History of education

History of education

In its widest sense, the history of education is the history of teaching and of learning, and the history of what might be described as the curricula: what it is that is taught or learned.

Education has taken place in most communities since earliest times. Each generation has sought to pass on cultural and social values, traditions, morality, religion, knowledge and skills to the next generation. The history of the curricula of such informal education reflects human history itself, the history of knowledge, beliefs, skills and cultures of humanity.

In pre-literate societies, education was achieved orally and through imitation. Later, with the development of writing, it became possible for stories, poetry, knowledge, beliefs, and customs to be recorded and passed on more accurately to people out of earshot and to future generations.

As the customs and knowledge of ancient civilisations became more complex, many skills would have been learned from a master on the job, in construction, stone work, metal work, boat building, animal husbandry, agriculture, the making of weapons and defences, the military skills, and many other occupations. Schools of formal learning were also established, although schooling was usually only available to a small part of the population, either at religious institutions or for the wealthy who could afford to pay for their tutors. The earliest known universities, or places of higher education, started teaching a millenium or more ago.

However, for most of the past 2000 years in many civilisations across the world, a formal general education, even at primary level, and literacy have been available only to small sections of the community. In most cultures, universal formal education of all children is a recent development, not occuring in many countries until after 1850. Even today, in some parts of the world, literacy rates are below 60 per cent (for example, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and most of Africa).

Schools, colleges and universities have not been the only methods of formal education and training. Many professions have additional training requirements, and in Europe, from the Middle Ages until recent times, the skills of a trade were not generally learnt in a classroom, but rather by serving an apprenticeship.

Nowadays, formal education consists of systematic instruction, teaching and training by professional teachers. This consists of the application of pedagogy and the development of curricula.

Education in prehistory

Prehistory is a term often used to describe the period before written history.

Hunter-gatherer communities

Prior to 10,000 BCE, most humans lived in hunter-gatherer communities. Some were settled in a given locale/region and others exhibited a nomadic lifestyle across a large territory. These communities had traditions, beliefs, values, practices and local knowledge which orally passed for generations from person to person. Some forms of traditional knowledge were expressed through stories, legends, folklore, rituals, and songs, without the need for a writing system. Tools to aid this process include poetic devices such as rhyme and alliteration. The stories thus preserved are also referred to as part of an oral tradition.

Tradition is an economically efficient way to transfer and obtain knowledge of all kinds. Sowell, for example, notes that decision-making consumes time (a valuable resource), and cultural traditions offer a rich, low-cost, consensually authenticated way to economize on the resources required to make decisions independently.

The Neolithic Revolution

The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution—the transition from hunting and gathering communities and bands, to agriculture and settlement. In this period, the domestication of plants and of a number of animal species began. It occurred in various independent prehistoric human societies beginning around 10–12 thousand years ago.

The Sumerians first began farming ca. 9500 BCE. By 7000 BCE, agriculture had spread to India; by 6000 BCE, to Egypt; by 5000 BCE, to China. About 2700 BCE, agriculture had come to Mesoamerica. The cradles of early civilizations were river valleys, such as the Euphrates and Tigris valleys in Mesopotamia, the Nile valley in Egypt, the Indus valley in the Indian subcontinent, and the Yangtze and Yellow River valleys in China.

The changes most often associated with the Neolithic Revolution include an increased tendency to live in permanent or semi-permanent settlements, the concept of land ownership, modifications to the natural environment, the ability to sustain higher population densities, an increased reliance on vegetable and cereal foods in the total diet, a less egalitarian society, nascent "trading economies" using surplus production from increasing crop yields, and the development of new technologies.

All of these changes brought new knowledge and skills to be learnt and taught by each generation. With the larger communities came greater capacity for some members to specialise in one skill or activity or another, becoming herders, metal workers, builders or religious students. The increased size of communities would also have brought changes to methods of leadership, politics and organisation, together with early institutions

Education in ancient civilisations

The development of writing

Starting in about 3500 BCE, various writing systems were developed in ancient civilisations around the world. These writing systems would greatly increase the potential for passing knowledge onwards from one person to others. They would also bring the need for education in the skills of writing and reading.

The original Mesopotamian writing system was derived from a method of keeping accounts, and by the end of the 4th millennium BC, [The Origin and Development of the Cuneiform System of Writing, Samuel Noah Kramer, "Thirty Nine Firsts In Recorded History" pp 381-383] this had evolved into using a triangular-shaped stylus pressed into soft clay for recording numbers. Around the 26th century BC, cuneiform began to represent syllables of spoken Sumerian. Also in that period, cuneiform writing became a general purpose writing system for logograms, syllables, and numbers.

