Access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala

19th October 2018OffByRiseNews

The importance of education is emphasized by society. However, the role of improved schooling, a central part of most development strategies, has become controversial because expansion of school attainment has not guaranteed improved economic conditions. This paper reviews the role of education in promoting economic well-being, with access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala particular focus on the role of educational quality. Read this paper on the importance of education here.

Education can be thought of as the transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society. In this sense, it is equivalent to what social scientists term socialization or enculturation. Children—whether conceived among New Guinea tribespeople, the Renaissance Florentines, or the middle classes of Manhattan—are born without culture. As society becomes ever more complex and schools become ever more institutionalized, educational experience becomes less directly related to daily life, less a matter of showing and learning in the context of the workaday world, and more abstracted from practice, more a matter of distilling, telling, and learning things out of context. This article discusses the history of education, tracing the evolution of the formal teaching of knowledge and skills from prehistoric and ancient times to the present, and considering the various philosophies that have inspired the resulting systems.

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Other aspects of education are treated in a number of articles. The term education can be applied to primitive cultures only in the sense of enculturation, which is the process of cultural transmission. A primitive person, whose culture is the totality of his universe, has a relatively fixed sense of cultural continuity and timelessness. The model of life is relatively static and absolute, and it is transmitted from one generation to another with little deviation. The purpose of primitive education is thus to guide children to becoming good members of their tribe or band. There is a marked emphasis upon training for citizenship, because primitive people are highly concerned with the growth of individuals as tribal members and the thorough comprehension of their way of life during passage from prepuberty to postpuberty. Because of the variety in the countless thousands of primitive cultures, it is difficult to describe any standard and uniform characteristics of prepuberty education.

Nevertheless, certain things are practiced commonly within cultures. Children actually participate in the social processes of adult activities, and their participatory learning is based upon what the American anthropologist Margaret Mead called empathy, identification, and imitation. In contrast to the spontaneous and rather unregulated imitations in prepuberty education, postpuberty education in some cultures is strictly standardized and regulated. The teaching personnel may consist of fully initiated men, often unknown to the initiate though they are his relatives in other clans. The initiation may begin with the initiate being abruptly separated from his familial group and sent to a secluded camp where he joins other initiates. Instead, it consists of a whole set of cultural values, tribal religion, myths, philosophy, history, rituals, and other knowledge. Primitive people in some cultures regard the body of knowledge constituting the initiation curriculum as most essential to their tribal membership.

Within this essential curriculum, religious instruction takes the most prominent place. The history of civilization started in the Middle East about 3000 bce, whereas the North China civilization began about a millennium and a half later. Although these civilizations differed, they shared monumental literary achievements. The need for the perpetuation of these highly developed civilizations made writing and formal education indispensable. Egyptian culture and education were preserved and controlled chiefly by the priests, a powerful intellectual elite in the Egyptian theocracy who also served as the political bulwarks by preventing cultural diversity. The humanities as well as such practical subjects as science, medicine, mathematics, and geometry were in the hands of the priests, who taught in formal schools.

Egyptians developed two types of formal schools for privileged youth under the supervision of governmental officials and priests: one for scribes and the other for priest trainees. At the age of 5, pupils entered the writing school and continued their studies in reading and writing until the age of 16 or 17. At the age of 13 or 14 the schoolboys were also given practical training in offices for which they were being prepared. Rigid method and severe discipline were applied to achieve uniformity in cultural transmission, since deviation from the traditional pattern of thought was strictly prohibited.

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Drill and memorization were the typical methods employed. But, as noted, Egyptians also used a work-study method in the final phase of the training for scribes. As a civilization contemporary with Egyptian civilization, Mesopotamia developed education quite similar to that of its counterpart with respect to its purpose and training. Formal education was practical and aimed to train scribes and priests. It was extended from basic reading, writing, and religion to higher learning in law, medicine, and astrology. Generally, youth of the upper classes were prepared to become scribes, who ranged from copyists to librarians and teachers.

