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Education in ancient times

By Calvin Odhiambo | January 11th 2015

Last Sunday's topic revealed the possibility of 2015 world's calendar being a recurrence of the past. That is not to say, however, that everything happens exactly as it did tin the past. Take education, for instance. Today's education system is very different from that of ancient times. But just how different was it?

Today's education follows curricula that equip the mental ability of learners. To supplement these are extra-curricular activities that nurture the learner's talents and abilities.

Most children in ancient Africa, however, did not go to formal schools. Instead, many youths acquired skills by apprenticeship. Boys and girls were taught separately to help prepare each sex for their adult roles. Boys, for instance, learnt farming or other trades from their fathers while girls learnt cooking, pottery, and similar skills from their mothers.

Children also received informal education on matters such as artistic performances, ceremonies, rituals, games, festivals, dancing, singing, and drawing. Every member of the community contributed to the education of the child. The high point of the African educational experience was the ritual passage from childhood to adulthood.

Only a few nations, such as ancient Egypt, had a semblance of present-day education. Still, only children from wealthy families could afford tutors who taught them how to read, write and perform mathematical calculations.
In ancient Greece, education was private affair and parents decided on the curriculum. Since girls didn't attend school, the boys underwent training in literacy as well as poetry, music, and gymnastics.

Just like in Africa, in ancient China, most children toiled away in fields, planting rice or millet, weeding vegetables or feeding chickens. But if you were a boy, and your father could spare you from the fields, he would send you to school. Boys worked very hard in school because school prepared one to take government tests, and whoever scored highest could get a good job in the Chinese government.

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