Presumably every generation, since the beginning of human existence, somehow passed on its stock of values, traditions, methods and skills to the next generation. The passing on of culture is also known as enculturation and the learning of social values and behaviours is socialization. The systematic provision of learning techniques to most children, such as literacy, has been a development of the last 150 or 200 years, or even last 50 years in some countries. Schools for the young have historically been supplemented with advanced training for priests, bureaucrats and specialists.
Education in prehistory
Most of human history lies in pre-history, the period before the use of writing, and before written history. In pre-literate societies, education was achieved through demonstration and copying as the young learned from their elders. Rural communities had few resources to expend on education, and there was a lack of commercially available products for schools. At later stages they received instruction of a more structured and formal nature, imparted by people not necessarily related, in the context of initiation, religion or ritual. 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. These methods are illustrative of orality. The stories thus preserved are also referred to as part of an oral tradition.
Before the development of writing, it is probable that there were already epic poems, hymns to gods and incantations (such as those later found written in the ancient library at Ninevah, and theVedas), and other oral literature (for example, see ancient literature).
In ancient India, the Vedas were learnt by repetition of various forms of recitation. By means of memorization, they were passed down through many generations.
Education in ancient civilization
The development of writing:
Starting in about 3500 BC, various writing systems developed in ancient civilizations around the world. In Egypt fully developed hieroglyphs were in use at Abydos as early as 3400 BC. Later, the world’s oldest known alphabet was developed in central Egypt around 2000 BC from a hieroglyphic prototype. One hieroglyphic script was used on stone monuments, other cursive scripts were used for writing in ink on papyrus, a flexible, paper-like material, made from the stems of reeds that grow in marshes and beside rivers such as the River Nile.
The Phoenician writing system was adapted from the Proto-Canaanite 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 theCyrillic script, 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.
In China, the early oracle bone script has survived on tens of thousands of oracle bones dating from around 1400-1200 BC in the Shang Dynasty. Out of more than 2500 written characters in use in China in about 1200 BC, as many as 1400 are identifiable as the source of later standard Chinese characters.
Of several pre-Columbian scripts in Mesoamerica, the one that appears to have been best developed, and the one to be deciphered the most, 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.
Other surfaces used for early writing include wax-covered writing boards (used, as well as clay tablets, by the Assyrians), sheets or strips of bark from trees (in Indonesia, Tibet and the Americas), 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), parchment, made of goatskin that had been soaked and scraped to remove hair, which was used from at least the 2nd century BC, vellum, made from calfskin, and wax tablets which could be wiped clean to provide a fresh surface (in Roman times).
Ethiopia has its own ancient alphabet. According to the beliefs of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Ethiopic or Geez is one of the ancient alphabets and languages. The first human to use the alphabet is believed to be Henoch of the Old Testament. Henoch supposedly wrote the Book of Henoch in Ethiopic around c. 3350 BC. In the Ethiopian Orthodox view, the Book of Enoch (መጽሓፈ ሄኖክ) was written in Ethiopic by Enoch, considered the oldest book in any human language. The original forms of the letters themselves were said to have been invented by the even earlier ancestral figure, Henos. Others claim that Ethiopic is a Sabean alphabet. Still others claim that the classic Ethiopic with its seven vowel expansions was in existence before 3000 BC. It is thought by some that it was during the Axumite Kingdom of around 340 AD that the alphabet gained the vowel forms and started to be written from left to right.
The Middle East
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, were schooled. Most boys were taught their father’s trade or were apprenticed to learn a trade. Girls stayed at 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. 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.” There arose a whole social class of scribes, mostly employed in agriculture, but some as personal secretaries or lawyers. 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 fromAncient 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 – c. 627 BC), 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, 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. The rate of literacy in Pharaonic Egypt during most periods from the third to first millennium BC has been estimated at not more than one percent, or between one half of one percent and one percent.
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 64 AD the high priest caused schools to be opened . Emphasis was placed on developing good memory skills in addition to comprehension 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. Despite this schooling system, it would seem that many children did not learn to read and write, because it has been estimated that “at least ninety percent of the Jewish population of Roman Palestine [in the first centuries AD] could merely write their own name or not write and read at all”, or that the literacy rate was about 3 percent.
