Moral Order: The Primitive Conception of the Teacher
In both Egypt and England, the development of rural education in the nineteenth century took place largely through the subvention of religion-based popular schools, and the tension between supporting a school's teaching of secular subjects (arithmetic, for instance) and consequent support of its religious programs, proved at times to be a political irritant. Just two decades prior to the Occupation of Egypt, the Revised Code of 1862 set a new course for the elementary schools of Great Britain, making the efficient teaching of reading, writing, and arithmetic, rather than doctrinal matters, the acknowledged center of the curriculum and the subjects qualifying a school for government grants-in-aid. Prior to this legislation, and the 1870 code following it that made elementary schooling compulsory in England, the purpose of elementary education for the masses had been—according to its proponents—to overcome the ruinous moral influences of the home environment.
The kuttab and the British elementary school of the early nineteenth century both arose from the need for communally sanctioned religious instruction, the need to reproduce a sacred tradition of writing as well as the skills of reading and writing themselves. For its part, Victorian anthropological theory recognized that the social roles of priest and teacher could be traced to a common ancestor, for since the most precious knowledge is that which cannot be gathered through everyday experience, specialists in esoteric wisdom—those who know the ways of supernatural beings—are called upon to help others regulate their conduct in ways pleasing to the gods. “The primitive conception of the teacher,” wrote Spencer, “is the conception of one who gives instruction in sacred matters.” 
In 1839 the British home secretary wrote that the “four principal objects” of elementary schooling should be “religious instruction, general instruction, moral training, and habits of industry.”  Consider the following passages, the first from a Lancasterian teacher's manual of 1816, and the second from a speech delivered by the Evangelical Reverend Daniel Wilson three years later in support of a charity school in the center of England's silk-weaving region:
The cultivation of the mind bestowed in these elementary schools, opens and expands the faculties of the children, gives them clear notions of the moral and social duties, prepares them for the reception of religious instruction, forms them to habits of virtue, and habituates them to subordination and control.
In every country, but especially in this free state, the mass of your Poor, like the base of the cone, if it be unsteady and insecure, will quickly endanger every superincumbent part. Religious education, then, is the spring of public tranquility. It not only cherishes the interior principle of conscience; but by infusing the higher sentiments of penitence and faith and gratitude and the love of God, communicates the elements of a cheerful and uniform subjection to all lawful authority.
In the first case instruction as such is granted a social benefit through the symbiotic adjustment of the individual to society. Habituation to subordination and control develops simultaneously with the expansion of the child's faculties; in fact, these amount to one and the same thing. In the second case a metaphor combining schoolbook geometry and classical political economy is completed by the elegant stabilizing influence of religious instruction, which has the power and precision of a mathematical function. This emphasis was of long standing. In schools sponsored by churches and benevolent societies, teaching methodologies in the early 1800s did not differ substantially from those used centuries before: reading and writing (penmanship) were means for acquiring moral betterment through the Scriptures. With this as a background, the halting development of secular instruction in Great Britain is not surprising. Each new bill brought before Parliament for the extension of fiscal support for education encountered critics on all sides, but particularly from clergy who feared that government schemes for subvention of private schools would favor one denomination—or bald secularism—over their own. Even attempts to avoid the appearance of favoritism encountered harsh opposition. The creation of board schools supported by local taxation set off a furious public debate about the substance of religious education for the masses, as the new schools restricted religious instruction to “mere” Bible-reading without sectarian content.