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Pasi  Sahlberg

Pasi Sahlberg

Renowned Finnish Educator & Scholar

Pasi Sahlberg

Renowned Finnish Educator & Scholar


Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the Gonski Institute for Education, University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is a Finnish educator and author who has worked as schoolteacher, teacher educator, researcher, and policy advisor in Finland and has studied education systems, analysed education policies, and advised education reforms around the world.

He has written and spoken widely about transforming education. His book Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland won the 2013 Grawemeyer Award for an idea that has potential to change the world. He is also a recipient of the 2012 Education Award in Finland, the 2014 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, the 2016 Lego Prize, and Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident Fellowship in 2017. He chairs the Open Society Foundations’ Global Education Board and the International Council of Education Advisors (ICEA) for the Scottish First Minister.

Professor Sahlberg is an inspirational speaker, lecturer and trainer. His passion is to advice and work with schools, communities, and nations to reimagining teaching and learning, school education, and system-wide efforts to improve equity and quality of education. He has gained working knowledge in over 60 countries around the world. He is a former senior specialist at the World Bank in Washington, DC, director general of the Ministry of Education in Finland, and a visiting professor at Harvard University.

Speech Topics

Education Reimagined: Four Ideas for the Future We Could Start Now

There is no better time to think harder about what future school could be than right now. The global health pandemic paused many earlier efforts to rethink the future by disrupting education as we knew it before 2020.

Technology, wellbeing and the role of schools in students’ learning are some of those issues that are at the heart of new considerations for schools of tomorrow. In many ways we need to think again how we think about the future. In this keynote, Sahlberg argues that we need to have good common understanding of the state of education today to be able to reimagine education for the future. Based on that big picture he suggests four ‘moon shot’ ideas that could be considered today. Every crisis leaves new opportunities. In reimaging education those opportunities should be utilized without delay.

Sahlberg's presentation helps participants to:

  1. understand some of the key challenges and opportunities in today’s education;
  2. become aware of the educational lessons learned from the past two years;
  3. realize how American education compares to education in some other countries; and
  4. reimagine education for the future by relying on contemporary knowledge and thought-leadership

Inconvenient Truth about American Education

American schools are lagging behind most others. American children spend much less time in school than children elsewhere. And yet more tax-payer money is spent on education than in other countries. These are all myths that have created a sense of crisis among American parents and employers. In this presentation, Sahlberg argues that American schools are blamed for things that are far beyond their control and that they way forward would be to accept that schools need more resources to help all children to succeed. The purpose of this presentation is to bust prevalent myths about American education and suggest concrete steps any school, community or state can take to make American education better.

  • Facts and Myths about Education in Finland

“Finland is often used as a benchmark for school reforms. This conversational talk explains some harmful myths and presents the key facts about what Finnish schools do and why.”

  • Small Data for Big Change: Restoring professional conversation and wisdom in our schools

“Big data was supposed to fix the schools, but it didn’t. This presentation explains what big and small data are using a narrative of conversations at the system-level around what data is actually needed to build confidence and trust within the public to demonstrate that an education system is flourishing.”

  • Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive

“Several international declarations, appeals by national associations of pediatrics, and grass-root movements insist that play needs to be part of daily life of every child. This talk paints a picture of the state of play in children’s lives around the world and suggest seven concrete steps bring play back to schools and homes.

Innovation Overload in American Education Reform

Education reforms in the United States look intensively for the next great innovation that would unlock the door to school improvement. Billions of dollars have been spent each year on innovation through special programs, initiatives, structural changes and research. In this presentation, Sahlberg argues that it is the overemphasis on innovation that prevents American education system from learning from its rich past and from other countries. The way forward, therefore, requires that education policies and reforms in the United States build more on ideas and innovation that have made other education systems bloom, most of those are American ideas anyway. The purpose of this presentation is to bring new perspectives to American education and hope to those who think there is nothing to do to improve education for all children.

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

What Can School Leaders do to Improve Learning?