Going to school was a privilege and only children of the upper classes received a formal education. Reading and writing, the skills of a scribe, were the most prized forms of learning, and were seen as the key to a successful career in the king's service. Girls did not attend school, and, as far as we know, very few women learned to read and write.
Schooling probably started at around seven years of age, with reading, writing, and arithmetic at the core of the curriculum. Discipline was very strict and boys were beaten if they misbehaved or did not pay attention. Men like Ptahshepses of Sakkara who were educated in the kap or Royal Nursery, would benefit all their lives from the fine schooling, the contacts they made and friendships they formed.
At all levels of society, fathers taught their sons. The Vizier Ptahhotep's Teachings were written as advice for the son who would succeed him. Crafts were passed on through families; the ancient Egyptians thought that the ideal situation was for a son to succeed his father in office.
Despite the privileges a young man would receive as a result of a good education, he was warned not to be proud, nor to look down on people who did not have his advantages. The ability to speak well was the most important asset of a gentleman, and Ptahhotep pointed out that men should listen to other people, regardless of their rank or sex:
The limit of craftsmanship has not been reached,
No artist's skills are perfect.
Excellent expression is rarer than gemstones,
Yet it may be found among the women grinding grain.
Wealthier girls learned music, especially how to play the harp. They would have learned singing and dancing so that they could become priestesses of Hathor, and take roles in royal funeral services. Some well-to-do women must have learned how to read and write, for one, Peseshet, became an overseer of doctors, and another, Nebet, rose to the office of Vizier. Since women in the Age of the Pyramids could own and administer their own property, women may have learned the practical side of reading and writing and arithmetic.
Children who did not go to school probably began working. At first, they would help their parents and family members, and gradually would be taught skills such as weaving or carpentry that would enable them to earn a living.