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Westfield State to Host Lecture Series on Public Higher Education

WESTFIELD — Westfield State University will host Finnish educator and scholar Pasi Sahlberg as part of its Guest Lecture Series on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Scanlon Banquet Hall. Sahlberg will present his lecture, “Protecting the Promise of Public Education.”

Sahlberg is considered an expert on education reform and has held many positions in the field, including senior education specialist in the World Bank in Washington, D.C., lead education specialist for the European Training Foundation, and director general of the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation (CIMO) at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. In his current position as visiting professor of Practice at Harvard University Graduate School of Education, Sahlberg works with graduate and doctoral students to better understand educational change and how education policies and reforms can improve and also harm school systems, teachers, and students in schools.

Sahlberg’s best-selling book, Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? explores the evolution of educational policies in Finland and explains how the policies differ from those in the U.S. and other countries. In 2011, the book was honored with the Upton Sinclair Award.

The lecture was organized by Trudy Knowles, professor of Education. Knowles said she invited Sahlberg to explain the differences between Finnish and American school systems, differences that she believes the U.S. could benefit from. “The education system in Finland is considered one of the top in the world, and yet their schools are structured in a completely different way than schools in the United States,” Knowles said. “He will challenge us to think in new and different ways about what is best for kids.”

Knowles also noted that the first step in improving the education system is eliminating high-stakes standardized tests. “Educating children to become functioning members of our society requires a holistic education that cannot be measured by a simple single assessment,” she said. “The current policies only value that which we can measure.”

Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Assoc., and Gus Morales, president of the Holyoke Teachers Union, will also speak and discuss what changes can be made on a state level to improve education.

Sahlberg’s lecture is the first in a series of three forums about the future of public education in Western Mass. The second and third forums will be working sessions where educators, parents, students, and anyone interested in education can get together, discuss issues and concerns, and develop action steps for addressing those concerns. These forums will be held Oct. 23, 6:30-8 p.m., in Ely Room 017, and Nov. 20, 6:30-8 p.m., in Scanlon Banquet Hall. The Guest Lecture Series is supported by funding from the Academic Affairs budget to enhance student learning and service to the larger community. For more information on upcoming speakers in the series, visit www.westfield.ma.edu/speakerseries.

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