Harry Potter and the Amulet of Lax Educational Standards (spoilers through book 6)

Okay, we’ve seen Hogwarts. We’ve heard about Beauxbatons and Durmstrang. Presumably, many or most countries have schools of magic. Now, according to Rowling, Hogwarts has about 1000 students (which doesn’t really gibe with what we’ve seen in the books, but ah well.) We’ve seen no signs that there are other schools of magic in Britain - Draco Malfoy mentions in Goblet of Fire that his parents had considered sending him to Durmstrang for a proper Death Eater-style education. And Hogwarts is really the center of Britain’s magical community, at least as much as the Ministry in London is. So presumably it’s the most highly-regarded school in the country - if the headmaster of a school is also a major political figure, the school must be fairly important. Yet it’s not at all exclusive, and apparently it doesn’t cost anything to attend (Harry’s never paid, and Dumbledore makes mention of a fund to buy books and supplies in a memory - no mention that the school itself costs money.) So it probably is the only magical school in Britain (who would go anywhere besides the most reputable school in England since they all have the opportunity?), and even if substantial numbers of wizards educate their own children, this suggests that the wizarding community is quite small. Which is actually pretty consistent with the fact that most wizards seem to know who their fellows are, at least enough to name them.

There’s no mention at all, though, about primary education, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of post-secondary education. One would think there would have to be some elementary schools - at least in London and Hogsmeade - to teach readin’, writin’, and 'rithmetic (especially since such mundane subjects get very little attention at Hogwarts.) Clearly the little children of wizarding families are not attending Muggle schools, because most wizards seem to be completely ignorant of even the basics of Muggle society. Even Bob Ogden, a Ministry member, went around in what I think was meant to be a women’s bathing suit. (Though Harry, at least, wears jeans and t-shirts and sweaters under his robes. In fact, sweaters appear to be a normal article of wizard clothing. Apparently, when they’re not in robes, they dress in a fashion pretty similar to Muggles. They forget all of it when traveling into the Muggle world, however. But I digress . . . )

Anyway, there’s no mention of how little wizard children are educated, though they seem to at least possess the rudiments of literacy and mathematics when they appear at Hogwarts. Are their parents expected to teach them (or obtain tutors) all on their own? What gives?

And the only post-secondary education mentioned is the three years of Auror training. Presumably some other fields require it, but it sounds as if professional education, rather than a liberal arts approach, is the norm for those who are educated beyond high school. Even teachers at Hogwarts don’t need certification or any such post-secondary education; while Dippet doesn’t let 18-year-old Baby Voldemort become a teacher, clearly if there were a certification process requiring further years of education, Voldemort would have already known it. Hagrid doesn’t seem to have ever left Hogwarts, and he was also permitted to teach.

So high school students are being taught by those with no more than a high school education. And what are they being taught? Virtually all of their education is practical rather than in any way academic. Astronomy is the only natural science they seem to learn; there’s no evidence from what we’ve seen that they learn even the rudiments of chemistry in Potions, or of biology in Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures. While the former is perhaps understandable (wizards probably have little need to figure out chemistry - though it seems funny to imagine that despite their advanced abilities, they know less than Muggles about the fundaments of reality.) Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures are entirely practical - no discussion of common descent, or of ecology, and certainly nothing of biochemistry. Already their education sounds a good deal easier than my high school education.

We’ve seen no signs of anyone taking a basic literature course, nor a composition course (though they apparently write plenty of essays.) The closest to a foreign language is Hermione’s Ancient Runes class (perhaps Dumbledore and Crouch picked up the foreign languages they know through practice.) Arithmancy is presumably some form of math, though the “-mancy” ending suggests that it involves something akin to divination - their only math class is apparently an elective. There are no classes in Muggle History (though presumably Muggle Studies touches upon it) which makes sense until you consider that the magical community must be tiny. My high school had 1,100 students, serving a town and surrounding area of probably fewer than 10,000 people altogether. Hogwarts covers more ages, so even if we assume that significant numbers are educated at home or by tutors, that probably means the wizarding community in Britain has fewer than 10,000 members. It seems hard to imagine that Muggle History wouldn’t tie in pretty thoroughly into their own lives.

