Few children went to school in Egypt. Most boys followed their father's roles. As most Egyptians tilled the land, most boys became farmers, learning skills by working along side their fathers in the fields. The much smaller number of craftmen similaly learned their crafts at their fathers' sides. In Egypt's strictly statified society, most boys pursued the occupation of their fathers and women stayed at home to maintain the houshold. Government offices were also often passed from father to son. There were some schools in ancient Egypt, but only a few and very small number of children attended them. All the pupils were boys, mostly boys from the families of scribes and priests. In these schools boys learned to read and writes to become scribes and priests. The boys chosen were normally the sons of scribes and priests. Discipline was strict at these schools. An Egyptian school master explained that his approach to teaching, "The ear of a boy is on his back. He listens when he is beaten." [Stewart, p. 82.] I'm less sure about upper-class boys being trained to become warriors. The children of nobels were schooled at home by tutors, normally slaves.
Few children went to school in Egypt. Most boys followed their father's roles. Rarely did anyone rise beyound their father's staion in life.
Few Egyptians learned to read and write in formal schools. Egyptian hieroglyphics was a much a mystery to most ancient Egyptians as to modern people. There was of course a great deal for children to learn, but that learning was not done formally in school.
Very young children were cared for at home by motgher and it was here that the first informal trainhing took place. This began to change at about 4-5 years of age, at least for the boys. At this age father began to play a role in their training.
Egypt was an agricultural society. Anf most Egyptians were peasant farmers and tilled the land and their boys in turn became farmers. They learned the needed skills by working with their fathers in the fields. The girls might help weed the fields, and lerned how to take care of goats and cows, although this was more common for boys. For harvest time, everyone pitched in to harvest the grain.
The much smaller number of craftmen similaly learned their crafts as boys at their fathers' sides. The trades were hereditary. One did not suddenly decided to be a craftsman. In Egypt's strictly statified society, boys pursued the occupation of their fathers. Sons pursued the occupations of their fathers. Women stayed at home to maintain the houshold. Not only the trades, but Government offices were passed on from father to son.
Girls remained at home where they also learned skills. Girls had many things to learn as well. They learned to wash clothes, keep the home tidy, care for their younger siblings, There was also spining, weaving, and sewing. Girls might also work outside the home, depending on the family circumstances.
There were different types of school in ancient Egypt, but only a few and very small number of children attended the academically oriented schools. Peasant children do not seem to have attended any formal school. And peasants were the vast majority of the Egyptian population. And all of the students as far as we can tell were boys. The boys who did attend school were the children of scribes and the higher classes entered school at an early age. Though we have no information about the location or organization of schools prior to the Middle Kingdom, we can tell that after that time they were attached to some administrative offices, temples (specifically the Ramesseum and the Temple of Mut), and the palace. In addition to "public" schooling, groups of nobles also hired private tutors to teach their children. Because education had not yet established itself as a separate discipline, teachers were drawn from the ranks of experienced or pedagogically gifted scribes who, as part of their duties and to ensure the supply of future scribes, taught either in the classroom or took apprentices in their offices.
Some sources refer to a general village schools. We do not yet have much information on these schools. We are not yet sure just what was taught in these schools or the age of the children attending. They seem to be informal and demanding subects like hieroglyphics were not taught. Perhaps some masth skills were taught.
We know more abvout the career schools. A relatively small number of boys attended the schools for a specific and career. The father's status in society basically determined the son's access to education and career track. This was, however, not absolute. A talented boy who showed real ability was able to able to enter the career schools and qualify for higher status jobs. The scribe schools were much more formal than the general village schools. Boys attended on a daily basis. The teachers were temple priests and experienced scribes. Admittence was hereditary based on their father's occupation. All the pupils were boys, mostly boys from the families of scribes, priests, and the wealthy class of the society who needed to read and write. The number of schools thus were very limited. In tghese schools the children learned hieroglyphics. This was much more difficult than than learning to read and write an alphabet-based system. This was the principal job of Egyptian schools--teaching hieroglyphics, Very few Egyptians learned hieroglyphics In these schools boys learned to read and writes to become scribes and priests. The boys chosen were normally the sons of scribes and priests. Discipline was strict at these schools. An Egyptian school master explained that his approach to teaching, "The ear of a boy is on his back. He listens when he is beaten." [Stewart, p. 82.] Scribes worked like modern lawyers or accountants, helping richer men keep track of their businesses and contracts. So they also had to be good at math. If you were going to be a scribe, you started school at about 4 years of age and went to school until you were about 15 years old.
