In ancient Egypt, boys from wealthy families started school at the age of four. Before a child started his first year of school, his father decided what his son's occupation would be in the future. Egyptians were very practical, so kids at schools were taught only the subjects that would be useful in their career. The only boys who were taught mathematics were the ones that were going to be tax collectors.The ability to read and write was considered a very important skill because if you could read and write you could have a well paid job, and respect of your fellow countrymen.
It took Egyptian boys several years of hard work to learn to read and write. Egyptian writing is called hieroglyphics. It was developed around 3100 B.C. and consists of over 700 signs. Usually words were written from right to left, but sometimes scripts were also written from left to right, top to bottom, and bottom to top.
Boys had lessons at the school master's house. They walked there early in the morning carrying a basket with bread cakes and two jugs of beer that their mothers had prepared for lunch. They were dismissed at noon. The lessons consisted of memorization and copying parts of old scripts. The students sat on the floor at their teacher's feet with their legs crossed. The teacher would assign a piece of script from papyrus for his students to copy. Since papyrus was too expensive to write on, the school master gave the students white, polished limestone. They wrote with reed brushes dipped in black or red ink. The ink, which was made of water and soot, was held on a pallet. The boys dipped the brushes into the ink, and wrote about ten signs until they needed more ink. Then they dunked the brushes into the water cup and dipped them into the ink again. It's exactly how we use water color paints. The writing kit that you see in the picture was called a scribe. It consisted of a brush holder, a water cup and a pallet. Egyptians used a picture of a scribe as a hieroglyph which meant "to write". Can you find this hieroglyph in the picture below?.If you look closely, it's the third hieroglyph on the top, from the right!
The school master had total control over the pupils. The students were expected to work as hard as they could,and were often beaten on their backs with a rod for talking, being sleepy, slow or lazy.