Education began in the earliest prehistory, as adults trained the young in the knowledge and skills deemed necessary in their society. In pre-literate societies this was achieved orally and through imitation. Story-telling passed knowledge, values, and skills from one generation to the next. As cultures began to extend their knowledge beyond skills that could be readily learned through imitation, formal education developed. Schools existed in Egypt at the time of the Middle Kingdom.
Matteo Ricci (left) and Xu Guangqi (right) in the Chinese edition of Euclid’s Elements published in 1607
Plato founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in Europe. The city of Alexandria in Egypt, established in 330 BCE, became the successor to Athens as the intellectual cradle of Ancient Greece. There, mathematician Euclid and anatomist Herophilus constructed the great Library of Alexandria and translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek. European civilizations suffered a collapse of literacy and organization following the fall of Rome in AD 476.
Individual purposes for pursuing education can vary. Understanding the goals and means of educational socialization processes may also differ according to the sociological paradigm used.
The early years of schooling generally focus around developing basic interpersonal communication and literacy skills. This lays a foundation for more complex skills and subjects. Later, education usually turns toward gaining the knowledge and skills needed to create value and establish a livelihood.
People also pursue education for its own sake to satisfy innate curiosity, out of interest in a specific subject or skill, or for overall personal development.
Education is often understood as a means of overcoming handicaps, achieving greater equality, and acquiring wealth and status for all (Sargent 1994). Education is also often perceived as a place where children can develop according to their unique needs and potentials, with the purpose of developing every individual to their full potential.
In 2012, the modern use of electronic educational technology (also called e-learning) had grown at 14 times the rate of traditional learning. Open education is fast growing to become the dominant form of education, for many reasons such as its efficiency and results compared to traditional methods. Cost of education has been an issue throughout history, and a major political issue in most countries today. Online courses often can be more expensive than face-to-face classes. Out of 182 colleges surveyed in 2009 nearly half said tuition for online courses was higher than for campus based ones. Many large university institutions are now starting to offer free or almost free full courses such as Harvard, MIT and Berkeley teaming up to form edX. Other universities offering open education are Stanford, Princeton, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Edinburgh, U. Penn, U. Michigan, U. Virginia, U. Washington, and Caltech. It has been called the biggest change in the way we learn since the printing press. Despite favorable studies on effectiveness, many people may still desire to choose traditional campus education for social and cultural reasons.