7.2 History of Education: Do you know the premise and system of Hebraic education?



7 a ii). Explain the premise and system of Hebraic education


Hebraic Education

Judaism, the Jewish religion, is one of the oldest religions in modern times.  Despite the trials and tribulations, the Jews have underground,  their national and religious heritage has withstood the test of time. They have developed a solid national consciousness and vehemently shunned paganism, magic, and superstition, always doing the will of Yahweh.

Due to the Jewish practice of and devotion to Monotheism, their life centered on man’s relations with Yahweh, undivided faith to Him, and man’s moral uprightness.  Their single-mindedness pursuit of this mode of life left no time and place for any meaningful progress in the theory and practice of politics, arts, science, and technology.

Education was aimed at character building, to produce ethical individuals with a strong sense of being Jewish, a holy and chosen people who were pure and uncompromising with gentile, Semitic or non-Jewish culture. Morality, religion and national consciousness (patriotism) were seen as one and the same thing.

Their education was vocationally and practically oriented to produce young people oriented to produce young people who could meet the society’s economic needs. The girls were taught domestic duties, while the boys were trained in crafts, trade, and other professions. The young were instilled with deep respect for the dignity of labor,  which was considered vital to the development of upright human character. To illustrate the high respect for labour, the prominent Jewish personalities were also artisans; Jesus was a carpenter, Saul of Tarsus a tent-maker, Peter a fisherman, etc.

In the beginning during the Biblical era, there were no formal, organized schools. Learning was home-based and centered on domestic, moral and oral traditions. Later, when schools emerged they did not replace but rather supplemented the family as an agent for education.

Synagogue emerged during the exile period to become the cornerstone for the transmission and survival of Judaism, learning and worship.

Although some form of organized places of learning were in existence  as early as the Sixth century B.C., institutionalised school among the Jews emerged distinctly in the post-exile era between 539 B.C. and A.D. 70. Three types of schools developed.

  • ‘House of Books’ or Beth-hasopher located in the Synagogue. This emphasized elementary instruction in basic
  • The Bethhamidrash or “House of Exposition” which was a kind of secondary school, which taught oral traditions and laws,
  • Rabbinical schools which provided higher education, where “masters” or scribes taught the Talmud (commentaries and interpretations of oral law and traditions).

Education for literacy was only available for boys initially, with that for

girls coming at a later date. Compulsory elementary education was introduced by Joshua ben Gamala, a high priest, in A.D. 64. Each Synagogue, town and province was supposed to start and support  a  school, otherwise it would be excommunicated.


Thus the Jews were the first old era people to institute and demand formal schooling for all. This enabled their heritage to be recorded and conserved through history. This was to reinforce  their  rich  historical roots, which gave them a deep sense of a divinely given mission.

Note: The central role played by religion in Hebraic education, with religion being dominant in the curriculum at all levels.

Question: What are the three types of education  institutions  that developed in the post-exile era?

Activity: Using any literature available to you, give examples of Jewish personalities who were artisans to illustrate the deep respect the Jews had for the dignity of labour.


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