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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Education and Apprenticeship


The main purpose of education and apprenticeship in ancient Egypt was the training of scribes and of specialist craftsmen. The result of this profession-oriented educational system was restricted accessibility to schooling, most probably favoring male members of the Egyptian elite. Basic education offered in Egyptian local schools consisted of the teaching of language, mathematics, geography, and of other subjects appropriate for the preparation of potential scribes who were destined to work in local and national Egyptian institutions, such as the palace or the temples. The evidence for the existence of such an educational system in ancient Egypt comes mainly in the form of school exercises, schoolbooks, and references found in literary and documentary texts. There is comparatively less evidence, however, for the role of apprenticeship, which was a pedagogical method employed mainly for the training of craftsmen or for advanced and specialized education, such as that needed to become a priest. Although the main elements of pedagogy probably remained as such throughout Egyptian history, it is likely that foreign languages were taught from the New Kingdom onwards, culminating in the bilingual Egyptian-Greek education of the Ptolemaic and Roman Periods.

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