Contributing to Education for All BY ATLE HETLAND When over one and a half million children go to madrassahs, these schools play an important role in the zest for providing basic Education for All in Pakistan. Do we recognise their importance? Do we include them in the good society? In all countries of the world it is expected that the state provides basic education for all children, and that private schools are allowed to operate although usually only used by a relatively small minority. Madrassahs are per a general definition 'private schools, but we usually treat them as a separate, third category, with the government and the various private schools as the two other school systems. Education and health are important sectors for the state, yet, in the modern world, the state services and regulations are broad and include a my-riad of fields and activities. Education is considered a univ-ersal human right, and the United Nations has target 2015 as the year when all countries shall have Education for All (EFA). Let it be said at the outset: madrassahs are generally good educational institutions, and they are generally not involved in militant activities. A tiny number of schools may go outs-ide standard rules, which must be corrected. But then there are other sections of the society, too, which must improve their performance, and work for reduced crime and other antisocial behaviour, teach attitudes which are good for all, including equality among all people, rich and poor, men and women, and so on. In Pakistan, we have three different types or systems of education: (a) public (government) schools with about 23 million pupils; (b) private schools with about 13 million; (c) faith-based schools, mostly madrassahs, with about 1.5 million pupils. Then there is a forth system, informal education, for the some 40 percent of children who do not attend organised schools at all, or drop out before the primary cycle of the short five years has been completed. These children only receive informal education at home, in the community or at the workplaces where many end up prematurely for full-time or part-time jobs and as helpers. Again, girls are the most disadvantaged, but also boys from poor families are victims. Many madrassahs and other schools need to improve quality and modernise their activities, including making their curriculum more relevant, the teaching methods better so that the learning improves, for example, by reducing time spe-nt on memorising rather than creative problem-solving, and so on. We are also of the conv-iction that corporal punishment should not be allowed in any school. Modernisation in these fields is needed in all schools, not only madrassahs. Madrassahs are normally better integrated in the local community and society at large than other schools, and this is generally seen as important by educationists and sociologists. We believe the madrassahs have potential for expanding their activities and become more modern and relevant education providers. It is expected that the state regulates the education systems of the country, including madrassahs, but still allows for the systems distinctive features. The madrassahs on their side must also recognise the states overall education policy responsibility, and pay attention to learning from other education systems, and other religious sch-ools at home and abroad. True, many madrassahs do not want what they see as interference from outside. What not? It is our opinion that all schools must listen to experts and follow gov-ernment policies. In Pakistan, Catholic schools have had a particularly proud history, educating many top men and women. In many countries, there has historically been close cooperation between religious and educational institutions, especially as regards moral education, which we should recognise also in Pakistan. The Catholic schools are mostly gone now, and that was unfortunate. Perhaps, it is possible to revive the best of that school tradition in some schools? The school is not alone in providing education and soci-alisation. Other institutions, not least religious institutions, and many individuals and groups also contribute in bringing up the young generation, notably the home, the local community, relatives and others. Wom-en play a particularly important role in religious and moral education. Today, the mass media also plays an important role. At all times, peer groups have played an essential role. In actual fact, age mates and role models are often more important than the 'official teachers, at least at certain stages and in certain fields. Education literature pays too little attention to the role of peer groups in children and young peoples attitudinal development. Earlier, it was common in Europe to have different types of education for rural and urban areas and for different classes. Often, education for lower class children has been much poorer than for the middle and upper classes. This is still clearly so in Pakistan. Geographic disparities exist too, and, indeed, gender disparities are common to this day, in spite of girls often scoring better than boys at exams Today, co-educational classes are getting common, and it is seen as important that all children have equal opportunities to quality education irrespective of gender, social and geographic background, ethnicity, religion, language, or whatever other factors we as human beings sometimes use to separate people even within own countries. In Pakistan, major improvements must be made in special education, today reaching only some five to 10 percent of the needy. It is a goal to achieve Education for All children by 2015, as planned by the United Nations EFA movement and the activities related to the Millennium Development Goals (MD-Gs), and agreed to by all governments. Pakistans prog-ress towards the goals is poor and the government education budgets far too low, only some two percent of the GDP while UNESCO, the UN Education Agency recommends at least four percent. It is essential that all providers of education, not only the government, be encouraged to do more and better work. That also includes madrassahs. In a later article, we will come back to some further aspects concerning the madrassahs and other education issues. Pakistan is on its way to Education for All, but it takes a bit longer than it should have. All providers are important to reach the various groups, including refugees, children with handicaps and other vulnerable groups. The writer is a senior Norwegian social scientist with yearlong experience from education work for refugees and other needy groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and African countries. Email: atlehetland@yahoo.com