Until about 390 BC there were no permanent schools and no formal courses for such higher Ancient Greek Education. Schools in ancient Greece were small. They had only one teacher and about ten or twenty boys. The Greek schools were not free and so only the rich could really afford to send their children to school.
The children did not need much school equipment as they had to learn everything by heart. When they needed to, they wrote on wooden boards covered with layers of wax. They used a wooden pen called a stylus with a sharp end for writing and a flat end for ‘rubbing out’. The wax was melted and reapplied from time to time.
Education in Ancient Sparta
In Sparta, elementary schools were rough. Spartan boys were sent to a boarding school at the age of 6. In Spartan schools, science or math was not considered important subjects, students could hardly read even after they were out of school.
In Ancient Greek Education, School courses were very hard and often painful. Teachers mostly cared about raising good soldiers. Somewhere between the age of 18-20, Spartan males had to pass a difficult test of fitness, military ability, and leadership skills.
Any Spartan male who did not pass these examinations became a Perioikos. Boys were divided into packs lead by older boys. They had to wrestle a lot and even fight with each other. They were taught to obey all orders and to be ready to endure all kind of hardship. Girls in Sparta did not go to school but could participate in wrestling and gymnastics.
Education in Ancient Athens
The schools in Athens were very different from the schools in Sparta. In ancient Athens, the purpose of education was to produce citizens trained in the arts, to prepare citizens for both peace and war. Before the fifth century B.C. almost all the schools were private. They were very small, with no more than 10 to 15 students.
Ancient Greek Education: Private Tutors
Private tutors who owned the schools charged money for the teaching so only the wealthiest people could afford it. Later, in the fourth century B.C. in some cities, public schools were open that were available to poor. In primary school, they had to learn two important things – the words of Homer, a famous Greek epic poet, and how to play the lyre.
Boys in Athens started school around the age of 7. They were taught reading and writing, physical training, and music. From age 6 to 14, they went to a neighborhood primary school or to a private school. Books were very expensive and rare, so subjects were read out-loud, and the boys had to memorize everything. Girls in Athens did not go to school.