Symbols were imprinted on a wet clay tablet with a stylus, often made of wood. Once written upon, many tablets were dried in the sun or air, remaining fragile. Later, these unfired clay tablets could be recycled into new clean tablets. Other tablets, once written, were fired in kilns (or when buildings were burnt down during conflict) making them hard and durable. Large quantities of written tablets have been found in the Middle East.

In Egypt, another writing surface, papyrus, a flexible, paper-like material, was made from the stems of reeds that grow in marshes and beside rivers such as the River Nile.

The world's oldest known alphabet was developed in central Egypt around 2000 BC from a hieroglyphic prototype.

The Phoenician writing system was adapted from the Proto-Caananite script in around the 11th century BC, which in turn borrowed ideas from Egyptian hieroglyphics. This script was adapted by the Greeks. A variant of the early Greek alphabet gave rise to the Etruscan alphabet, and its own descendants, such as the Latin alphabet. Other descendants from the Greek alphabet include the Cyrillic alphabet, used to write Russian, among others.

The Phoenician system was also adapted into the Aramaic script, from which the Hebrew script and also that of Arabic are descended.

Of several pre-Colombian scripts in Mesoamerica, the one that appears to have been best developed, and the only one to be deciphered, is the Maya script. The earliest inscriptions which are identifiably Maya date to the 3rd century BC, and writing was in continuous use until shortly after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century AD.

In China, historians have found out a lot about the early Chinese dynasties from the written documents left behind. From the Shang Dynasty, most of this writing has survived on bones or bronze implements. Markings on turtle shells (used as oracle bones) have been carbon-dated to around 1500 BC.

Other surfaces used for early writing include sheets or strips of bark from trees (in Indonesia, Tibet and the Americas) [Article at Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections [http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Paper-exhibit/batak.html] ] , the thick palm-like leaves of a particular tree, the leaves then punctured with a hole and stacked together like the pages of a book (these writings in India and South east Asia include Buddhist scriptures and Sanskrit literature) [Article at Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections [http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/Paper-exhibit/palmleaf.html] ] , parchment, made of goatskin that had been soaked and scraped to remove hair, which was used from at least the second century BCE, vellum, made from calfskin, and wax tablets which could be wiped clean to provide a fresh surface.

Formal education in ancient civilisations

In many early civilisations, education was associated with wealth and the maintenance of authority, or with prevailing philosophies, beliefs, or religion.

In what became Mesopotamia, the early logographic system of cuneiform script took many years to master. Thus only a limited number of individuals were hired as scribes to be trained in its reading and writing. Only royal offspring and sons of the rich and professionals such as scribes, physicians, and temple administrators, went to school. Most boys were taught their father's trade or were apprenticed out to learn a trade. [cite book|author=Rivkah Harris|title=Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia|date=2000] Girls had to stay home with their mothers to learn housekeeping and cooking, and to look after the younger children. Later, when a syllabic script became more widespread, more of the Mesopotamian population became literate and later still in Babylonian times there were libraries in most towns and temples; an old Sumerian proverb averred that "he who would excel in the school of the scribes must rise with the dawn." Women as well as men learned to read and write, and for the Semitic Babylonians, this involved knowledge of the extinct Sumerian language, and a complicated and extensive syllabary. Vocabularies, grammars, and interlinear translations were compiled for the use of students, as well as commentaries on the older texts and explanations of obscure words and phrases. Massive archives of texts were recovered from the archaeological contexts of Old Babylonian scribal schools, through which literacy was disseminated. The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from Ancient Mesopotamia is among the earliest known works of literary fiction. The earliest Sumerian versions of the epic date from as early as the Third Dynasty of Ur (2150-2000 BC) (Dalley 1989: 41-42).

Ashurbanipal (685 – ca. 627 BCE), a king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, was proud of his scribal education. His youthful scholarly pursuits included oil divination, mathematics, reading and writing as well as the usual horsemanship, hunting, chariotry, soldierliness, craftsmanship, and royal decorum. During his reign he collected cuneiform texts from all over Mesopotamia, and especially Babylonia, in the library in Nineveh, the first systematically organized library in the ancient Middle East [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9009855/Ashurbanipal Ashurbanipal] , from the Encyclopædia Britannica] , which survives in part today.

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. The hieroglyph system was always difficult to learn, but in later centuries was purposely made even more so, as this preserved the scribes' status.

By comparison, in ancient Israel and Judah a basic education eventually became widespread. The Torah (the fundamental religious text) includes commands to read, learn, teach and write the Torah, thus requiring literacy and study. In 64 CE the high priest caused public schools to be opened in every town and hamlet for all children above six or seven years of age (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 21a). The expense was borne by the community, and strict discipline was observed. Raba fixed the number of pupils at twenty-five for one teacher; if the number was between twenty-five and forty an assistant teacher was necessary; and for over forty, two teachers were required. The standard education texts were all hand-written until the invention of printing. However significant emphasis was placed on developing good memory skills in addition to comprehension by practice of oral repetition. For details of the subjects taught, see History of education in ancient Israel and Judah. Although girls were not provided with formal education in the yeshivah, they were required to know a large part of the subject areas to prepare them to maintain the home after marriage, and to educate the children before the age of seven.

