The ability to read and write was important in ancient Egypt because literacy commanded both paid jobs and respect of fellow beings. But it does not mean that Egypt was a highly literate society. Only a few people were educated. The practical people of Egypt taught their children only those subjects which would be useful in their future.


During the Old Kingdom, there is no evidence that any formal Ancient Egyptian Schools existed, except perhaps at court. Princes taught younger princes, and favored youths were tutored with the king’s own children.

During the New Kingdom, there were at least two Ancient Egyptian Schools in Thebes, one in the Mut Temple, the other at the back of the Ramesseum. There may have been a third near the Valley of Deir el-Medina, where the children of workmen were taught. There was no set length for schooling.

Hieroglyphics is the Egyptian writing which was developed around 3100 BC. It was harder than our common alphabet system. Scribes were the few literate people who knew to read and write. They knew hieroglyphics.

Schools run by them were called scribe schools. Boys belonging to wealthy families were sent to scribe schools and were trained to become scribes. There were prince’s schools to train young princes.

It is unfortunate that girls were not allowed to go to schools. They were to learn from home taught by their mother or father or a private tutor. Otherwise, they were taught household work, singing, dancing, weaving, cooking etc. Only boys could go to schools and learn. Very few girls could read or write, and only the richest ones.

Boys went to school master’s house for learning. They walked to their destination early in the morning carrying the food prepared from home. They were dismissed at noon. Memorisation and copying ancient scripts were the main lessons to be learned. As papyrus was too expensive, the schoolmaster sometimes 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.

The children of farmers and fishermen had an even less formal education. They learned how to sow, glean, and harvest, tending poultry and cattle, make nets and catch and prepare fish. Children were often included in scenes of harvesting, fishing, or caring for cattle.