In ancient India, during the Vedic period from about 1500 BC to 600 BC, most education was based on the Veda (hymns, formulas, and incantations, recited or chanted by priests of a pre-Hindu tradition) and later Hindu texts and scriptures.
Vedic education included: proper pronunciation and recitation of the Veda, the rules of sacrifice, grammar and derivation, composition, versification and meter, understanding of secrets of nature, reasoning including logic, the sciences, and the skills necessary for an occupation. Some medical knowledge existed and was taught. There is mention in the Veda of herbal medicines for various conditions or diseases, including fever, cough, baldness, snake bite and others.
Education, at first freely available in Vedic society, became over time more discriminatory as the caste system, originally based on occupation, evolved, with the brahman (priests) being the most privileged of the castes.
The oldest of the Upanishads - another part of Hindu scriptures – date from around 500 BC. These texts encouraged an exploratory learning process where teachers and students were co-travellers in a search for truth. The teaching methods used reasoning and questioning. Nothing was labeled as the final answer.
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 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.
Two epic poems formed part of ancient Indian education. The Mahabharata, part of which may date back to the 8th century BC, discusses human goals (purpose, pleasure, duty, and liberation), attempting to explain the relationship of the individual to society and the world (the nature of the ‘Self’) and the workings of karma. The other epic poem, Ramayana, is shorter, although it has 24,000 verses. It is thought to have been compiled between about 400 BC and 200 AD. The epic explores themes of human existence and the concept of dharma.
An early center of learning in India dating back to the 5th century BC was Taxila (also known as Takshashila), which taught the three Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments. It was an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD.‘
During the Zhou Dynasty (1045 BC to 256 BC), 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, including Shang Xiang. The schools mainly taught the Six Arts: rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. According to the Book of Rituals, at age twelve, boys learned arts related to ritual (i.e. music and dance) and when older, archery and chariot driving. Girls learned ritual, correct deportment, silk production and weaving.
It was during the Zhou Dynasty that the origins of native Chinese philosophy also developed. Confucius (551 BC – 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.
Later, during the Ch’in dynasty (246-207 BC), a hierarchy of officials was set up to provide central control over the outlying areas of the empire. To enter this hierarchy, both literacy and knowledge of the increasing body of philosophy was required: “….the content of the educational process was designed not to engender functionally specific skills but rather to produce morally enlightened and cultivated generalists”.
During the Han Dynasty (206 BC- 221 AD), boys were thought ready at age seven to start learning basic skills in reading, writing and calculation. In 124 BC, the Emperor Wudi established the Imperial Academy, the curriculum of which was the Five Classics of Confucius. By the end of the Han Dynasty (220 AD) the Academy enrolled more than 30,000 students, boys between the ages of fourteen and seventeen years. However education through this period was a luxury.
The Nine rank system was a civil service nomination system during the Three Kingdoms (220-280 AD) and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD) in China. Theoretically, local government authorities were given the task of selecting talented candidates, then categorizing them into nine grades depending on their abilities. In practice, however, only the rich and powerful would be selected. The Nine Rank System was eventually superseded by the Imperial examination system for the civil service in the Sui Dynasty (581-618 AD)
Greece and Rome
In the city-states of ancient Greece, most education was private, except in Sparta. For example, in Athens, during the 5th and 4th century BC, aside from two years military training, the state played little part in schooling. Anyone could open a school and decide the curriculum. Parents could choose a school offering the subjects they wanted their children to learn, at a monthly fee they could afford. Most parents, even the poor, sent their sons to schools for at least a few years, and if they could afford it from around the age of seven until fourteen, learning gymnastics (including athletics, sport and wrestling), music (including poetry, drama and history) and literacy. Girls rarely received formal education. At writing school, the youngest students learned the alphabet by song, then later by copying the shapes of letters with a stylus on a waxed wooden tablet. After some schooling, the sons of poor or middle-class families often learnt a trade by apprenticeship, whether with their father or another tradesman. By around 350 BC, it was common for children at schools in Athens to also study various arts such as drawing, painting, and sculpture. The richest students continued their education by studying with sophists, from whom they could learn subjects such as rhetoric, mathematics, geography, natural history, politics, and logic. Some of Athens’ greatest schools of higher education included the Lyceum (the so-called Peripatetic school founded by Aristotle of Stageira) and the Platonic Academy (founded byPlato 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 education system in the Greek city-state of Sparta was entirely different, designed to create warriors with complete obedience, courage, and physical perfection. At the age of seven, boys were taken away from their homes to live in school dormitories or military barracks. There they were taught sports, endurance and fighting, and little else, with harsh discipline. Most of the population was illiterate.
