The first article was about Mr. Mechai Viravaidya, a front-runner in the areas of public health, education, and community development in Thailand. Viravaidya started a family planning initiative (through use of contraceptives) in an attempt to curve poverty and sexually transmitted diseases. The majority of this article was about how condoms are now commonly found and used in Thailand, and the significant results from this reform movement. Family structure has drastically changed over the past 40 years. On average, families in Thailand used to have seven kids; today, most families have one or two. Viravaidya believes that “those who are at the core of the problem have to be the solution”. Because Thailand only had 9 doctors for every million citizens, normal people helped spread awareness, leading to the overall success of their reforms.
The next two articles were about educational reform in Finland. In contrast to the United States, Finland heavily emphasizes small class size, laboratory instruction, longer recess, a more significant role in the arts, and (arguably most importantly), limited standardized testing. The United States uses standardized testing regularly to compare schools in different parts of the nation and—possibly in the near future—to set salaries for teachers. Finnish teachers are shocked by this, most likely because their system is structured around a sense of trust; teachers in Finland go through a rigorous academic program to become teachers and are seen as highly respectable “professionals” in their workplace. Finnish educators also receive a higher salary for their work. When comparing the PISA scores of both the United States and Finland, it seems that the United States should consider some educational reform.
Okay so I read two articles on Finnish educational reform and one on condoms; what’s the connection? My guess is that the United States could be taking lessons from other countries to better itself on a global scale. The three articles had to do with successful reforms in other nations, so maybe that’s our cue to do the same. How should we go about this? According to the articles I say we need to do two things: 1. Follow the successful example of other nations, and 2. Be the solution to our own problems. The United States needs to swallow its over-glorified sense of nationalism and look around: great things are happening in other countries, too; we aren’t the only ones who can influence the world in a positive manner. I feel that the United States needs to look at the reforms of Thailand and Finland and make a change if it’s for the better. The best countries are those that see their problems and address them accordingly.