In ancient India, the Gurukul system of education supported traditional Hindu residential schools of learning; typically the teacher's house or a monastery. Education was free, but students from well-to-do families paid "Gurudakshina," a voluntary contribution after the completion of their studies. At the Gurukuls, the teacher imparted knowledge of Religion, Scriptures, Philosophy, Literature, Warfare, Statecraft, Medicine Astrology and History (the Sanskrit word "Itihaas" means History). The corpus of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as technical scientific, philosophical and generally Hindu religious texts, though many central texts of Buddhism and Jainism have also been composed in Sanskrit. An early center of learning in India dating back to the 5th century BCE was Takshashila which taught the three Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments.Hartmut Scharfe (2002). "Education in Ancient India". Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-12556-6.] . It was an important Vedic/Hindu [cite book | last = Majumdar, Raychauduri and Datta | authorlink | title = An Advanced History of India | origyear = 1946 | publisher = Macmillan| location = London | pages = 64] and Buddhist [UNESCO World Heritage List. 1980. [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/139 Taxila: Brief Description] . Retrieved 13 January 2007] centre of learning from the 6th century BCE"History of Education", "Encyclopædia Britannica", 2007.] to the 5th century CE."Nalanda" (2007). "Encarta".] Joseph Needham (2004), "Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West", Routledge, ISBN 0415361664:
quote|"When the men of Alexander the great came to Taxila in India in the fourth century BC they found a university there the like of which had not been seen in Greece, a university which taught the three Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments and was still existing when the Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien went there about AD 400."]

Education in China began not with organised religion, but based upon the reading of classical Chinese texts, which developed during Western Zhou period (1122 BCE to 256 BCE). This system of education was further developed by the early Chinese state, which depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire, and an imperial examination system was established in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220) for evaluating and selecting officials. This merit-based system gave rise to schools that taught the classics and continued in use for 2,000 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, being abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods. It was during the Zhou Dynasty that the origins of native Chinese philosophy also developed, its initial stages beginning in the 6th century BC. The greatest Chinese philosophers, those who made the greatest impact on later generations of Chinese, were Kong Fuzi (Latin: Confucius), founder of Confucianism, and Laozi, founder of Daoism.

At about the same time in ancient Greece (around 1100 BCE to 146 BCE), most education was private, except in Sparta. During the Hellenistic period, some city-states established public schools. Only wealthy families could afford a teacher. Boys learned how to read, write and quote literature. They also learned to sing and play one musical instrument and were trained as athletes for military service. They studied not for a job, but to become an effective citizen. Girls also learned to read, write and do simple arithmetic so they could manage the household. They almost never received education after childhood. Boys went to school at the age of seven, or went to the barracks, if they lived in Sparta. Boys from wealthy families attended private school lessons. Classes were held in teachers' private houses and included reading, writing, mathematics, singing, and playing of the lyre and flute. When the boy became 12 years old the schooling started to include sports as wrestling, running, and throwing discus and javelin. In Athens some older youths attended academy for the finer disciplines such as culture, sciences, music, and the arts. The schooling ended at the age of 18, followed by military training in the army usually for one or two years. [Angus Konstam: "Historical Atlas of Ancient Greece", pp. 94-95. Thalamus publishing, UK, 2003, ISBN 1-904668-16-x] The richest students continued their education by studying with famous teachers. Some of Athens' greatest such schools included the Lyceum (the so-called Peripatetic school founded by Aristotle of Stageira) and the Platonic Academy (founded by Plato of Athens). The education system of the wealthy ancient Greeks is also called Paideia. In the subsequent Roman empire, Greek was the primary language of science. Advanced scientific research and teaching was mainly carried on in the Hellenistic side of the Roman empire, in Greek.

