4.1 History of Education: What was the education system of ancient Egyptians?



4a i). Examine the education system of ancient Egyptians

1   Introduction.

In the last lesson, we defined history of education, discussed the rationale for studying the subject and the scope of the unit from the ancient times to the present. In this lesson we shall look at the foundations of modern education in ancient Egypt.

2. Objectives:

By the end of this lessons, you should be able to:

  • Identify the origins and development of ancient Egyptian
  • Identify the aims and structure of ancient Egyptian
  • Discuss the contribution of Egyptian education to modern

3.  Content

  • Ancient Egyptian Civilization

Egyptian civilization is the oldest in the long history of man. It pre- dates the Chinese, Indian and Graeco-Roman civilizations. Egyptian civilization reached its peak between 4,000 B.C. and 1,000 B.C. It is also the earliest civilization with a recorded history. This civilization was a product of the agricultural activities centered on the River Nile, political unity between the upper and lower Kingdoms under Pharaoh Menes in 3100 B.C. and the resulting centralized autocratic theocracy, which managed to maximize the existing agricultural economy.

Note:  All civilization in the history of mankind revolved around a central feature, economic activity at perceived challenge. This is true of societies even in modern times.

Question: What was Egyptian civilization a product of?

Activity: Using your  own  knowledge  of  history  or  referring  to  this  book, identify the major factors behind the Chinese, Indian, and Greek and Roman civilization.

  • Religion and Social Classes

In Ancient Egypt, all things were inseparable from religion. This made Herodotus (484 B.C. – 425 B.C.), the Greek father of History, to describe the Egyptians as extremely religious. The total number of deities was in excess of two thousand, with the Pharaoh being considered and treated as a deity on earth, or the god king. The Pharaoh ensured that the gods were worshiped and sacrifices made to them. All land belonged to the Pharaoh and there was intimate link between the religious, the economic, the social, the political, the artistic, the scientific and the technological; practices.

The Egyptian believed in physical life after death, which was considered as a kind of transient sleep. Because of this, the Egyptians developed mummification or conservation in death into a highly sophisticated science.

Egyptian society was stratified into three classes. The upper class included the royal family, the nobles and the priests. The middle classes were the professionals and scribes.  The lowest class included the fellahin  or serfs and the slaves. Egyptian priests had a very powerful position politically, socially, economically and educationally.  They both directly  and indirectly controlled the entire educational system.

Note: Herodotus description of Egyptians as extremely religious echoes Mbithi’s view that Africans are notoriously religious. Both views underline the importance of religion in African society.

Question: What are the three classes into which Egyptian society was divided?

Activity:     Using the example of ancient Egypt, discuss the role played      by religion in your own community


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