Since the dawn of man, people have been educating younger generations in essential knowledge and skills. The history of education is extensive and rich, dating back thousands upon thousands of years – arguably to the origination of man. Both ancient civilizations and modern-day communities have unique and effective teaching styles, though the learning of today is significantly more complex than those of a thousand years ago.
Before the invention of writing, education was passed through speech, from one person to another. Legends, songs and even religious rituals were often used to communicate essential information between generations. Education at this point was strictly oral and acquired by means of memorization. With the invention of writing, education began to change. Ancient civilizations, like those in Egypt, began forming writing systems with pictorial elements. Ancient Chinese, Greek, Hebrew and Mesoamerican scripts appeared as well.
With the invention of writing came the preservation of information, which introduced writing implements, alphabets, paper and the written word into education. Literacy became extremely important, though the literacy rate in different countries varied (sometimes, literacy rates were shocking low – as low as 1%). Essential skills, such as hunting or crafting, were also taught. For the most part, education revolved around preparing the next generation for a future career; apprenticeships were common, and only educated elite was capable of extensively studying writing, literature, mathematics, astronomy and other ‘higher’ arts. Private schools and other learning institutions gained more and more popularity into the height of Greek and Roman civilizations, which taught similar subjects for a fee.
By the Middle Ages, education became mixed with religion. The teaching of Latin and the Bible was especially important; once again, however, only lucky elite was able to extensively study, mainly at monasteries, mosques, temples or medieval universities. China had, during the medieval ages, one of the most accessible education systems. They focused on teaching the language along with Chinese literature. Mesoamerican civilizations, however, supported widespread education even more so than China – even though higher classes typically received better education. They focused on the same general Main topics regardless of location: writing, language, astronomy, religion, history and science (such as medicine).
After the Middle Ages and the flowering of knowledge and art during the Renaissance, education began to change again. Soon, elementary schools were established for younger learning, and education began to move slowly away from its dependency on religion. Laws began to pass that required a certain amount of education to all citizens, regardless of class or socioeconomic status. This was the first time governments began significantly involved in civilian education. From here, public schools, private schools, universities and multiple educational institutions were established for general learning in math, language, reading, science, social studies and other subjects.