The Evolution of Education



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The History of Education in Ancient Civilizations

  • The first formal school was developed in Egypt's Middle Kingdom under the direction of Kheti, treasurer to Mentuhotep II (2061-2010 BC).

  • In Mesopotamia, only royal offspring and sons of the rich and professionals such as scribes, physicians, and temple administrators, were schooled, while girls stayed at home with their mothers to learn housekeeping and cooking.

  • Massive archives of texts were recovered from the archaeological contexts of Old Babylonian scribal schools known as edubas (2000–1600 BCE), through which literacy was disseminated.

  • In ancient Egypt, literacy was concentrated among an educated elite of scribes. Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train to become scribes, in the service of temple, pharaonic, and military authorities.

  • In ancient Israel, the Torah (the fundamental religious text) includes commands to read, learn, teach and write the Torah, thus requiring literacy and study.

  • In the Islamic civilization that spread from China to Spain during the 7th to 19th centuries, schools started in mosques before separating into separate school buildings.

  • In ancient India, education was mainly imparted through the Vedic and Buddhist education system in which Sanskrit was used to impart the Vedic education system, and Pali was used in the Buddhist education system.

  • The main aim of education in ancient India was to develop a person's character, master the art of self-control, bring about social awareness, and to conserve and take forward ancient culture.

  • The Gurukula system of education in ancient India supported traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery.

  • An early center of learning in India dating back to the 5th century BC was Taxila (also known as Takshashila), which taught the trayi Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments.

  • During the Zhou dynasty (1045–256 BC) in China, there were five national schools in the capital city, Pi Yong (an imperial school, located in a central location) and four other schools for the aristocrats and nobility.

  • Confucius (551–479 BC) founder of Confucianism, was a Chinese philosopher who made a great impact on later generations of Chinese, and on the curriculum of the Chinese educational system for much of the following 2000 years.

  • The nine-rank system was a civil service nomination system during the Three Kingdoms (220–280 AD) and the Northern and Southern dynasties (420–589 AD) in China.Education Systems from Ancient Times to the Middle Ages

  • Education in ancient China was primarily focused on learning the written characters of their language and the basics of Confucian thought.

  • The Thousand Character Classic, composed of 250 phrases of four characters each, was used as a primer for teaching Chinese characters to children for over a millennium.

  • The Hundred Family Surnames, a rhyming poem listing over 400 common surnames in ancient China, was also used as a teaching tool.

  • The Nine Rank System was the first recorded education system in ancient China, but only the rich and powerful were selected, and it was eventually superseded by the imperial examination system.

  • In ancient Greece, education was mostly private except in Sparta, where boys were trained to become warriors with complete obedience, courage, and physical perfection.

  • In Athens, aside from two years of military training, the state played little part in schooling, and anyone could open a school and decide the curriculum.

  • Most parents, even the poor, sent their sons to schools from around age seven to fourteen to learn gymnastics, music, and literacy, while girls rarely received formal education.

  • In the subsequent Roman Empire, formal schools were established which served paying students, with great emphasis being placed upon a student's inborn "gift" for learning.

  • Literacy rates in the Greco-Roman world were seldom more than 20 percent, with the literate in classical Greece not much exceeding 5 percent of the population.

  • During the Middle Ages, monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church were centers of education and literacy, preserving the Church's selection from Latin learning and maintaining the art of writing.

  • Medieval universities evolved from much older Christian cathedral schools and monastic schools, and the earliest universities were established in Italy, France, and England for the study of arts, law, medicine, and theology.

  • The House of Wisdom in Baghdad was a library, translation, and educational center from the 9th to 13th centuries, and had a great collection of knowledge in the world, including works on astrology, mathematics, agriculture, medicine, and philosophy.

  • Students attending town schools in the Middle Ages were usually between the ages of seven and fourteen, with instruction ranging from the basics of literacy to more advanced instruction in Latin language.History of Education around the World

  • The Chinese classic, a text with three-character verses, was used as a child's first formal education at home, with illiteracy common for most people at the time.