The first schools in Ancient Rome arose by the middle of the fourth century BCE Michael Chiappetta, “Historiography and Roman Education,” "History of Education Journal" 4, no. 4 (1953): 149-156.] . These schools were concerned with the basic socialization and rudimentary education of young Roman children. We have very few primary sources or accounts of Roman educational process until the second century BCE Michael Chiappetta, “Historiography and Roman Education,” "History of Education Journal" 4, no. 4 (1953): 149-156.] . At the height of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, the Roman educational system gradually found its final form. Formal schools were established, which served paying students (very little in the way of free public education as we know it can be found) Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Third Edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996] . Normally, both boys and girls were educated, though not necessarily togetherOxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Third Edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996] . In a system much like the one that predominates in the modern world, the Roman education system that developed arranged schools in tiers. The educator Quintilian recognized the importance of starting education as early as possible, noting that “memory … not only exists even in small children, but is specially retentive at that age” [Quintilian, "Quintilian on Education", translated by William M. Smail (New York: Teachers College Press, 1966).] . A Roman student would progress through schools just as a student today might go from elementary school to middle school, then to high school, and finally college. Progression depended more on ability than age Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, Third Edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996] with great emphasis being placed upon a student’s "ingenium" or inborn “gift” for learning [Yun Lee Too, "Education in Greek and Roman antiquity" (Boston: Brill, 2001).] , and a more tacit emphasis on a student’s ability to afford high-level education. Only the Roman elite would expect a complete formal education. A tradesman or farmer would expect to pick up most of his vocational skills on the job. Higher education in Rome was more of a status symbol than a practical concern.

Formal education in the Middle Ages (500 CE - 1600 CE)

Islamic world

The Islamic world developed a schooling system during the Islamic Golden Age. A systematic way of teaching and spreading knowledge was developed in purpose built structures. At first, mosques combined both religious performance and learning activities, but by the ninth century, the Madrasah, a proper school built independently from the mosque.

According to the modern definition of a university as an institution of higher education and research which issues academic degrees at all levels (bachelor, master and doctorate), the medieval Madrasahs founded in the 9th century are the first examples of a university in the modern sense of the word.citation|last=Makdisi|first=George|title=Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=109|issue=2|date=April-June 1989|pages=175-182 [175-77] ] The University of Al Karaouine in Fez, Morocco is thus recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world with its founding in 859. ["The Guinness Book Of Records", 1998, p. 242, ISBN 0-5535-7895-2]

Also in the 9th century, Bimaristan medical schools were formed in the medieval Islamic world, where medical diplomas were issued to students of Islamic medicine who were qualified to be a practicing Doctor of Medicine. [John Bagot Glubb: quote|By Mamun's time medical schools were extremely active in Baghdad. The first free public hospital was opened in Baghdad during the Caliphate of Haroon-ar-Rashid. As the system developed, physicians and surgeons were appointed who gave lectures to medical students and issued diplomas to those who were considered qualified to practice. The first hospital in Egypt was opened in 872 AD and thereafter public hospitals sprang up all over the empire from Spain and the Maghrib to Persia. (cf. [http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/quote2.html Quotations on Islamic Civilization] )] Al-Azhar University, founded in Cairo, Egypt in 975, was a "Jami'ah" ("university" in Arabic) which offered a variety of post-graduate degrees, had a Madrasah and theological seminary, and taught Islamic law, Islamic jurisprudence, Arabic grammar, Islamic astronomy, early Islamic philosophy and logic in Islamic philosophy.citation|title=From Jami`ah to University: Multiculturalism and Christian–Muslim Dialogue|first=Syed Farid|last=Alatas|journal=Current Sociology|volume=54|issue=1|pages=112-32]

The origins of the doctorate dates back to the "ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifttd" ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in the medieval Islamic legal education system, which was equivalent to the Doctor of Laws qualification and was developed during the 9th century after the formation of the "Madh'hab" legal schools. To obtain a doctorate, a student "had to study in a guild school of law, usually four years for the basic undergraduate course" and at least ten years for a post-graduate course. The "doctorate was obtained after an oral examination to determine the originality of the candidate's theses," and to test the student's "ability to defend them against all objections, in disputations set up for the purpose" which were scholarly exercises practiced throughout the student's "career as a graduate student of law." After students completed their post-graduate education, they were awarded doctorates giving them the status of "faqih" (meaning "master of law"), "mufti" (meaning "professor of legal opinions") and "mudarris" (meaning "teacher"), which were later translated into Latin as "magister", "professor" and "doctor" respectively.citation|last=Makdisi|first=George|title=Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West|journal=Journal of the American Oriental Society|volume=109|issue=2|date=April-June 1989|pages=175-182 [175-77] ]

Philosophers such as al-Kindī (801–873) and al-Fārābī (870–950) translated the works of Aristotle and applied his thinking to early Islamic philosophy. Al-Khwārizmī (790-840) wrote "The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing", the first book on algebra (the word "algebra" come from the Arabic title of the book, while the word "algorithm" comes from al-Khwārizmī's name.) He also wrote "The Image of the Earth", an updated version of Ptolemy's "Geographia", and participated in a project to determine the circumference of the Earth by measuring the length of a degree of meridian on a plain in Iraq.

Under the Ottoman Empire, the towns of Bursa and Edirne became major centers of learning. The Ottoman system of Kulliye, a building complex containing a mosque, a hospital, madrassa, and public kitchen and dining areas, revolutionized the education system, making learning accessible to a wider public through its free meals, health care and sometimes free accommodation.


