The Jewish society is in a way different, perhaps because most of its social and religious activities are inclined towards education. The Jewish culture is not impressed with riches or appearance or power. The biggest thing the Jewish is impressed about in a person is that he is willing to learn – that he is smart. That yearning for education begins from childhood – in the home and in school – and it is rooted from generations.
You may not have heard, but the Jewish takes much importance to education compared to the Greeks and Romans. They made education a religious obligation, which is what actually enabled its people to thrive and survive. The education, however, was not so much about doing things this way or that way. It involved reading books, learning old and new things, and participating in discussions. Religion obliged Jewish parents to teach their children. This is most likely the reason why in 70 CE, the world’s first public school was established.
First Public School System
The fathers were required to teach their children initially. Those who did not have fathers did not learn. The Jews did not like this, and so they assigned teachers to the children who did not have fathers. Still, these children did not come to school and were not able to learn, especially those who lived far from the institution.
Because of this situation, the sages or the wise men of Israel decided to assign a teacher to every city in the region. They would bring the students in school at 16 and 17 years old. The problem with this was that the students at this age rebelled against their teacher. So the sages instituted that there be a teacher for the young – 6 to 7 years old – in each town and in each province. That was how education was spread all over, and soon it was brought to Persian and Roman Empires.
Years after, those same sages were able to come up with a structured curriculum which also included the age levels with their corresponding phases of education: Reading, understanding, and logic or reasoning.
Phases Of Education And Age Levels
- Birth To Ten (The Literate Jew). Education in this level entails teaching basic stories and prayers as soon as the children learn how to talk and understand what the adults are conversing about. The father’s role begins when the child is 5. He teaches him the basics of reading Hebrew.
At this level, the children are told a lot of stories from the Bible, such as the five books of Moses, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, and others. By age 10, children are expected to have read the whole Bible.
- Ten To Fifteen (The Knowledgeable Jew). At this age range, children are taught what to do when someone loses something – how to determine if the owner is still looking for the lost item and how to know if the claimant is telling the truth.
At ten, they are also taught how to make a contract that is strong and credible in court, and every detail involving a contract. Other topics that are taught at this phase are marriage, divorce, leases, and loans. Nearing 15, lessons on the menstrual cycle, marital issues, family trees, and forbidden relationships are introduced.
- From Ignoramus to the Educated Jew. A Jew who has not attended school or not undergone teaching with the sages is referred to an ignoramus. He then becomes a knowledgeable Jew when he studies Jewish higher education, which involves learning the Talmud, a collection of the Jewish law that deals with the religious and non-religious life of the traditional Jews.