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Professor Pasi Sahlberg

Speaker Summary

Professor Pasi Sahlberg is one of the world’s most celebrated pioneers of educational reform. A product and continued architect of the best national schooling system on the planet in Finland, Pasi is also an award-winning best-selling author and former educational advisor for the World Bank, the European Commission and more than 50 governments across the globe. Aside from his current role as Professor of Education at UNSW, Pasi operates as the unofficial global educational ambassador for the Finnish Way and is a strong advocate against the use of big data in education reforms. A real counterpoint to Professor Hattie, and a welcome presence on the World Summit team.

Areas of Expertise

Educational Reform – Whole-school Improvement – Policy and Curriculum – Leadership and Management – System Change

Full Profile

Professor Sahlberg has an extensive career in education across multiple roles including as a Maths and Science classroom teacher, teacher-educator, policymaker for the Finnish Government and researcher at the University of Helsinki. He earned his PhD from the same university in 1996, and in the year 2000 he took on the responsibility of Director of the Center for School Development, a post which he held for two years.

His sterling work at Scandinavia’s oldest university led him to accepting the role of Senior Education Specialist for the World Bank and for the European Commission from 2002 to 2009. In these capacities, Pasi was directly responsible for analysing and improving the education policy and training structures of systems around the globe. It is in this role, that Professor Sahlberg is perhaps most famous for championing the use of ‘small data’, a qualitative form of analysing trends and creating reform in education with a focus on individual teacher input as opposed to mass data synthesis.

Following his success at the World Bank and the EC, Pasi became the Director General of the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland, where he oversaw the internationalisation of the entire Finnish Education sector. It is this experience that informs Professor Salhberg’s steadfast belief that the Finnish education system is one that nations around the world could learn much from, with particular regard to their national disinterest in competitive testing, instead favouring collaboration and equity.

Pasi has been well recognised globally for his contributions to the field of education. He most famously won the prestigious Grawemeyer award in 2014 for his book “Finnish Lessons: What Can The World learn from Educational Change in Finland”, as well as the 2012 Education Award in Finland, the 2013 Robert Owen Award in Scotland, the 2016 Lego Prize, and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Resident Fellowship in 2017.


Professor Sahlberg is an award-winning, best-selling author. A small selection of his work includes:
- Finnish Lessons 2.0: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (2014)
- Let the Children Play: How More Play Will Save Our Schools and Help Children Thrive (2019)
- FinnishED Leadership: Four Big, Inexpensive Ideas to Transform Education (2017)

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