|By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is the easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest. Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.)|
Though humankind has lived on this planet for several million years, it's only in the last 10,000 that people began to live together communally, and to raise animals and crops. Approximately 6000 years ago, as societies became more intricate and complex, they began to develop a system of written language to be able to record and pass down knowledge to the next generation. As the body of knowledge increased, people began to recognize the need for a more formal system of education and formed schools as a result.
Non-Western Civilizations and the Development of Schools
Long before the Greeks and the Romans developed their schools, Eastern civilizations had highly developed and complex societies requiring formalized education. While the exact date when schools actually began will probably never be determined. Evidence exists that the ancient Sumerians of Mesopotamia, the fertile crescent between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is modern-Iraq, had cuneiform (a form of writing) texts for mathematics that have been dated to 2000 BC.Schools probably existed in China almost 4000 years ago. As a highly developed society, the Chinese designed their schools around the perpetuation of tradition, compliance and conventionality, to allow their youth to function in an increasingly formal and complex society. The individual was not deemed particularly important, rather it was the individual's acceptance of the cultural traditions and practices and his place in society that characterized educational practice. Females for the most part were not deemed worthy of a formal education.
|As with many other cultures, the Japanese system of education evolved after they developed a written language. Adapting the Chinese form of writing, the Japanese aristocracy was the first to learn to read and write. Originally the Japanese borrowed heavily from the Chinese culture in providing a curriculum of study. However, eventually the needs of Japanese society became paramount and the educational system began to reflect a Japanese culture and belief system. Education was also used to provide for the societal needs such as the specific schools that were set up to train young men for civil service.|
Ancient Hindu societies were based on a strict adherence to a proscribed system of familial status known as the caste system, whereby an individual's status is determined by his family's place in the society. Formal education helped perpetuate this system by only allowing access to boys from the highest or Brahmin caste. Priests were used as teachers resulting in a heavy emphasis on moral development, learning to write, and harsh discipline.
The Egyptians developed a very early, highly civilized society. They had a form of writing known as hieroglyphics, and were divided into castes. The priests were the most highly educated segment of society and provided the instruction for the privileged males deemed worthy of learning.
Each of these societies in their own way contributed to the development of schools and education. Many of the practices spread to other parts of the world through travel and conquest. Several important Greek philosophers, such as Plato, Pythagoras, Lycurgus, and Solon studied in Egypt.