Who Created School?

created-school Credit: WilliamSherman/E+/Getty Images

The earliest forms of education emerged in the cultures of the Middle East, including Egypt, Mesopotamia and Babylonia. Although it's impossible to designate a specific individual or even culture as the creator of school, the concept of education developed along with the concept of writing, which had emerged by 3100 B.C. or earlier.

As humans transitioned to agricultural, increasingly complex societies, writing developed to record increasing amounts of information. Along with this increase in knowledge came the idea that it should be passed down through generations. Early forms of writing, such as cuneiform, were extremely complex and took years to learn. These forms of writing were typically practiced by scribes, who were among the only individuals to be trained in reading and writing.

Only a tiny fraction of the population was allowed the luxury of formal learning and schooling. The privilege of writing was afforded only to the wealthy elite, including royalty and the children of physicians, temple administrators and scribes. As these civilizations developed, education became more accessible. Most Babylonian towns had public libraries, and the population of scribes flourished. Women as well as men were taught to read and write in Babylonian society. Of all the ancient Middle Eastern cultures, the Jews were the most adamant about public education, regardless of class. They opened elementary schools where boys aged 6 to 13 could learn reading, writing and math.