As in the case of Egypt, the priests in Mesopotamia dominated the intellectual and educational domain as well as the applied. The centre of intellectual activity and training was the library, which was usually housed in a temple under the supervision of influential priests. Methods of teaching and learning were memorization, oral repetition, copying models, and individual instruction. In North China, the civilization of which began with the emergence of the Shang era, complex educational practices were in effect at a very early date. In fact, every important foundation of the formation of modern Chinese character was already established, to a great extent, more than 3,000 years ago. Chinese ancient formal education was distinguished by its markedly secular and moral character.

Its paramount purpose was to develop a sense of moral sensitivity and duty toward people and the state. Even in the early civilizational stage, harmonious human relations, rituals, and music formed the curriculum. Formal colleges and schools probably antedate the Zhou dynasty of the 1st millennium bce, at least in the imperial capitals. Local states probably had less-organized institutions, such as halls of study, village schools, and district schools. With regard to actual methods of education, ancient Chinese learned from bamboo books and obtained moral training and practice in rituals by word of mouth and example. The outstanding cultural achievements of the pre-Columbian civilizations are often compared with those of Old World civilizations.

Access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala

The ancient Mayan calendar, which surpassed Europe’s Julian calendar in accuracy, was, for example, a great accomplishment demonstrating the extraordinary degree of knowledge of astronomy and mathematics possessed by the Maya. Being a highly religious culture, the Maya regarded the priesthood as one of the most influential factors in the development of their society. The priest enjoyed high prestige by virtue of his extensive knowledge, literate skills, and religious and moral leadership, and high priests served as major advisers of the rulers and the nobility. Character training was one of the salient features of Mayan education.

The inculcation of self-restraint, cooperative work, and moderation was highly emphasized in various stages of socialization as well as on various occasions of religious festivals. In order to develop self-discipline, the future priest endured a long period of continence and abstinence and, to develop a sense of loyalty to community, he engaged in group labour. Among the Aztecs, cultural preservation relied heavily upon oral transmission and rote memorization of important events, calendrical information, and religious knowledge. Priests and noble elders, who were called conservators, were in charge of education. Since one of the important responsibilities of the conservator was to censor new poems and songs, he took the greatest care in teaching poetry, particularly divine songs. At the calmecac, the school for native learning where apprenticeship started at the age of 10, the history of Mexico and the content of the historical codices were systematically taught. The calmecac played the most vital role in ensuring oral transmission of history through oratory, poetry, and music, which were employed to make accurate memorization of events easier and to galvanize remembrance.

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The Incas did not possess a written or recorded language as far as is known. Like the Aztecs, they also depended largely on oral transmission as a means of maintaining the preservation of their culture. Inca education was divided into two distinct categories: vocational education for common Incas and highly formalized training for the nobility. Education for the nobility consisted of a four-year program that was clearly defined in terms of the curricula and rituals. In the first year the pupils learned Quechua, the language of the nobility. The second year was devoted to the study of religion and the third year to learning about the quipus, a complex system of knotted coloured strings or cords used for sending messages and recording historical events. India is the site of one of the most ancient civilizations in the world.

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The Indo-European-speaking peoples who entered India in the 2nd millennium bce established large-scale settlements and founded powerful kingdoms. Religion was the mainspring of all activities in ancient India. It was of an all-absorbing interest and embraced not only prayer and worship but also philosophy, morality, law, and government as well. Religion saturated educational ideals too, and the study of Vedic literature was indispensable to higher castes.

The stages of instruction were very well defined. During the first period, the child received elementary education at home. The character of education, however, differed according to the needs of the caste. For a child of the priestly class, there was a definite syllabus of studies. The trayi-vidya, or the knowledge of the three Vedas—the most ancient of Hindu scriptures—was obligatory for him. The period of studentship normally extended to 12 years. For those who wanted to continue their studies, there was no age limit.

