Education During The Ancient Egyptian Times

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It is impossible for us to know all of the specifics of Ancient Egyptian education or to trace its history accurately today. We do, however, know a some things, and there is clear evidence of a “state teaching system” in place under the Pharaohs’ numerous long-lived dynasties. Education (together with written Egyptian history) is said to have begun in the Old Kingdom about 3000 BC. There are some striking parallels between our current system and ancient pictures of students sat at desks in schools, receiving instruction from a teacher seated at a bigger desk.

According to what we know, their real curriculum included common disciplines like mathematics, astronomy, geometry, reading, writing, geography, music, athletics, etiquette, medicine, and moral teaching, among others. At that time, education was highly valued, and anybody with the financial means sent their children to school once they reached a certain age.

Because of the restricted number of schools, lower-class parents were frequently unable to send their children to school, and they were educated at home to the best of their abilities. Girls were also not permitted to attend since such education was not deemed vital for them. They were trained in the arts of cooking, sewing, religion, and reading by their mothers at home, with the hope that they would become wives and mothers themselves. While females were not allowed to attend school, they may get advanced training in what were deemed appropriate skills, such as dance, weaving, and baking. Noble girls were taught politics, history, and the arts, as well as reading, writing, and ciphering. Many of them were also taught how to supervise home servants and slaves.

There was a craft guild-based schooling alternative for craftsmen and the working class (an unbroken classical tradition which only ended in the 19th century). At the age of 14, middle- and lower-class boys dropped out of school to work for their fathers as apprentice farmers, masons, carpenters, and other tradesmen. Education was important for both the affluent and the poor, and the path of that education (craft school, home school, elite school) was usually dictated by your family’s vocation, which the children were expected to maintain. Royal posts remained in the same family for decades among Egypt’s elite, as did acreage for agricultural families.

Schooling usually begins when a child is seven years old. School began in the morning, with a lunch break, before continuing for the remainder of the day, as it did today. For younger pupils, school supplies included a wooden writing tablet that could be wiped clean, as well as instructional books (known as Kemty) that were written vertically rather than horizontally. Papyrus was allowed for older pupils. The schools were usually part of a larger religious or government complex, and priests or scribes instructed the students. Priests were in charge of religious lessons, while scribes were in charge of secular lessons.

Village ‘elementary’ schools provided a basic education, which was followed by specialized schools providing a ‘secondary’ education. Typically, specialization taught the subjects required for common ‘middle class’ jobs like doctors, scribes, and so on. A scribe’s job was one of the few with possibilities for advancement.

There was a rigid hierarchy throughout the educational system, with separate schools for each class, and this hierarchy carried throughout professional life, with the Prince’s School at the top (where the nobility and Pharaoh’s sons were educated). They were trained in specialized higher education by the Vizier, with the goal of generating talented individuals. In that sense, everyone in the hierarchy had the same expectations. Young boys who showed tremendous promise were frequently permitted to attend The Prince’s school, which was a significant honor for them.

Egyptian schools resembled modern classrooms, with school regulations engraved on the walls, according to archeological finds. The punishment may be harsh, including beatings and months in prison. Boys who did not master their job were frequently thrown away and forced to start over in a different town.

Religious education and philosophy were taught alongside secular studies in Ancient Egypt, instilling a strong moral basis in pupils. They thought that obeying moral ideals, such as truth, made you intelligent.

There is little question that ancient Egyptians valued education and considered it a luxury. It is evidence of their achievement.


The following article is paraphrased, original source: Brendan Heard, Education in Ancient Egypt, December 14, 2021, https://classicalwisdom.com/culture/education-in-ancient-egypt/