Margret Pala Olafsdottir
Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir was born in 1957 in Akureyri and raised in Northern Iceland. She graduated as a preschool teacher from the Icelandic college of education in 1981 after having worked for a few years as an unqualified preschool-teacher. After graduation Margrét started working at a Reykjavík daycare center but in 1982 she became a director of the preschool Steinahlíð where she started developing the basics of the pedagogy that later was named the Hjalli method. In 1989 Margrét became the director of a new preschool in Hafnarfjörður called Hjalli. There 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 provoking and the school was a matter of much dispute in the beginning, but in later years the Hjalli pedagogy has been gaining ground and today about 11 preschools in Iceland use the Hjalli Methods partly or in whole. Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir finished her M.Ed degree from the Icelandic University of Education in 2000 and a MBA from Reykjavík University in 2011 and is now directing her own company, Hjallastefnan ehf, which specializes in preschool management. In 1997 Margrét got the prize of the Minister of Equal Rights for her work on the Hjalli Pedagogy. On June 17th 2006 Margrét Pála received The Knight's Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon from the President of Iceland for innovation in Education.
1981 B.ed. degree (preschool teacher) from the The Icelandic College of Education.
1996 60 ects units (diploma) in school management from The Icelandic University of Education.
1997 20 etcs units of quantitative and qualitative research methodology from The Icelandic University of Education.
2000 M.Ed. degree from The Icelandic University of Education.
2011 MBA from Reykjavík University.
1981-1982 Preschool teacher at the Day Care Centre Hagaborg, Reykjavík,Iceland.
1982-1987 Principal of the Day Care Centre Steinahlíð, Reykjavík, Iceland.
1987-1988 Working as a counsellor and lecturer at her own educational advisory company, Dagivstarráðgjöf sf. in Iceland.
1988-1989 Preeschool teacher in Lund, Sweeden.
1989-1989 Preschool teacher at the preschool Drafnarborg, Reykjavík, Iceland.
1989-2004 Principal of the preschool Hjalli, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.
1999- now Director of her own company, Hjallastefnan ehf., founded 1999.
2003-2006 Principal of Barnaskólinn primary school in Garðabær.
2006-now Foundation of her own company; LMP ehf. for sale, distribution and service of own computers system for preschools and schools.
2008-2010 Principal of Barnaskólinn primary school in Reykjavík.
2011-now Principal of Tálknafjarðarskóli primary, lower secondary and music school.
Research and action research
1985-1986 Participation in Dóra Bjarnason and dr. Ursula Shildman´s research on the co-education of disabled and "normal" children, including study tour to Germany.
1989-1992 Action Research at the preschool Hjalli to develop own ideas on pedagogy and school management (see published material).
1989-1995 Cooperation regarding sex and gender in education with Anne-Mette Kruse at the Cekvina (gender studies centre of the University of Aarhus, Denmark) and with dr. Nina Colwill, University of Manitoba,Canada.
1997-2001 Follow up study on the development and wellbeing of the Hjalli children to see if the method of sex-segregated preschool education influenced their skills and attitudes later on in life. Research towards a M.Ed. degree at the Icelandic University of Education.
Published material since 1989
1. "Kyn-legt uppeldi" 1990. Article on sex discrimination in early childhood education. Bleikt og blátt magazine, Reykjavík, Iceland.
2. "Baráttan fyrir breyttum kynhlutverkum" 1990. Article on the need for expanding the conventional sex roles. Húsfreyjan magazine, Reykjavík,Iceland.
3. "Hjalli, a rather unusual preschool" 1992. A video in cooperation with Anne-Mette Kruse. Context: Description of Hjalli - a rather unusual preeschool in which MPÓ directs and develops ideas on equality of the sexes in preeschool education. The video with an accompaniyng booklet has been published in all the nordic countries and is also available in english.
4. A booklet accompanying a video with the same name in cooperation with Anne-Mette Kruse. Context: Description of Hjalli - a rather unusual preeschool in which MPÓ directs and develops ideas on equality of the sexes in preeschool education. The Booklet and the video has been published in all the nordic countries and is also available in english.
5. "Practice makes perfect - a preschool for girls and boys" 1992. Book published in Reykjavík by Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, Iceland.
6. "Prúðustu piltar í Hafnarfirði" 1992. A published lecture on boys´education and discipline published by the Icelandic Ministry of social affairs, Reykjavík,Iceland.
7. "Behöver börnehaver nye lösninger?" 1993. A text book for a course in Nuuk,Greenland on new solutions in early childhood education. Published by Hjalli,Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.
8. "Hjalli - en uvanlig lekskola: Könsindelning ger jämlikhet – könsintegreging skapar orättvisa" 1993. An article on the unconventional methods of the preschool Hjalli. Skole I Norden paper published by the Nordic counsil of Ministers, Copenhagen, Danmark.
