Education, according to one writer, is a window opening onto the world.
To older students, and to parents, teachers and governments. it may sometimes seem that the window is clouded with the problems of curricula, examinations, administration and financing. But to the child in elementary school, education is wondrously free of such complications. To the child—whether in England or Jordan, Australia or Saudi Arabia—education is simply the adventure of learning. To a child the window opens on a world of flowers, butterflies and bunny rabbits, of finger painting and flutes, of new-found friends and school-yard quarrels, a game of ball or a snack at recess.
In the Arab world as elsewhere this fall, the children down their breakfasts, collect their books and rush to catch the school bus. And if the food they dawdle over is not the same as that of a child in Finland or Florida, and if they wear colorful smocks over their clothes and carry small briefcases, the wonder in their eyes as they head to school is still much the same. Through their own private windows they are about to set forth on another adventure in learning.
In Lebanon, where there is a strong tradition of private schools, some supported by religious institutions, others by foreign-language communities, the adventure might be waiting in a quiet garden courtyard in bustling Beirut or in a cool stone house high in the green mountains. In Jordan, it might be waiting in teeming Amman or in an UNRWA tent pitched at the edge of one of the refugee camps. In Saudi Arabia it will probably take place in a spanking new building no older than the children themselves—one of dozens either completed or now being built by the Saudi Arab Government (some in cooperation with Aramco) as part of a nationwide effort to extend free public education to every child.
But for children all over the Middle East this morning the adventure is waiting and the big window onto the world of knowledge is opening.