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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.

Nevertheless, certain things are practiced commonly within cultures.Education is designed to guide them in learning a culture, molding their behaviour in the ways of adulthood, and directing them toward their eventual role in society.In the most primitive cultures, there is often little formal learning—little of what one would ordinarily call school or classes or teachers.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.Other aspects of education are treated in a number of articles.For a treatment of education as a discipline, including educational organization, teaching methods, and the functions and training of teachers, see teaching; pedagogy; and teacher education.

For a description of education in various specialized fields, see historiography; legal education; medical education; science, history of.

The magnitude of change needed makes clear that closing the economic gap with developed countries will require major structural changes in schooling institutions. 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.

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.

The outcome is formal education—the school and the specialist called the teacher.