9. "Børnehaven Hjalli, Island" 1995. An article on Hjalli in Nul til Fjorten pedagogical magazine, Copenhagen, Danmark.
10. "Movie-like thoughts and shop-like feelings" 1995. An article on the use of toys and play material in preschools. Athöfn, paper of the Icelandic Preschool teachers´Association. Reykjavík, Iceland.
11. "Drenge skal være stærke og bløde ... eller vilde, milde og stille" 1995. A published lecture on boys´ education in a nordic conference on men and gender equality. Also published in english ( "Towards new masculininties" ). Published by the Nordic counsil of Ministers, Stockholm, Sweeden.
12. "Kids are both girls and boys" 1996. An article on prechool methods to achieve gender equality. Published by Women´s Studies International Forum International paper.
13. "Hjalli" 1998. An introduction booklet to Hjalli for preschool children and their parents. Published by Hjalli, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.
14. Hjalli preeshool manual for preschool teachers 1998 and a new publication 1999 and 2012. Published by Hjalli, Hafnarfjörður, Iceland.
15. "Pige- og drengapædagogisk praxis I börnehaven Hjalli" 1998. An article on the methods of Hjalli and the equality of the sexes. Published in a book (compilation) on gender projects in the nordic countries by Oslo´s University. Also available in Icelandic by the Icelandic University Publications.
16. "Kjarninn", a computer program for directors in preschools in cooperation with Matthías Matthíasson. Published 1999 by Hjallastefnan hf.and then a new version of the computer program; "Stjórnandinn" (The Manager) 2003.
17. „Why single sex classrooms?" An article on the Hjalli-method. Skíma, language teachers´ magazine. 1. tbl. 28. árg. 2005.
18. "Ég skal vera Grýla" The biography of Margrét Pála Ólafsdóttir by Þórunn Hrefna Sigurjónsdóttir, 2008. Published by Mál og Menning, Reykjavík, Iceland.
19. "Uppeldi er ævintýri" 2011. A book on education. Published by bókafélagið, Reykjavík, Iceland.
20. "Practice makes perfect" (second edition) 2012. A book published by Bókafélagið, Reykjavík, Iceland.
Lectures and teaching from 1989
1989 Pedagogy for all children"; The Icelandic Women´s Liberation Front´s conference in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1989 "Pedagogy is the beginning of humanity"; The Life and Land association´s conference in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1990 "Are preschools a social or educational matter?"; a conference on welfare in Icelandic society in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1992 "Boys´education and discipline"; The Icelandic Equality Committee´s conference in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1992 "The methods of Hjalli and the equality of the sexes"; course for the personal working with youngsters in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1992 "Theories and praxis in single sex education"; course for the personell working with children in day care in elementary schools in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1993 "To equal the possibilities of girls and boys"; conference on childrens´ welfare, Akureyri, Iceland.
1993 "The upbringing of girls and boys"; The Icelandic Womens´ Liberation Front´s conference in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1993 "More men in preschools?"; the Nordic counsil of Ministers´ conference,Denmark.
1993 "Kids are both girls and boys"; course teaching in cooperation with Stefanía Traustadóttir manager of the Icelandic equal rights committee in The Icelandic University College of Education in Reykjavík and Akureyri, Iceland.
1993 "Children in today´s market society"; The Icelandic Womens´ Association for Culture and Peace, Iceland.
1993 "Course teaching on new solutions in early childhood education. Nuuk,Greenland.
1994 "Positive discrimination of girls and boys"; A teachers´ conference in Oslo,Norway.
1994 "The goal of sex segregated education".; A conference on gender equality. Association of college students in Reykjavík, Iceland.
1994 "Is the compass lost?"; A conference on quality in preschool teaching and management. Reykjavík, Iceland.
1994 "Sex segregation as a method in education, sex integration as the goal"; A Nordic conference on gender equality in teachers´ training. Laugarvatn,Iceland.
1994 "Fighting the burden of conventional gender roles"; Course teaching in cooperation with dr. Nina Colwill. University of Akureyri, Iceland.
1994 "Masculine violence = a lack of love and discipline"; A conference on violence. The Icelandic Womens´ Liberation Front´s conference in Reykjavík,Iceland.
1995 "Boys should be soft and tough…"; A conference on Nordic men. The Nordic Counsil of Ministers, Stockholm, Sweden.
1996 "Children are both boys and girls; A seminar in cooperation with Stefanía Traustadóttir manager of the Icelandic equal rights committee. The IcelandicUniversity College of Education.
1996 "Positive integration is the goal - but segregation is the method; A conference for teachers in Stockholm, Sweden.
1997 "Hjalli pedagogy"; Seminar for teachers of the 6 Hjalli preschools in Iceland.
1997 "Hjalli - an unusual preschool in Iceland"; A conference on girls and boys in schools. Sundsvall, Sweden.
1997 "Gender Equality in Early Eduction - Hjalli, a rather unusual nursery school"; A conference on women and men in the Nordic and Baltic countries.Valmiera, Latvia.