The history of education in Japan dates back at least to the sixth century, when Chinese learning was introduced at the Yamato court. Foreign civilizations have often provided new ideas for the development of Japan's own culture.

Chinese teachings and ideas flowed into Japan from the sixth to the ninth century. Along with the introduction of Buddhism came the Chinese system of writing and its literary tradition, and Confucianism.

By the ninth century, Heian-kyo (today's Kyoto), the imperial capital, had five institutions of higher learning, and during the remainder of the Heian period, other schools were established by the nobility and the imperial court. During the medieval period (1185-1600), Zen Buddhist monasteries were especially important centers of learning, and the Ashikaga School, Ashikaga Gakko, flourished in the fifteenth century as a center of higher learning.


The first millennium and the few centuries preceding it saw the flourishing of higher education at Nalanda, Takshashila University, Ujjain, & Vikramshila Universities. Amongst the subjects taught were Art, Architecture, Painting, Logic, mathematics, Grammar, Philosophy, Astronomy, Literature, Buddhism, Hinduism, Arthashastra (Economics & Politics), Law, and Medicine. Each university specialized in a particular field of study. Takshila specialized in the study of medicine, while Ujjain laid emphasis on astronomy. Nalanda, being the biggest centre, handled all branches of knowledge, and housed up to 10,000 students at its peak.

Nalanda was a Buddhist center of learning founded in Bihar, India around the 5th century CE and conferred academic degree titles to its graduates, while also offering post-graduate courses. It has been called "one of the first great universities in recorded history.""Really Old School," Garten, Jeffrey E. New York Times, December 9, 2006.]

Vikramaśīla University, another important center of Buddhist learning in India, was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nālandā.

[http://www.infinityfoundation.com/mandala/t_es/t_es_goyal_education.htm British records] show that indigenous education was widespread in India in the 18th century, with a school for every temple, mosque or village in most regions of the country. The subjects taught included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics, Medical Science and Religion. The schools were attended by students representative of all classes of society.


European overview

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

Northumbria was famed as a centre of religious learning and arts. Initially the kingdom was evangelized by monks from the Celtic Church, which led to a flowering of monastic life, and Northumbria played an important role in the formation of Insular art, a unique style combining Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Byzantine and other elements. After the Synod of Whitby in 664 CE, Roman Catholic church practices officially replaced the Celtic ones but the influence of the Anglo-Celtic style continued, the most famous examples of this being the Lindisfarne Gospels. The Venerable Bede (673-735) wrote his "Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum" (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, completed in 731) in a Northumbrian monastery, and much of it focuses on the kingdom. [Goffart, Walter. "The Narrators of Barbarian History (A.D. 550-800): Jordanes, Gregory of Tours, Bede, and Paul the Deacon". Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988. 238ff.]

During the reign of Charlemagne, King of the Franks from 768 – 814 CE, whose empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, there was a flowering of scholarship, literature, art, and architecture sometimes referred to as the Carolingian Renaissance. Brought into contact with the culture and learning of other countries through his vast conquests, Charlemagne greatly increased the provision of monastic schools and scriptoria (centres for book-copying) in Francia. Most of the surviving works of classical Latin were copied and preserved by Carolingian scholars.

Charlemagne took a serious interest in scholarship, promoting the liberal arts at the court, ordering that his children and grandchildren be well-educated, and even studying himself under the tutelage of Paul the Deacon, from whom he learned grammar, Alcuin, with whom he studied rhetoric, dialect and astronomy (he was particularly interested in the movements of the stars), and Einhard, who assisted him in his studies of arithmetic. His great scholarly failure, as Einhard relates, was his inability to write.

The English monk Alcuin was invited to Charlemagne's court at Aachen, and brought with him the precise classical Latin education that was available in the monasteries of Northumbria. The return of this Latin proficiency to the kingdom of the Franks is regarded as an important step in the development of mediaeval Latin. Charlemagne's chancery made use of a type of script currently known as Carolingian minuscule, providing a common writing style that allowed for communication across most of Europe. After the decline of the Carolingian dynasty, the rise of the Saxon Dynasty in Germany was accompanied by the Ottonian Renaissance.

The Islamic Golden Age occurred during the Middle Ages. Islamic philosophy, science, and technology were more advanced than in Western Europe. Islamic scholars both preserved and built upon earlier Ancient Greek and Roman traditions and also added their own inventions and innovations. Islamic al-Andalus passed much of this on to Europe (see Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe). The replacement of Roman numerals with the decimal positional number system and the invention of algebra allowed more advanced mathematics. Another consequence was that the Latin-speaking world regained access to lost classical literature and philosophy. Latin translations of the 12th century fed a passion for Aristotelian philosophy and Islamic science that is frequently referred to as the Renaissance of the 12th century. Meanwhile, trade grew throughout Europe as the dangers of travel were reduced, and steady economic growth resumed.