Basically nothing of an ordinary high school education seems to be covered at Hogwarts, and even if many professions have their own schools, it doesn’t seem likely that Auror school, for instance, requires any sort of liberal arts education. Teachers are apparently not particularly well-trained. Percy got a job with the Ministry with no higher education (whereas most government jobs, even pretty bureaucratic ones, seem to require a bachelor’s in the United States.) We haven’t seen much about other careers; presumably Healers are trained somewhere but all the evidence suggests that the wizarding populace is pretty uneducated.

Clearly Rowling didn’t flesh this out a lot when writing the books (there must be some sort of provision for teaching basic reading and math to young wizarding kids, at least.) Am I missing something? Is there any evidence that wizards have some sort of more complete educational system?

My guess would be that primary education would be in Muggle schools, and that non-wizarding education at the secondary level takes place at Hogwarts, but isn’rt mentioned, because it just isn’t all that interesting.

As for post-secondary, they could either go to Muggle universities, or do in-service training at the Ministry of Magic. The implication seems to be that for wizardry, the cruciual years for education are the high school years. That seems reasonable to me: too young, and you aren’t ready to learn; too old, and you won’t become so proficient.

Except that for people who would have gone to muggle schools they are terribly ignorant of muggles and muggle ways. Look at the Ron (or his father) who don’t even know what muggle money is, or a telephone (can’t even pronounce ‘telephone’ in fact).

No, I think it was merely an oversight on JKR’s part…she just didn’t think it through all the way. Either that or perhaps there are magical means of education to teach things like reading, writing and math. However, if thats the case it kind of begs the question…why do you need to teach magic differently?

As to the population of wizards, I think it has been hinted at that its fairly small, so having one major school to teach witchcraft and wizardry in England is plausable I suppose. I wonder how many schools there are in the US, or whether that will ever be addressed (I doubt it as the stories are UK centric…which is fine by me btw). In book 4 I remember them talking about US wizards at the world cup, so presumably there would be at least one school here (probably in Salem :)).

As to post-Hogwarts schools, they have hinted that there are schools for healers and I thought they mentioned other studies required for other professions in book 5 when Harry and Ron are talking about what they want to do when they leave. I seem to recall several professions requiring post graduation schooling, so presumably there are schools for that. I would assume there would have to be some kind of theoretical magic school too. As for mundane subjects like biology or chemistry, my guess is they would study that at muggle schools if they needed to know it. Perhaps they cover some of those basics at hogwarts as well but JKR just skips over it (my guess is that would be her excuse anyway :)).


I suppose I’d rather assumed that Wizard children were home-schooled up until they were accepted into Hogwarts.

The witches you’re referring to were sitting under a big banner that said “Salem Witches’ Institute.”

I wish I’d gone there. sigh

Perhaps the answer is, “It depends.” If you have Muggle parents or guardians (like Harry and Hermione), then you go to a Muggle primary school. If your parents are wizards (like the Weasley children), then you get home schooling of some sort. That would be part of the reason why Harry and Hermione understand more about Muggles than some other students at Hogwarts.

I have never read the books but I remember talking to a friend of mine (who had read them) about what the American magic school would be like and where. We decided that the New Orleans school would be the most fascinating with all the different influences in the area.

What I want to know is, are the kids learning Greek and Latin? Since most spells seem to be a combination of the two, it would be very practical knowledge in the wizarding world.

I thought that kids didn’t even show a propensity for magic until pre-pubescence. Example-Neville was thought to be a squib until he “bounced” one day at around age 9-10. Harry is a slightly different case-since he had no clue how or why he could talk to the snake etc.

