Medieval Europe

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What were the characteristics of education during Medieval times?

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In Medieval England, education was really only something that the rich had access to because education had to be paid for and peasants were not able to afford the cost. In 1066, William I conquered England, however the country he took over had very few educated people, including those who were rich and could afford it. Those who worked in the church were the most educated of the time. Since most of these people worked in monasteries and took a vow of isolation, much of their work remained with them. As it developed, Medieval England was in need of more educated people. This was particularly true of those who were merchants by trade. The important trading towns began to set up grammar schools, some were even funded by local merchants. A major part of the curriculum in these schools was Latin grammar. It was important to learn the correct grammar because Latin was the language that merchants used when trading in Europe as very few knew the language of another country but most countries still used Latin. Every lesson in the grammar schools was taught in Latin and they were taught in a way that emphasized memorization rather than an understanding of the subject. 

By the time 1500 came around the majority of the larger towns had a grammar school. These schools were very small, usually consisting of one room for all the boys and one teacher who had a religious background. The system of teaching was that the teacher would instruct the older boys and they would in turn teach the younger boys. School hours changed with the time of year, the hours being sunrise to sunset. In such schools discipline was extremely strict, anyone who made a mistake during a lesson was punished with the birch. The students who did especially well in grammar schools often sought out higher education in the form of university. During Medieval times both Oxford and Cambridge were founded.  Those who were peasants were only allowed to be educated if the lord of the manor gave permission. If they did not have permission the family could be heavily fined if it was discovered that they had their son educated any way. Only a small amount of girls were ever sent to receive an education, those of noble families were instructed at home or in the home of another noble. The base of a girl's education was how to manage a household, they might also be taught an instrument or singing.

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