Cathedral schools and monasteries ceased to be the sole sources of education in the 11th century when universities were established in major European cities. Literacy became available to a wider class of people, and there were major advances in art, sculpture, music and architecture. Large cathedrals were built across Europe, first in the Romanesque, and later in the more decorative Gothic style.

During the 12th and 13th century in Europe, large numbers of Greek and Arabic works on medicine and the sciences were translated and distributed throughout Europe. Aristotle especially became very important, his rational and logical approach to knowledge influencing the scholars at the newly forming universities which were absorbing and disseminating the new knowledge during the 12th Century Renaissance.


See History of education in England


See History of education in Scotland

Central and South American civilisations


Aztec is a term used to refer to certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who achieved political and military dominance over large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the Late post-Classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.

Until the age of fourteen, the education of children was in the hands of their parents, but supervised by the authorities of their "calpōlli". Part of this education involved learning a collection of sayings, called "huēhuetlàtolli" ("sayings of the old"), that embodied the Aztecs' ideals. Judged by their language, most of the "huēhuetlatolli" seemed to have evolved over several centuries, predating the Aztecs and most likely adopted from other Nahua cultures.

At 15, all boys and girls went to school. The Mexica, one of the Aztec groups, were one of the first people in the world to have mandatory education for nearly all children, regardless of gender, rank, or station. There were two types of schools: the "telpochcalli", for practical and military studies, and the "calmecac", for advanced learning in writing, astronomy, statesmanship, theology, and other areas. The two institutions seem to be common to the Nahua people, leading some experts to suggest that they are older than the Aztec culture.

Aztec teachers ("tlatimine") propounded a spartan regime of education with the purpose of forming a stoical people.

Girls were educated in the crafts of home and child raising. They were not taught to read or write. All women were taught to be involved in religion; there are paintings of women presiding over religious ceremonies, but there are no references to female priests.


Inca education during the time of the Inca Empire in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was divided into two principal spheres: education for the upper classes and education for the general population. The royal classes and a few specially-chosen individuals from the provinces of the Empire were formally educated by the "Amautas" (wise men), while the general population learned knowledge and skills from their immediate forbears.

The Amautas constituted a special class of wise men similar to the bards of Great Britain. They included illustrious philosophers, poets, and priests who kept the oral histories of the Incas alive by imparting the knowledge of their culture, history, customs and traditions throughout the kingdom. Considered the most highly-educated and respected men in the Empire, the Amautas were largely entrusted with educating those of royal blood, as well as other young members of conquered cultures specially-chosen to administer the regions. Thus, education throughout the territories of the Incas was socially discriminatory, most people not receiving the formal education that royalty received.

The official language of the empire was Quechua, although dozens if not hundreds of local languages were spoken. The Amautas did ensure that the general population learn Quechua as the language of the Empire, much in the same way the Romans promoted Latin throughout Europe; however, this was done more for political reasons than educational ones.

After the 15th century CE


Europe overview

Modern systems of education in Europe derive their origins from the schools of medieval period. Most schools during this era were founded upon religious principles with the sole purpose of training the clergy. Many of the earliest universities, such as the University of Paris, founded in 1150 had a Christian basis. In addition to this, a number of secular universities existed, such as the University of Bologna, founded in 1088.

The curriculum of the educational institutions of this period was frequently based around the trivium and quadrivium (the seven Artes Liberales or Liberal arts) and was conducted in the clerical language of Latin.

In northern Europe this clerical education was largely superseded by forms of elementary schooling following the Reformation. In Scotland, for instance, the national Church of Scotland set out a programme for spiritual reform in January 1561 setting the principle of a school teacher for every parish church and free education for the poor. This was provided for by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland, passed in 1633, which introduced a tax to pay for this programme. Although few countries of the period had such extensive systems of education, the period between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries saw education become significantly more widespread. In Central Europe, the seventeenth century scientist and educator John Amos Comenius promulgated a reformed system of universal education that was widely used in Europe.

This growth resulted in increased government interest in education. In the 1760s, for instance, Ivan Betskoy was appointed by the Russian Tsarina, Catherine II, as educational advisor. He proposed to educate young Russians of both sexes in state boarding schools, aimed at creating "a new race of men". Betskoy set forth a number of arguments for general education of children rather than specialized one: "in regenerating our subjects by an education founded on these principles, we will create... new citizens." Some of his ideas were implemented in the Smolny Institute that he established for noble girls in Saint Petersburg.

