In Elizabethan times, education was not available to the public like it is now. Wealthy children had more opportunities for an education. They could afford top scholar tutors to teach them at home, which were very expensive. There was no established free “public” system of education for the general population. The quality and level of education was dependent on how much they could afford. Some middle class families who worked in the city managed to have the money to send their sons to school for a few years to learn basic reading and writing skills. Girls were usually educated at home in the arts of homemaking. Unfortunately, unprosperous families back then did not have the money to send their children to school and consequently the juvenile had to work to support their family.
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If were to be lucky to go to school, the first school children would attend would be a petty school, also known as a dame school that were run by an educated local woman, but the teachers had no specific training. Boys and even some girls ages five to seven would go there, and were given instruction on how to be good Christians, have proper behavior such as table manners. The school would begin at six or seven in the morning and end at sundown. They were to be given hornbooks to learn the letters. Printed paper back then was very expensive, so hornbooks were a wooden tablet which printed text was put and covered with a layer of animal horn, somewhat like lamination. It consisted of the lower case letters, capital letters, Lord’s prayer and simple words. At that time there were only twenty-four letters not twenty-six. “I” and “J” were the same letter and “U” and “V” were the same letter. Also “Ye” was pronounced “The”.
For the next step of schooling the children would attend grammar school. Boys ages seven to fourteen of wealthy families would attend there. Even academically smart middle class boys could flourish in grammar school if have gotten financial help. For example, the most extraordinary writers had to get help with money to be successful with their writing. Christopher Marlowe, a playwright (1564-1593) got into King’s school, which was a grammar school with financial help. Poet, Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) whose father was a London cloth worker, got to attend Merchant Taylors’ School on a scholarship. This school he attended was a fairly new grammar school that was founded in 1561. There they would learn how to read and write in Latin. In university everything was taught in Latin, so therefore grammar school acclimates the children at a young age to do all their schoolwork in Latin. They were taught classic Latin playwrights just for learning the Latin it consisted of. Literature, philosophy, history, poetry and drama were also taught. Occasional Greek and French lessons were present too. Unfortunately, science and music were not taught, but some arithmetic was present. If a child were to fall behind on memorizing their lessons or break school rules, consequentially their punishment was to be beaten with a stick of birch wood. Back then they thought beating the children would motivate the children to learn. To instill fear in the young so they would obey accordingly to what the teachers want them to do. This instilled so much fear that some children fled from school because they were so traumatized.
After grammar school, boys ages fourteen or older that are in the upper or middle class go to University if they can afford it. The Elizabethan time was a time for growth of the middle class to get an education. Never ever before this time more middle class boys have been educated at a university, also the sons of craftsmen were able to go to university with a scholarship. Understudies at the colleges concentrated on in a few zones: liberal arts, which included sentence structure, rationale (the science that arrangements with the standards of thinking), music, space science (the logical investigation of the stars, planets, and other divine bodies), and math; human expressions, comprising of reasoning, talk, and verse; regular history (the investigation of nature); religion; medicine; and law.
An interesting fact you might not know is that around the mid-1500s, some teachers began to recommended changes that recognized students’ developmental needs and questioned the practice of beating students. The teachers realized that not every child learned the same way, and furthermore, they tried to improve their teaching style. Teachers began arguing for a better way to teach the children, a way to make children love to learn. The first headmaster of the Merchant Taylors’ school, Richard Mulcaster wanted a system of education that accepted the children’s different abilities, and to have a better physical education, and also supported girls to get an education. The Elizabethans’ interest in education led to things like printing in the 1600s. Also a time for technology to make the expansion of education available, by making it possible to print books at a cheaper price, therefore making books readily available to more of the public, which included girls. Thanks to Queen Elizabeth’s willingness to increase the rate of literacy among individuals from one fifth of the population could sign their names at the beginning of the era and by the end of Elizabeth’s life one third of the population was literate. The Elizabethan time was an essential time for reviewing and revising the way education is presented today, and now still reviewing and revising better ways to teach in the future.
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