The most important Egyptian school was the Prince's School. Here the members of royal family and the nobility were educated. The most imprtant students were the Pharaoh's sons and there could be quite a number given the various wives and concubines. In Egyptian scoiety, herdity was most important. Prince's born from cocubines were not automatrically excluded from the sucession as was the case of Christian Europe. Also attending the schools along with the princes were the sons of nobles and high officials. High offiocialse usully drawn from the nobility.
We do not know when boys began school or how long schooling lasted. Given what we know about small children in general, however, about 6 years of age would seen likely. Actual evidence is very sketchy. And it may have varied from family to family as well as a child's unique capabilities. The number of references are so limited that we do not know if they are unique or representarive. The high priest Bekenkhonsu tells us that he began school at 5 years of age and attended for 4 years. Given what had to b leaned, he seems to have completed his studies very quickly. Then he served for 11 years as an apprentice in stables of King Seti I. Here one has to be careful. This sounds like a lowly assignment. But horses were animals of great value abd prestige. Working with them may have been an honor, especially haroes horses. And we do not know just what tasks he was asigned. At about age 20 he was appointed to a low level of the priesthood (wab). In another of the all to few documented cases, anbunidentified scribe in training was 30 years old. We suspect tht was an unusual instance, but have no real way of knowing. One factor here is that entry into the prieshood wasprimarily a family matter involving the sons of priests. Thus within limits, there was not a standard grade/form annual grade progression. Boys thus may have progressed attheir own rates with some mastering the material quicker than others. Clever boys may have begun earlier bd finished earlier thn othr boys. There may have been ages set for actually enterig the priet hood. That may explain why the high priest Bekenkhonsu worked in the stables for many years. But in fact no one knows.
The curriculum in Egyptian included writing, reading, math, and sports as well as cultural concerns klike morals and manners. The younger boys had lessons like basic mathematics. Recitation was very important. At the center of the curriculum was reading and writing hieroglyphics. This was the system of pictures and symbols instead of alphabetic words. The system developed into a combination of logographic, syllabic, and alphabetic elements. Hieroglyphs began as a set of symbols, but over time came to represent sounds as well. Eventully there were over 700 hieroglyphs which could be used in various combinations. Mathematics was also an important part of the young male's training. In addition, schooling included the memorization of proverbs and myths, by which pupils were educated in social propriety and religious doctrine. Not surprisingly, many of these texts stress how noble (and advantageous) the profession of scribe was: "Be a scribe for he is in control of everything; he who works in writing is not taxed, nor does he have to pay any dues." This included instruction in ethics and morality. This meant skills for high status occupations like doctor or scribe. This higher level of education included learning what was called "Instruction of Wisdom." The Instruction of Wisdom' included instruction on ethics and morality. This qas the higher level of education and dealt with the skills needed for higher status occupations such as doctor or scribe.
Educational methods seem very boring. Teacheres subjected the children to endless rote copying and recitation of mostly religious texts. They had to perfect spelling and orthography. An important finding here is gesso-covered boards. Gesso was a chalky liquid mixtyre. They have been found with the imperfect copies the students made in class. The boards also had their master's corrections showing just how lerning took place. The boys learned by copying ancient texts. The younger beginning boys began learning writing on wooden tables. Older more advanced students were given papyrus. The most important subjects were arithmetic and geometry, reading and writing, music, science, geography, medicine, andastronomy. Disciplinne was very strict. Boys whon misbehaved were punished, commonly by switching. Older boys eventually reached the higher level of instruction which was referred to as 'Instruction of Wisdom'.
Few boys and no girls attended schools. Egyptians did not see education as necessary for women. We are not sure this was a matter of seeing women as lacking the capabilities for learning, but very few women leared reading and math skills. we know some women knew how to read and write. So they must ust have had access to an eduvated family member or a private tutor. Only few girls that were formally educated were the daughters of the wealthy and nobles. We believe they were taught by tutors at home rather than attending schools. The focus for girls was leaning housekeeping, cooking, brewing and clothes making at home from their mother. Women were excluded both from temple elite and from occupations requiring formal education like scribes. Very few women pursued careers outside the home where houskeepin skills and motherhood were their predominant concerns. There were a few occupations they could purue, including dancers, entertainers, weavers, and bakers.
We are less sure about upper-class boys being trained to become warriors. The children of nobels were to some extent schooled at home by tutors, normally by slaves. Even the boys royal family, however, attended school--the Prince's School.
Stewart, Doug. "Eternal Egypt," Smithsonian, date missing, pp. 74-84.
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