As we already noted, studies in a maktab were individual; class work was non-existent. Each pupil learnt his separate lesson; if the teacher called up a pupil, he recited his own lesson only, which had no relation to the other children's work. With no frontal teaching there could be no collective supervised work in the class.
* Individual organisation of schooling in a maktab took shape separately from the pedagogical objectives of education in general, but it necessarily had its effects. Relation between maktab's educational attitude and its pupils is vividly illustrated by this custom: a teacher delegated to other pupils to carry out corporal punishment on a guilty pupil or, if doing it himself, he would call them to assist in beating. It must be remarked, that in the educational "theory" of the past centuries, it was sometimes hypocritically recommended that parents do not beat their child themselves, but relegate the task to a servant.
Atun-Bibi schools (maktabs for girls).
Maktabs at the mosques, as well as the mosques themselves, were there for the male part of the population. But in the cities of Central Asia there was quite a significant number or primary religious schools for girls. A little school like this would be usually situated in the house of the teacher, atun-bibi.
Customarily, girls were not taught to write ("so that they won't exchange love-letters"), thus in the old times, a school of atun-bibi was not called by the Arabic term "maktab", which at the time of maktab's emergence, was associated with learning to write.
In the country, girls schools were extreme rarity: there were may be one or two girls schools for every hundred maktabs. In some large cities the number of girls schools was up to a quarter of the number of maktabs, but an average girls school had less pupils.
It must also be taken into account that some pupils in the girls schools were little boys (usually the girl-pupils' brothers). Many parents considered it better for a little boy to begin his studies with a female teacher. Atun-bibi usually favourably differed from the male teachers in the maktabs because they were teachers by profession, while in a maktab at the mosque an imam or muezzin taught on top of their main duties*.
While in the maktabs majority of the pupils at the entrance stage were children of the working classes, daughters of the clergy and merchants prevailed among the girl-pupils of atun-bibi. Atun-bibi charged higher fee than teachers in surrounding maktabs; this too shows that majority of the pupils in the girls schools came from wealthier background compared to the majority in the maktabs.
A girl who learnt to read religious texts became a suitable bride for clergymen, because wife of an imam assisted her husband working among the women of his "parish"**. For this reason study with atun-bibi was considered necessary for the daughters of the clergy, especially when it was not appropriate for a daughter of a religious cleric to marry outside their "caste"***. There were usually no girls schools in the villages, and, in some places, little daughters of the village imams studied in a maktab together with boys.
Among the rich merchants, it was considered "good tone" to educate the daughters.
Most of atun-bibis were wives of the imams and maktab-dors. Often, the husband taught pupils in a maktab, and the wife kept a girls school.
The course of schooling with atun-bibi was basically the same as in boys' maktabs, but in the girls schools less study was devoted to the Arabic texts (Koran), and more to the religious poetry, both Persian and Turkic-language.