1998 "Boys will be boys, even if they behave themselves" A conference on boys in schools held by the Icelandic Ministry of equal rights. Reykjavík, Iceland.
1999 "The influence of single-sex teaching in preschools on children later on, i.e. in primary schools"; A lecture for all teachers in the city of Gävle, Sweeden.
2000 "Hjalli pedagogy and its´ influence on children later on"; Seminar for teachers of the Hjalli preschools in Iceland.
2001 "Discipline and behavior-teaching" Seminar for the teachers of Reykjavík Summer-schools. Reykjavík, Iceland.
2001 "Changes in schools´ financial environment" Conference of the Icelandic teachers´ Union in Reykjavík and Akureyri.
2002 "Discipline for girls and boys" Conference on the Hjalli-model in Reykjanesbær.
2002 "Girls and boys in single-sex classrooms – Hjalli preeschool in Iceland" Nordic conference on gender issues in Lillestrøm, Norway held by the Nordic Counsel of Ministers in cooperation with NIKK (nordisk institutt for kvinne- og kjønnsforskning).
2004 "Kids are both girls and boys". A conference on the Hjalli-model in Hveragerði.
2005 "Hjalli Pedagogy". International conference held by NASSPE (National Association for Single Sex Public Education) „Best Practices for Single Sex Education" Cincinatti, USA.
2006 "The Hjalli-model´s teaching methods" Conference for teachers in South-Iceland, Selfoss.
2006 "The possibilities of independent schools and the growth of Hjallastefnan" Conference of South Iceland´s communities, Selfoss.
2006 "Towards Equal Rights". A conference on the Hjalli-model, Selfoss.
2006 "Is it possible to change primary school?" Conference held by The Icelandic Teachers University (RKHI: Rannsóknarstofnunar Kennaraháskólans), Reykjavík.
2006 "The Hjalli-model". Conference in Tönsberg, Norway.
2007 "Women and management" Conference of the Icelandic Workers Alliance (ASÍ) Reykjavík.
2007 "Girls and boys in Hjalli, Iceland". A speech at the UN conference on the status of girls in the world, hosted by UNIFEM. New York, USA.
2007 "Slaves of the system" Reykjavík University Conference on the possibilities of privatization of womens´ labour. Reykjavík.
2007 "Hjalli teaching methods." Kennslufræði Hjallastefnunnar". Conference for teachers in South-Iceland, Flúðir.
2007 "Hjalli teaching methods." Conference for teachers in East-Iceland, Reyðarfjörður.
2007 "The situation of girls and boys" Conference of the Keilir Center of Excellence. Reykjanesbær.
2008 "Are business plans the Devil´s invention?" A speech at a breakfast meeting of economists. Reykjavík.
2008 "Hjalli teaching methods." Conference for teachers in East-Iceland, Vopnafjörður.
2008 "Towards Equality". Conference on the Hjalli-model, Reykjavík.
… And many more smaller lectures and speeches on gender and equality issues, discipline, positive thinking and more.
Other work on preschool/schools matters and for Icelandic businesses
1981-1983 A member of the Reykjavík´s counsil of preschool matters board.
1981-1986 Vice-chairperson of the Icelandic Union of Preschool teachers.
1983-1985 A member of the Ministry of Education committee of preschool curriculum.
1990-1992 A member of the of Hafnarfjörður counsil´s committee on financial calculations for preschools.
1999-now Director of own company, Hjallastefnan ehf.
2000-2002 A deputy boardmember of The Research Centre, Iceland University of Education.
2005 Founder and director of the Icelandic Assosiation of independent Schools(Samtök sjálfstæðra skóla)
2008 Boardmember of The Icelandic Chamber of Commerce (Viðskiptaráð Íslands).
2008-2009 Boardmember of Sjóvá Insurance.
2009 Member of board of representatives in the Confederation of Icelandic Employers (Samtök atvinnulífsins)
Prizes / Honors
1981 A prize for best grades at The Icelandic University College of Education.
1996 A prize for best final essay in school management, The Icelandic University College of Education.
1996 The 1996 prize of the Icelandic Minister of Equal Rights for creating and developing the Hjalli pedagogy.
2006 The Knight's Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon for innovation in education.
2006 Educator of the year. Fréttablaðið; newspaper awards for work on educational matters.
2007 Garðabær Rotary-club award for initiative in education.
2007 Viðskiptablaðið, financial newspaper award for innovation in education.
2007 Icelandic Childrens´ welfare fund prize for work on childrens´ welfare.
2008 Kjartans Gunnarsson Liberation Prize by the Coalition of Young independence Party Members (Samband Ungra Sjálfstæðismanna) for success in privatizing education.
2008 Liberation prize of The Icelandic Organization of Lesbians and Gay Men (Samtökin ´78) for work on gay rights in Iceland.
2009 EUWINN award (European Union Women Inventors and Innovators Network).