonated with me was your focus on a more holistic approach to education and lifelong learning rather than just academics. How can we make that shift, individually? How do we get people in the United States to think, it’s not about clock in clock out here. It’s about lifelong learning, holistic learning?
(15:14) The other thing I’m interested about is teacher education, the difference in the selectivity of primary school teachers,and how rigorous your academics and how holistic the person has to be to become a teacher. Can you speak to that a bit?
(18:38) I’m really interested in hopefully seeing in the US a return to further integration with vocational education and seeing people value that just as much as people going to college to get a degree and be in the workplace. Are you seeing a reversion back to vocational education in the US, being more of a level playing field?
(23:04) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?