Betskoy's work in Russia was soon followed by the Polish establishment in 1773 of a Commission of National Education (Polish: "Komisja Edukacji Narodowej", Lithuanian: "Nacionaline Edukacine Komisija"). The commission functioned as the first government Ministry of Education in a European country.

Meanwhile, there was an increasing academic interest in education and the first attempts to create what might be considered academic rationales for teaching methods. This led, in the 1770s, to the establishment of the first chair of pedagogy at the University of Halle in Germany. Contributions to the study of education elsewhere in Europe included the work of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi in Switzerland and Joseph Lancaster in Britain.

Under the guidance of Wilhelm von Humboldt a new university was founded in Berlin in 1810 which became the model for many research universities. Herbart developed a system of pedagogy widely used in German-speaking areas.

In the late nineteenth 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 education was needed for orderly political behavior. As more people became literate, they realized that most secondary education was only open to those who could afford it. Having created primary education, the major nations had to give further attention to secondary education by the time of World War 1.Donald Kagan, Steven Ozment, Frank M Turner (2007). "Western Heritage: Since 1300 (AP Edition)". Pearson Education, Inc.. ISBN 0-13-173292-7.]

In the twentieth century, new directions in education included, in Italy, Maria Montessori's Montessori schools; and in Germany, Rudolf Steiner's development of Waldorf education.


While the French trace the development of their educational system to Charlemagne, the modern era of French education begins at the end of the nineteenth century. Jules Ferry, a lawyer holding the office of Minister of Public Instruction in the 1880s, is widely credited for creating the modern Republican school ("l'école républicaine") by requiring all children under the age of 15 -- boys and girls -- to attend. He also made public instruction free of charge and secular ("laïque").


See History of education in England


See History of education in Scotland


Education was widespread in the 18th century, with a schools in most regions of the country. The subjects taught included Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Theology, Law, Astronomy, Metaphysics, Ethics, Medical Science and Religion.

The current system of education, with its western style and content, was introduced & founded by the British during the British Raj, following recommendations by Lord Macaulay. Traditional structures were not recognized by the British government and have been on the decline since. Gandhi in his speech in London, on October 20, 1931, described the traditional educational system as a beautiful tree that was destroyed during the British rule.. [The Beautiful Tree - Indigenous Indian Ecuation in the Eighteenth Century, Dharampal, 1983, Bibla Implex, pp xi]


By 1603 Japan had been reunified by the Tokugawa regime (1600- 1867), and by 1640 foreigners had been ordered out of Japan, Christianity banned, and virtually all foreign contact prohibited. The nation then entered a period of isolation and relative domestic tranquillity, which was to last 200 years. When the Tokugawa period began, few common people in Japan could read or write. By the period's end, learning had become widespread. Tokugawa education left a valuable legacy: an increasingly literate populace, a meritocratic ideology, and an emphasis on discipline and competent performance. Under subsequent Meiji leadership, this foundation would facilitate Japan's rapid transition from feudal country to modern nation.

One of the things that amazed Europeans that arrived in Japan at the end of the Edo period was that the Japanese were very well educated. It is estimated that the literacy rate was already over 80% for men and somewhere in the 60s or 70s for women and much higher in cities like Edo and Osaka.

Samurai curricula stressed morality and included both military and literary studies. Confucian classics were memorized, and reading and recitating them were common methods of study. Arithmetic and calligraphy were also studied. Most samurai attended schools sponsored by their han (domains), and by the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868, more than 200 of the 276 han had established schools. Some samurai and even commoners also attended private academies, which often specialized in particular Japanese subjects or in Western medicine, modern military science, gunnery, or Rangaku (Dutch studies), as European studies were called.

Education of commoners was generally practically oriented, providing basic training in reading, writing, and arithmetic, emphasizing calligraphy and use of the abacus. Much of this education was conducted in so-called temple schools (terakoya), derived from earlier Buddhist schools. These schools were no longer religious institutions, nor were they, by 1867, predominantly located in temples. By the end of the Tokugawa period, there were more than 11,000 such schools, attended by 750,000 students. Teaching techniques included reading from various textbooks, memorizing, abacus, and repeatedly copying Chinese characters and Japanese script.

The origins of education in Japan are closely related to religion. Schooling was conducted at temples for youngsters who wanted to study Buddhism to become priests. Later, children who were willing to study started to meet at places called, "Tera-koya" (literally meaning temple huts) and learned how to read and write Japanese.


Organized education in Norway dates as far back as medieval times. Shortly after Norway became an archdiocese in 1152, cathedral schools were constructed to educate priests in Trondheim, Oslo, Bergen and Hamar.

After the reformation of Norway in 1537, (Norway entered a personal union with Denmark in 1536) the cathedral schools were turned into Latin schools, and it was made mandatory for all market towns to have such a school.

