9.1 History of Education: Can you provide a description of how education was organized during the medieval period?

Chapter  9


9a i). Provide a description of Education during the medieval period

  1. Introduction

In the last chapter, we explained how indebted the human civilization is to the Hebrews in terms of monotheism, the Ten Commandments and the Bible. We also described how, through fusion with Christian education, Hebraic educational theory and practice spread and affected western education.

2.  Objectives

By the end of this lecture we should be able to:

  • explain the forces that contributed to the rise universities in Europe;
  • describe the structure, organization, methods of teaching and types of universities;
  • discuss university degrees during the medieval times and point to the influence of medieval

3.  Content

  • Medieval Education and

The ancient world may fairly be said to have had their universities, institutions in which all the learning of the time was imparted. Such institutions existed in Alexandria, Athens, Constantinople and later Beirut, Bordeaux, Lyons, and Odessa. But the growth of Christian supernaturalism and mysticism, as well as barbarian inroads from the north and south had put an end to most of these by A.D. 800. After A.D. 800 eastern Moslems founded universities in Baghdad, Cairo and Basra, bit these came to an end early in the 12th century. Then there arose in Spain at Cordova, Toledo and Seville, the universities of western Moslem, lasting to the end of the thirteenth century, when they were suppressed by orthodox fanatism. The Moslem universities may, therefore, be said to be parents of the Christian universities.

  • Medieval education and the Rise of Universities

The Middle Ages are also referred to as the ‘Dark ages’. The early Middle Ages lasted from the sixth to the eleventh centuries. European universities can be said to have come into existence in the late Middle Ages: from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries. They are therefore a feature of the comparative peace that ensued when the northern men, the last migratory Teutons, accepted a settled life in the tenth and eleventh centuries. In the resulting quest for universal knowledge, the need arose for higher education, for dialectic discussions, and for intellectual interests. Therefore a number of upper cathedral and monastic schools came into prominence. The most important of these was at Paris under William of Chapeaux and Abelard. These schools were later to be known as universities. The essential elements of early universities were students and teachers. They found their models in the universities of Spain.

  • The Forces Behind the Rise of Universities

Many influences combined to produce the universities. Universities did not originate under exactly similar conditions. Among the forces or influences that produced universities were the following.

  • The Moslem Influence

The Moslem religious conquests, ‘jihads’ or ‘holy wars’ had reached Spain by A.D. 900, giving Spain a civilization and intellectual life. The Moslem had come into contact with Greek civilization and learning in Syria, clothing their faith in Greek forms. The Nestorian Christians had collaborated with them. They had also mathematical and astronomical knowledge from Hindu sources and brought them to Spain. By A.D. 1000, European monks were attracted to this training because of its superiority to the western equivalent, though like the clerics they regarded Moslem learning as being dangerous. Spain thus reflected ancient Rome at this time. In the Moslem – established universities of Cordoba, Toledo and Seville, physics, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, physiology and Greek philosophy were taught. The Moslem translated Greek classics into Arabic, cultivated high standards of learning and were tolerant when it came to new ideas. The outstanding scientific work of the time Avicenna’a (980 1037) Canon of Medicine. Roger Bacon (1214 – 1294) owed a major debt to Moslem mathematicians, physicists, and chemists.

  • The Development of Scholasticism

Scholasticism was a feature of educational developments in Europe from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. The scholastic method consisted in citing all known authorities on both sides of a given question, drawing an orthodox conclusion and then by a variety of distinctions and devices showing how each authority may be reconciled. It was the explication of what was implicit in mysticism: a reaction from the ‘otherworldliness’ which had led the Church to withdraw from the ways of the world, becoming pre-occupied instead with the world to come. Bernard (d1153) was the prince of mystics. Scholasticism was a systemization of speculation and faith by the rigid application of Aristotelian logic to philosophical and theological questions of the middle ages. Aristotle was rediscovered and his teachings were strong mean to the scholars of the Middle Ages and had to be broken down into its essentials to be assimilable. For Aristotle ideas were only names, reality consisting only of concrete individual objects.

Scholasticism was, therefore, necessary in order, first, to correct the mystical tendencies of the orient, the mere contemplation which had been introduced in Europe and was sapping the energies of the Europeans, withdrawing the best brains from the life of the whorl; secondly, to put Europe in possession of rational thought of the ancient world; thirdly, to save Europe from moral suicide and ignorance, paving the way through  the logical method for modern research and science; and finally, to compel Christendom to rouse itself and state its position as definitely opposed to Islam, with systematic body of doctrine distinctive from Islam. Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) was the most important of the Scholastics. He tried to combine Aristotelian thought with Christian tradition.

  • The Growth of Cities and Wealth

The development of commercial enterprises and municipal government stimulated secular interests and learning more than ever before, and the new intellectual interests hasten the development of universities. The growth of secular interests prompted educational specialization and in time European universities began to offer studies in four faculties, arts, consisting of seven liberal arts-grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music, law, medicine and theology. Not all medieval universities offered studies in all four faculties. Some instead specialized in one area: Salerno founded in 1224 in the study of medicine, Bologna (1158) in the study of law, Paris (1180) in the study of theology. By 1500 there were seventy-nine universities in Europe.