This thread makes me wonder how Hermione came to know she was a witch.
I assumed that wizards were home schooled in the basics, reading, writing etc and then once of age, they were shipped off to Hogwarts for their wizard training.

I also think that alot of education comes from exploration and research (Charlie and the dragons), as well as occurences (in other words, less theory and more experiental learning) once you are out of Hogwarts.

1000 students means approx 143 in each year, and 35 in each house. That sounds about right. Their classes are usually 12-18 students…it would seem that only 2 houses share class periods. Example: Slytherin and Gryffindor share Care of Magical Creatures, while R and H share Charms or whatever.

Certainly, there are levels of ability in the school–Malfoy says (in the film) to Goyle (actually HP polyjuiced into Goyle) “I didn’t know you could read”–but I put that down to Malfoy’s malice.

The subjects they cover seem quite challenging–astronomy etc.

This brings me to Ravenclaw. Why isn’t Hermione in Ravenclaw? Yeah, I know, JKR needs a brain for the operation, a sidekick for H and a love interest for R. But seriously–she’s a brain. Huh?

Also, I think it is generational as to the wrong choice for Muggle clothes. Kind of like if I was asked to go clubbing. Haven’t been in twenty years; would have no idea what is worn. Doubt I would make such gaffes as the older wizards do, but I can see them not paying attention to that aspect of the Muggle world. The kids all seem to know how to dress…

If there are 1000 students at Hogwarts, though more likely it’s closer to 500 I suppose, and this is the only Wizardry school in the UK, then there are only a very small proportion of the population who are capable of magic anyway. They have their own little dimension that they seem to occupy, and generally seem able to totally bypass most of Muggle society.

As for academia, we see only about 1/1000 of the time spent in classes each year, and usually only the things that are relevant to the plot. Things like mathematics and language and writing and science etc will be there, but we only see the more interesting bits like reading teacups and making potions that turn yellow when they should be blue.

It’s just a story.

It is ?


Scattershot answers:

Yes, Hermoine is a brain, but she also has balls (Year 7: Harry Potter and Dr. Frankenfurter). Balls go a long way in Gryffindor. She’s a bit insecure in terms of grades, but when the chips are down the testes come out.

According to J.K.'s website the wizard kids are home schooled.

In other news Doroles Umbragde is running for Minister of Magic on the “No Wizard Left Behind” program.

It is -supposed- to be a different world, no?

For example, if one can become a skilled healer through knowing a combination of charms and potions.... why bother with muggle medical school?

If one can fly on brooms or pop up in a chimney, why learn to be a pilot or drive a car?

-Our- rules simply don’t apply. (and er,um,ah… it is just a work of fiction).

I also agree with those who believe that kid wizards are homeschooled. They are given the ability to read and write at home or through private tutors. Then, if they are skilled enough, they get invited to Hogwarts.

Oh, btw, the OP forgot one social sciences class, and that is the “History of Magic”, which if I was in Harry’s shoes, I’d have found super interesting, but that’s just me.

I believe there are a few lines to the effect that Harry would have enjoyed the class if the instructor wasn’t so darn boring.

You could also sneak in basic educational subjects into the other classes. Writing in History of magic, mathematics in Potions, even sneak in some Latin in Charms. The focus is on magic, but what basic skills are necessary to do magic can be reinforced and cultivated in teh context of magic.

What does one do exactly with a diploma from Hogwarts? Is there a need for wizards in the muggle world? Or is it a bullshit useless degree like a BA in Philosophy or Communications?

I think the idea is that Wizards have as little to do with the non-Wizard world as possible.

You need it as a stepping stone to get many of the wizard jobs like treasure hunter, dark wizard fighter, dragon tamer, healer…or to work in the ministry. Basically useless in ‘our’ world of course as wizards don’t generally interact with muggles. Appearently only the Minister of Magic even deals with muggle government at all.


From JK Rowling’s website (FAQ section):