The first schools in Ancient Rome arose by the middle of the 4th century BC. These schools were concerned with the basic socialization and rudimentary education of young Roman children. The literacy rate in the 3rd century BC has been estimated as around one percent to two percent. We have very few primary sources or accounts of Roman educational process until the 2nd century BC, during which there was a proliferation of private schools in Rome. 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). Normally, both boys and girls were educated, though not necessarily together. 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”. 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 with great emphasis being placed upon a student’s ingenium or inborn “gift” for learning, 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.
It has been argued that literacy rates in the Greco-Roman world were seldom more than 20 percent; averaging perhaps not much above 10 percent in the Roman empire, though with wide regional variations, probably never rising above 5 percent in the western provinces, and that the literate in classical Greece did not much exceed 5 percent of the population. The argument for these claims is that ancient governments did not invest in public education.
Formal education in the Middle Ages (500–1600 AD)
See also: Medieval university, List of medieval universities, and List of oldest universities in continuous operation
The Abbey of Cluny was one of the most influential
During the Early Middle Ages, the monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church were the centres of education and literacy, preserving the Church’s selection from Latin learning and maintaining the art of writing. Prior to their formal establishment, many medieval universities were run for hundreds of years as Christiancathedral schools or monastic schools (Scholae monasticae), in which monks taught classes; evidence of these immediate forerunners of the later university at many places dates back to the early 6th century.
The first medieval institutions generally considered to be universities were established in Italy, France, and England in the late 11th and the 12th centuries for the study of arts, law, medicine, and theology. These universities evolved from much older Christian cathedral schools and monastic schools, and it is difficult to define the date on which they became true universities, although the lists of studia generalia for higher education in Europe held by the Vatican are a useful guide.
Ireland became known as the island of saints and scholars. Monasteries were built all over Ireland and these became centres of great learning (see Celtic Church).
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 AD, Roman 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.
During the reign of Charlemagne, King of the Franks from 768 – 814 AD, whose empire united most of Western Europe for the first time since the Romans, there was a flowering of literature, art, and architecture known 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. 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.
Cambridge and many other universities were founded at this time.
Cathedral schools and monasteries remained important throughout the Middle Ages; at the Third Lateran Council of 1179 the Church mandated that priests provide the opportunity of a free education to their flocks, and the 12th and 13th century renascence known as the Scholastic Movement was spread through the monasteries. These however ceased to be the sole sources of education in the 11th century when universities, which grew out of the monasticism began to be 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.
Sculpture, paintings and stained glass windows were vital educational media through which Biblical themes and the lives of the saints were taught to illiterate viewers.
Main article: Madrasah
See also: Bimaristan, Ijazah, and Maktab
During the 6th and 7th centuries, the Academy of Gundishapur, originally the intellectual center of the Sassanid empire and subsequently a Muslim centre of learning, offered training in medicine, philosophy, theology and science. The faculty were versed not only in the Zoroastrian and Persian traditions, but in Greek and Indian learning as well.
The House of Wisdom in Bagdad was a library, translation and educational centre from the 9th to 13th centuries. Works on astrology, mathematics,agriculture, medicine, and philosophy were translated. Drawing on Persian, Indian and Greek texts—including those of Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle,Hippocrates, Euclid, Plotinus, Galen, Sushruta, Charaka, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta—the scholars accumulated a great collection of knowledge in the world, and built on it through their own discoveries. The House was an unrivalled centre for the study of humanities and for sciences, includingmathematics, astronomy, medicine, chemistry, zoology and geography. Baghdad was known as the world’s richest city and centre for intellectual development of the time, and had a population of over a million, the largest in its time.
The Islamic mosque school (Madrasah) taught the Quran in Arabic and did not at all resemble the medieval European universities.
