The history of education according to Dieter Lenzen, president of the Freie Universität Berlin 1994, "began either millions of years ago or at the end of 1770". Education as a science cannot be separated from the educational traditions that existed before. Adults trained the young of their society in the knowledge and skills they would need to master and eventually pass on. The evolution of culture, and human beings as a species depended on this practice of transmitting knowledge. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally and through imitation. Story-telling continued from one generation to the next. Oral language developed into written symbols and letters. The depth and breadth of knowledge that could be preserved and passed soon increased exponentially. When cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond the basic skills of communicating, trading, gathering food, religious practices, etc., formal education, and schooling, eventually followed. Schooling in this sense was already in place in Egypt between 3000 and 500BC.
The first large established university is thought to be Nalanda established in 427 A.D in India. At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Greece, and Persia. The first university establishments in the western world are thought to be University of Bologna (founded in 1088) and later Oxford university (founded around 1096).
In the West, Ancient Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BC. Plato was the Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician and writer of philosophical dialogues who founded the Academy in Athens which was the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Inspired by the admonition of his mentor, Socrates, prior to his unjust execution that "the unexamined life is not worth living", Plato and his student, the political scientist Aristotle, helped lay the foundations of Western philosophy and science.
The city of Alexandria in Egypt was founded in 330BC, became the successor to Athens as the intellectual cradle of the Western World. The city hosted such leading lights as the mathematician Euclid and anatomist Herophilus; constructed the great Library of Alexandria; and translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek (called the Septuagint for it was the work of 70 translators). Greek civilization was subsumed within the Roman Empire. While the Roman Empire and its new Christian religion survived in an increasingly Hellenised form in the Byzantine Empire centered at Constantinople in the East, Western civilization suffered a collapse of literacy and organization following the fall of Rome in AD 476.
In the East, Confucius (551-479), of the State of Lu, was China's most influential ancient philosopher, whose educational outlook continues to influence the societies of China and neighbours like Korea, Japan and Vietnam. He gathered disciples and searched in vain for a ruler who would adopt his ideals for good governance, but his Analects were written down by followers and have continued to influence education in the East into the modern era.
In Western Europe after the Fall of Rome, the Catholic Church emerged as the unifying force. Initially the sole preserver of literate scholarship in Western Europe, the church established Cathedral schools in the Early Middle Ages as centers of advanced education. Some of these ultimately evolved into medieval universities and forebears of many of Europe's modern universities. During the High Middle Ages, Chartres Cathedral operated the famous and influential Chartres Cathedral School. The medieval universities of Western Christendom were well-integrated across all of Western Europe, encouraged freedom of enquiry and produced a great variety of fine scholars and natural philosophers, including Thomas Aquinas of the University of Naples, Robert Grosseteste of the University of Oxford, an early expositor of a systematic method of scientific experimentation; and Saint Albert the Great, a pioneer of biological field research The University of Bologne is considered the oldest continually operating university.
Elsewhere during the Middle Ages, Islamic science and mathematics flourished under the Islamic caliphate established across the Middle East, extending from the Iberian Peninsula in the west to the Indus in the east and to the Almoravid Dynasty and Mali Empire in the south.
The Renaissance in Europe ushered in a new age of scientific and intellectual inquiry and appreciation of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations. Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg developed a printing press, which allowed works of literature to spread more quickly. The European Age of Empires saw European ideas of education in philosophy, religion, arts and sciences spread out across the globe. Missionaries and scholars also brought back new ideas from other civilisations — as with the Jesuit China missions who played a significant role in the transmission of knowledge, science, and culture between China and the West, translating Western works like Euclids Elements for Chinese scholars and the thoughts of Confucius for Western audiences. The Enlightenment saw the emergence of a more secular educational outlook in the West.
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