Egypt, the gift of the Nile, is situated in the northern part of the African continent. Ancient Egypt was a desert country watered only by the Nile River which flooded the country from August to October, leaving behind a very rich black earth. The river flows into the Mediterranean Sea. The government of Egypt was autocratic, ruled by a king called Pharaoh who had absolute power. The kingdom started in 3400 B.C. when under the leadership of Menes, the first Pharaoh, Memphis in the north and Thebes in the south merged together and Egypt became a united country. The name Pharaoh meant “great house” which referred either to the palace or to the duties of the king.
The land was owned by the Pharaoh who divided it among his nobles and the priests who owned large portions of the land for religious purposes. The common people tilled the land and gave large portions of their produce to their overlords, nobles, and priests. The Egyptians were polytheistic. They worshipped the sun god, Ra or Amon Ra, and Osiris , his female counterpart, the good god, who judged the dead. Their son, Horus, was god of day, and Set or Seth was their Satan. The Egyptians were firm believers in life after death, hence, they built many temples. Egyptian civilization dates back to 5000 B.C., the start of its recorded history.
* Training of scribes. Scribes were in great demand to record the transactions of ecclesiastical and commercial business. This was the most coveted profession at that time. * Religious. This aim was to inculcate proper respect for the gods and the pharaoh who was also considered as god. * Utilitarian. The father wanted to transfer to his son his skills in his occupation and the mother to her daughter the skills in keeping house. * Preservation of cultural patterns. Those in charge of Egyptian education, the nobles and priests, wanted to preserve their cultural patterns, the Egyptian civilization.
* Religious education. This was predominant as the priests wanted to inculcate in the minds of the learners proper respect for the gods, moral conduct, and a preparation for life after death. * Vocational-professional education. This was also predominant because they wanted to perpetuate the artistic skills that embellished their temples and other buildings and their wonderful achievements in engineering and architecture. * Military education. This was only for the sons of the nobles. * Education for public administration. This was for those who aspired for positions in the government because the pharaoh needed many assistants to implement his desires. * Priesthood education. This was for those who aspired to become priests.
* Home arts education. This was largely vocational and offered to women. The Egyptian woman was accorded higher regard than in other Eastern countries at that time. They could even inherit the throne. * Writing, reading, and language education. The Egyptians used the hieroglyphics form of writing (from the Greek words hieros, “sacred” and glypho, to carve). These were pictures or signs that represented ideas. The hieroglyphics were great in number but later they were simplified into what was called hieratic (sacred) and later still into a form called demotic.
* Reading, writing, and language. The learners learned the language of their respective vocations, especially commerce. * Religious and secular literature. They studied aphorisms, proverbs, moral judgments, etc. * Artistry in metals and lapidary.
* Mathematics, especially geometry and surveying , were studied due to the frequent inundations of their field which washed away the landmarks which had to be replaced. * Subjects in astronomy, engineering, architecture, physics, medicine, embalming, dentistry, and law were taught in the temple schools by the priests. * Music, dancing, playing the harp, cymbals, drum, lyre, guitar, tambourine, and clapping to rhythm. * Sports, games, and physical education with swimming, wrestling, archery, and hunting and fishing taken as vocations and avocations. * The military schools offered training in the use of the bow and arrow, battle ax, lance, mace, and shield. Egypt became a military power in the ancient world from 1600 to 1400 B.C.
Education was under the control of religion. This was a part of early Egyptian culture. * Home. The home provided for basic education. Home skills and rudiments of right and wrong were taught at home. * Temple schools. The temple schools were for higher education, especially for the professions such as engineering, architecture, medicine, dentistry, surveying, etc. * Military schools. These schools were only for the sons of the nobles; their purpose was for defense and aggression. * Court schools. To these schools went those aspiring for a public office and those taking up law. Law was taught by a corps, Pharaoh’s corps of public officials, part of a function of priesthood. * Vocational schools. These were schools of arts and trades.
* The young studied at home, usually with the mother as teacher. * At age 5, the boys attended the reading and writing schools under the priests if the parents could afford to pay the school fees. At 17, the boys entered the schools that offered their vocations.
* Apprenticeship. This was the dominant method especially in the lower and the vocational schools. * Dictation, memorization, copying, imitation, repetition. These were standard practices in teaching especially in the lower grades. * Observation and participation. These were also standard practices of teaching, especially in the vocational courses. * Although some lay teachers were allowed to teach in the lower schools, the teachers in the temple and higher schools were always priests and scribes. Flogging was used to penalize failure to learn.
The pupils and students had to pay a certain amount of school fees even in the lower schools. Hence, education was not universal. Outstanding Contribution to Education The outstanding contribution of the early Egyptians to education were probably geometrical measurement and surveying. They were the first to use these two mathematical techniques and their mastery was due to the annual inundation of their fields by the Nile River, necessitating the remeasuring of their fields again and again and restoring the landmarks lost during floods.
After centuries of progress, Egypt declined. Some historians trace the cause to the refusal of the priestly class to change the accepted rules and practices. The old prevented the young from learning further because of apprenticeship. But the chief cause was “the incapacity of the Egyptian mind to ascend from the practical and empirical to the scientific and universal. Conceptual thinking, reasoning, creative imagination, and intellectual curiosity were foreign to them. They saw in knowledge only a means of practical advancement; they had love of knowledge for its own sake.”