  • Early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials, and in 605 AD, an examination system was explicitly instituted for local talents.

  • India had flourishing higher education at Nalanda, Takshashila University, Ujjain, and Vikramshila Universities, with each university specializing in a particular field of study.

  • Islamic education spread after Muslims started ruling India, and education was mainly imparted through Maqtabs, Madrassahas, and Mosques.

  • Inca education was divided into two principal spheres: education for the upper classes and education for the general population.

  • The history of education in Japan dates back to the 6th century when Chinese learning was introduced at the Yamato court.

  • Aztec education involved learning a collection of sayings called huēhuetlàtolli until the age of 14, after which boys and girls went to school.

  • Modern systems of education in Europe derive their origins from the schools of the High Middle Ages, with most schools founded upon religious principles.

  • In northern Europe, clerical education was largely superseded by forms of elementary schooling following the Reformation.

  • In Central Europe, John Amos Comenius promulgated a reformed system of universal education that was widely used in Europe, and the 18th century saw universities publish academic journals.

  • By the late 19th century, most of West, Central and parts of East Europe began to provide elementary education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, partly because politicians believed that an educated populace was necessary for national prosperity.

  • In the 1950s, The Chinese Communist Party oversaw the rapid expansion of primary education throughout China, redesigning the primary school curriculum to emphasize the teaching of practical skills in an effort to improve the productivity of future workers.History of Education in Various Countries

  • France created primary education before focusing on secondary education by the time of World War I.

  • Maria Montessori's Montessori schools and Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf education were new directions in education in Italy and Germany respectively in the 20th century.

  • In the Ancien Régime before 1789, France had many small local schools where working-class children learned to read, while the noble and bourgeois elites were given quite distinct educations.

  • The modern era of French education begins in the 1790s after the Revolution abolished traditional universities and Napoleon sought to replace them with new institutions, the Polytechnique, focused on technology.

  • France passed the Guizot Law in 1833, the first comprehensive law of primary education in France, which mandated all local governments to establish primary schools for boys.

  • Jules Ferry created the modern Republican school in France in the 1880s, requiring all children under the age of 15—boys and girls—to attend. Schools were free of charge and secular.

  • French colonial officials standardized schools, curricula, and teaching methods in their colonies, but the emerging French-educated indigenous elite saw little value in educating rural peoples.

  • In South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975, the French sought to preserve French culture among the Vietnamese elites, while the Americans sought to make South Vietnam a nation strong enough to stop communism.

  • In England, John Pounds set up a school and began teaching poor children reading, writing, and mathematics without charging fees in 1818, and Parliament voted to support poor children's school fees in England and Wales from 1833.

  • Denmark's education system has its origin in the cathedral- and monastery schools established by the Church, and the Danish education system was especially influenced by the ideas of clergyman, politician, and poet N. F. S. Grundtvig.

  • Norway introduced the folkeskole, a primary school which became mandatory for 7 years in 1889 and 9 years in 1969, and in the 1970s and 1980s, the folkeskole was abolished and the grunnskole was introduced.

  • Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world in 1600 under the Tokugawa regime, and Tokugawa education left a valuable legacy: an increasingly literate populace, a meritocratic ideology, and an emphasis on discipline and competent performance.

  • Education in India was widespread for elite young men in the 18th century, but the current system of education, with its western style and content, was introduced and founded by the British during the British Raj.


Test your knowledge of the history of education in various civilizations with our quiz! From ancient Egypt to modern day France, this quiz covers the evolution of education systems throughout history. Learn about the first formal schools, early forms of literacy, and the role of religion in education. Discover the impact of Confucius on the Chinese educational system and the Gurukula system in ancient India. Explore the development of universities in medieval Europe and the spread of Islamic education. Whether you're a history buff or just curious

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