Pasi Sahlberg on transforming education: SCU Buzz podcast

Published 20 October 2022
Professor Pasi Sahlberg and education student Blake standing in front of tree Professor Pasi Sahlberg with education student and SCU Buzz host Blake

Finnish educator, author and thought leader Professor Pasi Sahlberg is looking to shake up the Australian education system, including the way teachers are prepared for future schools.

Professor Sahlberg is a Professor of Education at Southern Cross University and spoke with education student Blake for the SCU Buzz podcast. He said a major shift in teacher education is needed.

“It’s an ambitious plan but it’s also our responsibility not only to try to disrupt and transform other people’s education but really think about what we do, for example, how we prepare teachers and what kind of experiences we need to give them for the future,” Professor Sahlberg said.

There are major differences in teacher training in Australia compared to Finland. In Australia, theoretical components of the degree are taught through the university while practical components take place in classrooms around the country. In Finland, the theory and practice are blended together through clinical training in universities’ teacher training schools.

“All the teachers [in Finland] are studying a research-based Masters degree. They do clinical training just like medical doctors in universities’ clinical teacher training schools,” Professor Sahlberg said.

“You would have a training school just like the university teaching hospitals where you would be doing all of your practical experience. I think it would be best if we could adapt some of those qualities from Finland into the teacher education system over here.”

This isn’t the first time Professor Sahlberg has encouraged the world to look at Finland’s experience. He won the Grawemeyer Award in 2013 for his book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland. Professor Sahlberg said a change in perspective is needed, where schools and education are viewed as a basic human right rather than a marketplace.

“There is a common belief that the education systems here in Australia and many other countries should be run as a marketplace. That we open schools for parents to choose where they educate their kids with very little regulation of how these markets actually work.

“And then when the OECD started to run this study that compares countries’ education and performance to one another the interesting thing was that Finland, against all the odds, became the best performing system of education in 2000. We don’t see education as a marketplace. It’s a human right and it’s equity. That has been surprising to many.

“We don’t have private schools in Finland. It’s an amazing thing for many others how – including universities – parents or students don’t have to pay for education.”

In transforming our education systems, Professor Sahlberg said more work was needed, including a reform of NAPLAN and ATAR to reduce stress and harm to children. “What many other countries are doing right now is that we just take a representative sample of students and test them. That is in most cases enough to tell how the system is going.”

For education student Blake, Professor Sahlberg concluded with some inspiring words. “It’s important to always learn. This is just the beginning of this wonderful journey of being a teacher. If you keep on learning and educating yourself and you’re sensitive to these kids in your class, they can teach you a lot, then it’ll be beautiful.”

Listen to the podcast here. Learn more about Professor's Sahlberg's work here.

Media contact: Content team