The method of instruction differed according to the nature of the subject. The first duty of the student was to memorize the particular Veda of his school, with special emphasis placed on correct pronunciation. In the study of such literary subjects as law, logic, rituals, and prosody, comprehension played a very important role. A third method was the use of parables, which were employed in the personal spiritual teaching relating to the Upanishads, or conclusion of the Vedas.

Access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala

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By about the end of the 6th century bce, the Vedic rituals and sacrifices had gradually developed into a highly elaborate cult that profited the priests but antagonized an increasing section of the people. Education became generally confined to the Brahmans, and the upanayana was being gradually discarded by the non-Brahmans. The formalism and exclusiveness of the Brahmanic system was largely responsible for the rise of two new religious orders, Buddhism and Jainism. Meanwhile, significant developments were taking place in the political field that had repercussions on education.

The establishment of the imperialistic Nanda dynasty about 413 bce and then of the even stronger Mauryas some 40 years later shook the very foundations of the Vedic structure of life, culture, and polity. In the 3rd century bce Buddhism received a great impetus under India’s most celebrated ruler, Ashoka. After his death, Buddhism evoked resistance, and a counterreformation in Hinduism began in the country. About the 1st century ce there was also a widespread lay movement among both Buddhists and Hindus. The 500 years from the 4th century ce to the close of the 8th, under the Guptas and Harsha and their successors, is a remarkable period in Indian history.

It was the age of the universities of Nalanda and Valabhi and of the rise of Indian sciences, mathematics, and astronomy. The university at Nalanda housed a population of several thousand teachers and students, who were maintained out of the revenues from more than 100 villages. These were the main developments in education prior to the Muslim invasions, beginning in the 10th century. Nearly every village had its schoolmaster, who was supported from local contributions.

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The Hindu schools of learning, known as pathasalas in western India and tol in Bengal, were conducted by Brahman acaryas at their residence. Each imparted instruction in an advanced branch of learning and had a student enrollment of not more than 30. An account of Indian education during the ancient period would be incomplete without a discussion of the influence of Indian culture on Sri Lanka and Central and Southeast Asia. It was achieved partly through cultural or trade relations and partly through political influence. Khotan, in Central Asia, had a famous Buddhist vihara as early as the 1st century ce. A number of Indian scholars lived there, and many Chinese pilgrims remained there instead of going to India. The process of Indianization was at its highest in Southeast Asia.

Beginning in the 2nd century ce, Hindu rulers reigned in Indochina and in the numerous islands of the East Indian archipelago from Sumatra to New Guinea for a period of 1,500 years. A greater India was thus established by a general fusion of cultures. Some of the inscriptions of these countries, written in flawless Sanskrit, show the influence of Indian culture. Ancient Chinese education served the needs of a simple agricultural society with the family as the basic social organization. Oral instruction and teaching by example were the chief methods of education. The molding of character was a primary aim of education. Ethical teachings stressed the importance of human relations and the family as the foundation of society.

Filial piety, especially emphasizing respect for the elderly, was considered to be the most important virtue. It was the responsibility of government to provide instruction so that the talented would be able to enter government service and thus perpetuate the moral and ethical foundation of society. Schools were established for the sons of the nobility in the capital city of Zhou and the capital cities of the feudal states. Schools for the common people were provided within the feudal states in villages and hamlets and were attended, according to written records, by men and women after their work in the fields.

Access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala

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There were elementary and advanced schools for both the ruling classes and the common people. This was a period of social change brought about by the disintegration of the feudal order, the breakdown of traditional loyalties, the rise of cities and urban civilization, and the growth of commerce. The instability and the perplexing problems of the times challenged scholars to propose various remedies. The absence of central control facilitated independent and creative thinking.

