Education in the Middle Ages differed for each family in the feudal system. Children that came from wealthy lords or nobles would obviously have a higher and more expensive education than the children of peasants and serfs. Then again, many didn’t even receive one. Up until around 1066 AD, very few were educated at all- even the wealthier nobles. After some time, though, there was some importance for the wealthy to have an education. They would normally have multiple options for their children to learn. On the other hand, children of villagers still had little opportunity for an education.
Because of feudalism, people of the lower class had to work harder than the upper class to earn a living. This would take up most of their time and money, so they would normally get their children involved in learning a trade, or the family business, as soon as possible. Children of serfs would try and find work as young as 10-12 years old. If a serf worked for a lord, they would be required to ask permission to get a son educated. As far as women go, they had little to no chance of receiving an education if they were a peasant or serf. It was impossible for them to even learn to read or write.Order now
We will start off the education timeline around time of the death of Charlemagne. Around this time, there were very little organized school systems. This was still the case about a century with Gerbert of Aurillac. Gerbert began introducing and reintroducing many subjects for education. He introduced the abacus, which was used as a calculation tool. Even with this foundation for learning, very few were being educated. Children were used to learning from their elders, and not from an actual established school. After a long time with little education, monasteries began teaching children to sing and read Latin. This type of education began to spread, and eventually the students became more educated in things like the alphabet.
After this sudden spark in education, though, children started to outgrow what the monasteries were teaching. This became the cause of education growing outside church control, and the start of secular schools. Around 1382 AD, the first public school was established, and around 1500 AD, many larger towns had grammar schools. Because most children given an education were wealthier, boys normally had tutors and girls were sent to convents. In this education, boys were given knightly training, and girls learned a variety of things like sewing, working with medicine, running a household. The girl’s education was centered around working for their husbands and raising children.
Because of the student’s needs of increased subject material, universities were developed. The requirements for universities were very loose and there wasn’t really an age limit. Because the school’s subject material was much less advanced than it is today, the average age for someone entering a university was 14 years old. Prior to attending a university, students were required to at least have a background in grammar.
There were some things about universities that were surprisingly similar to today’s colleges, but there were also some big differences in certain areas. For example, in at least one school the students were primarily in control over their teachers. They could hire and fire them as they pleased, and fine them for tardiness and unanswered questions. The main reason that they were in so much control over their professors was because students would pick them themselves. The professor would be the main source information and had a responsibility to make sure the student met their requirements. One similarity to today’s universities would be that students would rent out places to stay together long-term. Of course, this relates to today’s colleges.
A typical day for students at universities were similar but still very different from school days today. Their day would begin at around 5 or 6 AM, and they gathered in a rented room, hall, or church to have class. They would stop class at around 10 to eat, and then would start back up again in the afternoon. The students were normally in bed by 8 or 9 PM. This schedule is very much the same as school schedules today but also seems a lot more lax and flexible. It also seems like they didn’t have much to do after their classes were over for the day, because they could get in bed at a reasonable time. As far as teaching methods go, students didn’t have much to learn from other than their professors. Books were scarce and hard to get a hold of, so it was hard for students to read themselves, write papers, or learn on individual time.
Students that went to a university could get certain degrees for certain things. One way to get a degree was a disputation. This was sort of like a challenge against other scholars, where professors would nominate their own students. Disputations helped a student to get their master’s or doctor’s degree. To get the equivalent of a modern day undergraduate degree, a student had to take the Seven Liberal Arts which were: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy.
At the end of the thirteenth century, a way was created to show that a student’s work had payed off. This was with oral examinations and public debates. With these final tests, you could get your Bachelor’s degree. Although there were many ways to get a degree easily, many people didn’t work very hard for one. Many people of the upper class decided to go into fighting where they wouldn’t need a degree, and lowerclassmen simply didn’t need or want a higher education.
As you can see, education has evolved greatly since the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages laid a foundation for what education is today, and introduced many educational tools that are used in our current schools. Even though we may be more fortunate now with our education and school systems, Medieval ideas and inventions helped us get here.