Margrét Pála

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Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir graduated from the Icelandic College of Education in 1981 as a preschool teacher after working for a few years as an unqualified preschool teacher. After graduation Pála was employed at a Reykjavík daycare center and a year later, in 1982, she became a director of the preschool Steinahlíð. She began developing the basics of the pedagogy that later was named the Hjalli method at that school. In 1989 Pála became the director of a new preschool in Hafnarfjörður called Hjalli. She continued developing rather unusual pedagogical methods such as sex-segregated classes, natural play material instead of conventional toys, and a long forgotten belief in discipline as a way in training social skills. These methods were considered provocative and the school was a matter of much dispute initially, but in later years the Hjalli pedagogy gained ground. Today about 11 preschools in Iceland use the Hjalli method partly or in whole. Pála finished her masters degree from the Icelandic University of Education in 2000 and is now directing her own company, Hjallastefnan ehf, which specializes in preschool management. In 1997 Pála got the prize of the Minister of Equal Rights for her work on the Hjalli Pedagogy. In 2006, Pála received the Knight's Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon from the President of Iceland for innovation in education.
  • Speaker PopTech Iceland
  • Speaker PopTech 2012

Archived blog posts

Margrét Pála on teaching kids to be resilient

Margrét Pála on teaching kids to be resilient

Icelanders are a famously hearty lot. Norwegian Vikings trying to escape the rule and taxation of Norway’s king first inhabited the land that is now Iceland in the 9th century. So they had pluck from the start. But you simply have to be resilient to survive in such frozen, forbidding territory. 

Margrét Pála (PopTech 2012) is a groundbreaking

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Watch now: Margrét Pála on educating children differently

Margrét Pála is a preschool management specialist in Iceland who advocates sex-segregated classes, natural play material instead of conventional toys, and a long-forgotten belief in discipline to develop optimism, courage and resiliency in young children. “Feel the cold! I even take them into the snow — and then the lava. Scream a little bit! But continue! And enjoy it!”Read more »