Access to Preprimary Education and Progression in Primary School: Evidence from Rural Guatemala

Thus appeared one of the most creative periods in China’s intellectual history, when the Hundred Schools of thought vied with one another to expound their views and proposals for attaining a happy social and political order. Another form of educational activity was the practice of the contending feudal states of luring to their domain a large number of scholars, partly to serve as a source of ideas for enhancing the prosperity of the state and partly to gain an aura of intellectual respectability in a land where the respect for scholars had already become an established tradition. The age of political instability and social disintegration was, thus, an age of free and creative intellectual activity. The teachings of the Hundred Schools and the records of the feudal states meant a marked increase in literature and, consequently, in the materials for instruction. The classical age of China, the period of the Dong Zhou, left an intellectual and educational legacy of inestimable value. Its scholars propounded theories of government and of social and individual life that were as influential in China and East Asia as the Greek philosophers of almost contemporary age were in the Western world. Of the various schools of thought that arose in China’s classical age, Legalism was the first to be accorded official favour.

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The policies of the Qin dynasty were based on Legalist principles stressing a strong state with a centralized administration. Many of its policies were so different from past practices that they incurred the criticism of scholars, especially those who upheld the examples of the ancient sages. Though condemned for the burning of books and the persecution of scholars, the Qin dynasty laid the foundation for a unified empire and made it possible for the next dynasty to consolidate its power and position at home and abroad. In education, the unification efforts included a reform and simplification of the written script and the adoption of a standardized script intelligible throughout the country. First steps were taken toward uniform textbooks for the primary schools.

The Han dynasty reversed many of the policies of its short-lived predecessor. The most important change was a shift from Legalism to Confucianism. The banned books were now highly regarded, and the classics became the core of education. An assiduous effort was made to recover the prohibited books and to discover books and manuscripts that scholars had concealed in secret places. There were historians, philosophers, poets, artists, and other scholars of renown in the Han dynasty. An illustrious woman of letters, Ban Zhao, was named poet laureate. A bibliographer collected and edited ancient texts and designated them as classics.

There were a variety of schools on the national and local levels. Increasing activity in private education continued, and much of the study of the classics and enriched literature was done in private schools. Of considerable influence in the country and abroad was a national university with an enrollment that soared to 30,000. The classics now became the core of the curriculum, but music, rituals, and archery were still included. The Han dynasty was a period of territorial expansion and growth in trade and cultural relations. Buddhism was introduced at this time. Early information about Buddhism was probably brought into China by traders, envoys, and monks.

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By the 1st century ce an emperor became personally interested and sent a mission to India to seek more knowledge and bring back Buddhist literature. Indian missionaries not only preached a new faith but also brought in new cultural influences. Indian mathematics and astronomical ideas enriched Chinese knowledge in these fields. Architecture and art forms reflected Buddhist and Indian influence. Hindu chants became a part of Chinese music. For a couple of centuries after its introduction, however, Buddhism showed no signs of popular appeal. Han scholarship was engrossed in the study of ancient classics and was dominated by Confucian scholars who had scant interest in Buddhist teachings that were unconcerned with the practical issues of moral and political life.

Moreover, the Buddhist view of evil and the Buddhist espousal of celibacy and escape from earthly existence were alien to China’s traditions. The fall of the Han dynasty was followed by a few hundred years of division, strife, and foreign invasions. China was not united again until the end of the 6th century. It was during this period that Buddhism gained a foothold in China. The literary efforts of Chinese monks produced a Chinese Buddhist literature, and this marked the beginning of a process that transformed an alien importation into a Chinese religion and system of thought.

This characteristic remained in Jewish education, for the relation of teacher to pupil was always expressed in terms of parenthood and filiation. Once they were established in Palestine, at the crossroads of the great literate civilizations of the Middle East in the beginning of the 1st millennium bce, the Jewish people learned to develop a different type of education—one that involved training a specialized, professional class of scribes in a then rather esoteric art called writing, borrowed from the Phoenicians. Writing found another avenue of application in Israel—in religion. And the scribe again was the agent of education. He was the man who copied the sacred Law faithfully and established the canonical text. Although a pupil might learn to read aloud, or rather to intone his text, his main effort was to learn by heart fragment after fragment of the sacred Law.