Formal education for children was not compulsory in ancient Egypt. Schools did exist within the temples and certain administration departments but these were reserved for those intended for the priesthood or the civil administration. Girls did not go to school and most women were unable to read or write. Children started school when they were about five years old and learned to read by rote. Writing was learned by copying and dictation. Many of these exercises, written on papyrus and on ostraca, have been preserved.