Did ancient Egyptians go to school?

Home » Did ancient Egyptians go to school?
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Egyptian scribes at Egyptian schools

Egyptian schools taught people how to be scribes

Did girls go to school in ancient Egypt?

There were schools in ancient Egypt, but hardly anyone went to them. Even though Egyptian girls in general were equal to boys under the law and could inherit land, girls weren’t allowed to go to Egyptian schools at all.

(More about girls’ lives in ancient Egypt)

Whatever they learned, they had to learn at home from their mother or father or from a private tutor (usually a slave) who lived in their house. Very few girls could read or write, and only the richest ones.

A brown rectangle of papyrus with vertical lines of black hieroglyphs on it and red marks. Egyptian schools used this sort of thing as an assignment.

A model letter writing exercise; the teacher has corrected spelling mistakes in red (Middle Kingdom,ca. 1850 BC, now in Metropolitan Museum, NYC)

Well, did Egyptian boys go to school?

Most boys didn’t go to school either, but a few boys from richer families went to a special school to train boys to be scribes.

What was a scribe?

A scribe was someone who could read and write. Not very many people could read or write hieroglyphics (which was much harder than alphabet writing). So Egyptian scribes always found good jobs keeping people’s records for them.

(More about Egyptian hieroglyphics)

A quote from the Odyssey on a school wall in Upper Egypt

Decoration in Egyptian schools: A quote from the Odyssey on a school wall in Upper Egypt

Professional scribes worked like modern lawyers or accountants, helping richer men keep track of their businesses and contracts.

(More about the economy of ancient Egypt)

Many of them worked for the government figuring out budgets and taxes. So Egyptian schools also had to teach students to be good at math.

(More about Egyptian mathematics)

How old were Egyptian kids when they went to school?

If you were going to be a scribe, you started school at four and went to school until you were about fifteen.

The school room with the decorated walls

The Egyptian school room with the decorated walls

What did Egyptian schools look like?

Ancient Egyptian schools looked a lot like modern schools, with benches for the children and a big chair for the teacher.

The walls of this mud-brick classroom from the Hellenistic period were plastered and decorated with quotes from the Odyssey about behaving and working hard.

Men working in a butcher shop (ca. 2300 BC),now in the Oriental Institute, Chicago

Men working in a butcher shop (ca. 2300 BC),now in the Oriental Institute, Chicago

Of course kids learned many things, even though most of them were unschooled.

Unschooling in ancient Egypt

Girls learned how to take care of babies, and how to spin, and how to weed the fields, and how to take care of goats and cows, and how to harvest and grind grain.

Woman grinding grain (Old Kingdom, ca. 2400 BC) Now in Florence, Italy

Woman grinding grain (Old Kingdom, ca. 2400 BC) Now in Florence, Italy

Boys learned how to plow and plant fields, and how to irrigate, and how to make tools.

Some boys learned how to be butchers or shoemakers or weavers or fishermen or many other jobs like that.

Did Egyptians go to college?

Yes, there were universities in ancient Egypt, where you could go to learn more advanced material. Egypt was famous for its medical research and its astronomers and mathematicians, right through the Greek and Roman periods, and through most of the Middle Ages.

(More about Egyptian universities)

Looking for a second source to cite? Check out this excellent article from Ancient Egypt Online!

Learn by doing: hieroglyphics
More about hieroglyphics
Egyptian universities

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian schools:

Egyptian hieroglyphics
More about ancient Egypt
Quatr.us home

By |2018-05-19T10:16:24+00:00June 18th, 2017|Africa, Egypt|12 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Did ancient Egyptians go to school?. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 18, 2017. Web. November 16, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

12 Comments

  1. tashi addison May 19, 2018 at 6:00 am - Reply

    Ancient spanned thousand of years and this how can you sum this up as yes or no answers?

    • Karen Carr May 19, 2018 at 11:15 am

      Yes, there were details that changed over that time, but for the things mentioned in this article, they were true throughout the ancient period. The introduction of the alphabet, for example, in the Greek period, made it a lot easier to learn to read and write, and more kids started going to school. I might break this into two articles, one before and one after that.

  2. Ashlyn April 19, 2018 at 8:48 am - Reply

    this helped a lot for my school project thxs

    • Karen Carr April 19, 2018 at 9:15 am

      You’re welcome, Ashlyn! I hope your project turns out great!

  3. Daniel April 14, 2018 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Im doing an ancient egypt project for school and this helped a lot, thank you!

    • Karen Carr April 15, 2018 at 12:10 am

      I’m happy to hear it, Daniel! Hope your project turns out great!

  4. aaniyah March 20, 2018 at 11:38 am - Reply

    what r u doing heyyyy

  5. Anna February 27, 2018 at 11:34 am - Reply

    I think Ancient Egypt is cool

    • Karen Carr February 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      So do I! I hope you’ll keep on reading more about it.

  6. That.Egypt.Girl February 26, 2018 at 11:36 am - Reply

    did pharaohs go to school?

    • Karen Carr February 26, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      Yes, actually they may have. I’m not sure whether they had regular school with other kids, or were homeschooled by a tutor, but I know for sure they had swimming lessons with other children, because a rich Egyptian boasted on the walls of his tomb that when he was a child, he had swimming lessons with the Pharaoh. Probably any schooling or lessons were inside the palace grounds, for security reasons.

  7. jeff January 16, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

    hi

Leave A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.