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. 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.
Under the Ottoman Empire, the towns of Bursa and Edirne became major centers of learning.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, the town of Timbuktu in the West African nation of Mali became an Islamic centre of learning with students coming from as far away as the Middle East. The town was home to the prestigious Sankore University and other madrasas. The primary focus of these schools was the teaching of the Qur’an, although broader instruction in fields such as logic, astronomy, and history also took place. Over time, there was a great accumulation of manuscripts in the area and an estimated 100,000 or more manuscripts, some of them dated from pre-Islamic times and 12th century, are kept by the great families from the town. Their contents are didactic, especially in the subjects of astronomy, music, and botany. More than 18,000 manuscripts have been collected by the Ahmed Baba centre.
Although there are more than 40,000 Chinese characters in written Chinese, many are rarely used. Studies have shown that full literacy in the Chinese language requires a knowledge of only between three and four thousand characters.
In China, three oral texts were used to teach children by rote memorization the written characters of their language and the basics of Confucian thought.
The Thousand Character Classic, a Chinese poem originating in the 6th century, was used for more than a millennium as a primer for teaching Chinese characters to children. The poem is composed of 250 phrases of four characters each, thus containing exactly one thousand unique characters, and was sung in the same way that children learning the Latin alphabet may use the “alphabet song”.
Later, children also learn the Hundred Family Surnames, a rhyming poem in lines of eight characters composed in the early Song Dynasty (i.e. in about the 11th century) which actually listed more than four hundred of the common surnames in ancient China.
From around the 13th century until the latter part of the 19th century, the Three Character Classic, which is an embodiment of Confucian thought suitable for teaching to young children, served as a child’s first formal education at home. The text is written in triplets of characters for easy memorization. With illiteracy common for most people at the time, the oral tradition of reciting the classic ensured its popularity and survival through the centuries. With the short and simple text arranged in three-character verses, children learned many common characters, grammar structures, elements of Chinese history and the basis of Confucian morality.
After learning Chinese characters, students wishing to ascend in the social hierarchy needed to study the Chinese classic texts.
The early Chinese state depended upon literate, educated officials for operation of the empire. In 605 AD, during the Sui Dynasty, for the first time, an examination system was explicitly instituted for a category of local talents. The merit-based imperial examination system for evaluating and selecting officials gave rise to schools that taught the Chinese classic texts and continued in use for 1,300 years, until the end the Qing Dynasty, being abolished in 1911 in favour of Western education methods. The core of the curriculum for the imperial civil service examinations from the mid-12th century onwards was the Four Books, representing a foundational introduction to Confucianism.
Theoretically, any male adult in China, regardless of his wealth or social status, could become a high-ranking government official by passing the imperial examination, although under some dynasties members of the merchant class were excluded. In reality, since the process of studying for the examination tended to be time-consuming and costly (if tutors were hired), most of the candidates came from the numerically small but relatively wealthy land-owning gentry. However, there are vast numbers of examples in Chinese history in which individuals moved from a low social status to political prominence through success in imperial examination. Under some dynasties the imperial examinations were abolished and official posts were simply sold, which increased corruption and reduced morale.
In the period preceding 1040–1050 AD, prefectural schools had been neglected by the state and left to the devices of wealthy patrons who provided private finances. The chancellor of China at that time, Fan Zhongyan, issued an edict that would have used a combination of government funding and private financing to restore and rebuild all prefectural schools that had fallen into disuse and abandoned. He also attempted to restore all county-level schools in the same manner, but did not designate where funds for the effort would be formally acquired and the decree was not taken seriously until a later period. Fan’s trend of government funding for education set in motion the movement of public schools that eclipsed private academies, which would not be officially reversed until the mid-13th century.
Main article: History of education in India
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 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.”
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.
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.
Main article: History of education in Japan
The history of education in Japan dates back at least to the 6th 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 9th century. Along with the introduction of Buddhism came the Chinese system of writing and its literary tradition, andConfucianism.
By the 9th 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 15th century as a center of higher learning.
Central and South American civilizations
Main article: Aztec
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.
Main article: Inca education
Inca education during the time of the Inca Empire in the 15th and 16th 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.
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