In 1736 training in reading was made compulsory for all children, but was not effective until some years later. In 1827, Norway introduced the "folkeskole", a primary school which became mandatory for 7 years in 1889 and 9 years in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, the "folkeskole" was abolished, and the "grunnskole" was introduced.

New Zealand

Education began with provision made by the provincial government, the missionary Christian churches and private education. The first act of parliament for education was passed in 1877, and sought to establish a standard for primary education. It was compulsory for children to attend school until the age of 14 years.

Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union

In Imperial Russia, according to the 1897 Population Census, literate people made up 28.4 percent of the population. During the 8th Party Congress of 1919, the creation of the new Socialist system of education was proclaimed the major aim of the Soviet government. The abolition of illiteracy became the primary task in the Russian SFSR.

In accordance with the Sovnarkom decree of December 26 1919, signed by its head Vladimir Lenin, the new policy of likbez, was introduced. The new system of universal compulsory education was established for children. Millions of illiterate adult people all over the country, including residents of small towns and villages, were enrolled in special literacy schools. Komsomol members and Young Pioneer detachments played an important role in the education of illiterate people in villages. The most active phase of "likbez" lasted until 1939. In 1926, the literacy rate was 56.6 percent of the population. By 1937, according to census data, the literacy rate was 86% for men and 65% for women, making a total literacy rate of 75%. [Fitzpatrick, S. (1994). "Stalin's peasants: resistance and survival in the Russian village after collectivization". New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 225-6 & fn. 78 p. 363. OCLC|28293091.]

An important aspect of the early campaign for literacy and education was the policy of "indigenization" (korenizatsiya). This policy, which lasted essentially from the mid-1920s to the late 1930s, promoted the development and use of non-Russian languages in the government, the media, and education. Intended to counter the historical practices of Russification, it had as another practical goal assuring native-language education as the quickest way to increase educational levels of future generations. A huge network of so-called "national schools" was established by the 1930s, and this network continued to grow in enrollments throughout the Soviet era. Language policy changed over time, perhaps marked first of all in the government's mandating in 1938 the teaching of Russian as a required "subject" of study in every non-Russian school, and then especially beginning in the latter 1950s a growing conversion of non-Russian schools to Russian as the main medium of instruction.

United States of America


Until at least 1900 CE, in most African countries south of the Sahara, children received traditional informal education on matters such as artistic performances, ceremonies, rituals, games, festivals, dancing, singing, and drawing. Boys and girls were taught separately to help prepare each sex for their adult roles. Every member of the community had a hand in contributing to the educational upbringing of the child. The high point of the African educational experience was the ritual passage ceremony from childhood to adulthood.

Nowadays, many sub-Saharan African countries have low rates of participation in formal education. Schools often lack basic facilities, and African universities may suffer from overcrowding and the difficulties of retaining staff attracted overseas by higher pay and better conditions.

Africa has more than 40 million children. According to UNESCO's "Regional overview on sub-Saharan Africa", in 2000 only 58% of children were enrolled in primary schools, the lowest enrollment rate of any region. The USAID Center reports as of 2005, forty percent of school-aged children in Africa do not attend primary school.

See also
*Education in Africa
*History of education in Angola
*History of education in Chad

Recent world-wide trends

)] Overall, illiteracy has greatly decreased in recent years. In some countries this has been the result of deliberate government action. For example, in Cuba the illiteracy rate was for many years less than that in the USA.

Illiteracy and the percentage of populations without any schooling have decreased in the past several decades. For example, the percentage of population without any schooling decreased from 36% in 1960 to 25% in 2000.

Among developing countries, illiteracy and percentages without schooling in 2000 stood at about half the 1970 figures. Among developed countries, figures about illiteracy rates differ widely. Often it is said that they decreased from 6% to 1%. However, the "National Adult Literacy Survey" of 1993 showed that more than 20% of the adults in the USA were functionally illiterate. [ [http://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdf Adult Literacy in America ] ] These findings were confirmed in a 2003 follow-up study. [ [http://nces.ed.gov/NAAL/PDF/2006470.PDF A First Look at the Literacy of America's Adults in the 21st Century ] ] Illiteracy rates in less economically developed countries (LEDCs) surpassed those of more economically developed countries (MEDCs) by a factor of 10 in 1970, and by a factor of about 20 in 2000. Illiteracy decreased greatly in LEDCs, and virtually disappeared in MEDCs. Percentages without any schooling showed similar patterns.

Percentages of the population with no schooling varied greatly among LEDCs in 2000, from less than 10% to over 65%. MEDCs had much less variation, ranging from less than 2% to 17%.


Related Links

* [http://www-faculty.edfac.usyd.edu.au/projects/anzhes/index.html Australia and New Zealand History of Education Society]

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