  • Kings and Universities

The founding of universities was encouraged by definite privileges in the form of charters; these were written documents from the Pope or Emperor giving the university full recognition as a distinct body. The first charter was given by Emperor Fredrick I to Bologna in 1158. University privileges and exemptions included: the right of internal jurisdiction,  based on their inbuilt sense of maturity; the right to confer a degree or licence to teach; exemption from taxation and contribution; exemption, partly or wholly from military service; clerical status for their scholars,  who wore clerical dress, as in orders, though they might not be ordained; and the right to strike, or move the university, consisting as it did of students and teachers only, if its privileges were infringed. The scholars of Oxford, therefore, migrated from Paris and those who founded Cambridge moved there from Oxford.

  • Types of Universities in Europe

These forces thus combined in various proportions. Each university had its own characteristics. In France and England universities were outgrowths of the Church. Thus, the University of Paris came to be known for its dialectic and scholastic pursuits. In southern Italy, universities came into being or were influenced by contacts with the Saracens, Normans, and Greeks, leading to the study and practice of medicine by the University of Salerno. In northern Italy, a struggle with the German Emperor for its right led to great interest in Roman and Canon Law at Bologna, the first organized university.

Medieval universities were organized around teachings faculties and student population. They were organized like guilds, for no individual then was sure of his rights, even of life and property, unless these were protected by specific guarantees secured from some organization. The same therefore applied to groups of students, or teachers, which recognized as distinct bodies. Thus the term university meant a corporate body of persons.

Being heterogeneous masses of students, drawn from all over Europe, language and kinship constituted the most natural division in the universities. Students and masters were therefore organized in groups according to their national affiliations. It was to these nations that charters containing privileges were granted.

The masters were organized into faculties, (faculty means a kind of ‘knowledge’). These were to regulate studies and methods. In time the name ‘faculty’ applied to a department of study, like the faculty of law, theology or arts. Later, ‘faculty’ came to refer to a body of men in control of a Department of Study. This body of men later gained control of granting degrees.

Medieval universities used methods of teaching based on the formal lecture, which would be memorized by the students. Lectures involved reading and explaining the required texts. Students then debated the relevant points with each other, and sometimes the students and masters held public disputations. Latin was the language used for lectures.

The examination for the award of degree was strict. After three to seven years at university, the student had to defend a thesis before the members of the faculty. For the doctor’s degree, the examination frequently lasted a week or more. The examinations were oral and tested the ability to defend and dispute. If the candidates passed, they would become masters, doctors or professors, since these were synonymous in the early university period. All these signified that a student was able to defend, dispute and determine a case, and so was authorized to teach publicly; all such students were admitted to a guild of masters or teachers, or faculty, a level of parity with its other members.

The preliminary degree, the baccalaureate, or bachelors was a term signifying a beginner in any field or organization and was formal admission as s candidate for the license. Initially, it was not a degree by itself, but in the fifteenth century, it became a distinct stage in the educational process, defined as a minor degree. The masters of doctorate merely indicated two aspects of the final conferment of the privilege: the master was a more private and professional test and the doctorate was public and ceremonial. In due course ‘master’ was preferred in England and ‘doctorate’ on the continent. The development of three successive degrees was, therefore, a result of slow historical growth and not a feature of the medieval university.

  • Influence of University Training

Universities like Paris, Bologna, Salerno and Salamanca (1230) provided more advanced instructions than ever previously offered in Europe. Culturally and socially their effects were considerable, helping to accelerate the pace of social progress and hastening the end of the medieval epoch. Before the universities arose, educational ideals were the function of exhaustively constructed worldview that was dominated by religious interests, and schools existed largely to train the clergy.

  • Political Influence

Unlike the monastic, conventual’s and cathedral schools, the universities were usually located in centers of population rather than in remote spots. Also, unlike the religious institutions, they were democratic in nature, so that politically, ecclesiastically and theologically they were a bulwark of freedom, given their legal privileges. They preserved freedom of opinion and expression, the monarchs respected the scholars’ opposing views and there were rare instances of violation of student privileges. Even monarchs like Henry VIII and Philip of France appealed to universities for arbitration in their divorce cases, which raised critical doctrinal matters of the time.

  • Intellectual Influence

Although medieval times were static educationally, because of barbaric conquests, and although universities were restricted, formalized and meager, their greatest influence was in crystallizing intellectual interests and making libraries and teachers more accessible than the religious institutions did. They provided a retreat for the rare geniuses  such as Bacon (1214 – 1294), Dante (1265 – 1321), Petrarch (1304 – 1374),

Wycliffe (1324 – 1384), Huss (burned 1415) and Copericus (1473 – 1543)

4.  Summary

In this lecture, we have explored the various reasons that contributed to the rise of universities in Europe during medieval times, mentioned the type of Europeans universities, and seen their structure and organization. We pointed to their methods of teaching and degrees and discussed the value and influence of universities training in the middle ages.

5. Activities.

  1. write notes on the main factors that contributed to the development of universities during the medieval
  2. ‘The university is one of the most important contributions of medieval period to modern education’.
  3. discuss this statement with special reference to the factors that led to the rise of medieval universities and their impact on modern

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