Lesson 3) Magical Education in Asia
The professor greets the students as they take their seats, asking them how they are doing, and what their plans are for the week. As the last few students stroll into the talkative classroom, she forms what appears to be a wand movement of some sort with her hands, causing the doors to close.
“Enough chitter chatter, everyone, let’s get going!”
I will keep our introduction brief today, as we have much to cover and, unfortunately, the little we do cover only scratches the surface of the teeming variety and richness that makes up the Eastern world. As with other areas we have studied in HoM, this year we will be covering Asia’s system of magical education.
While they are not the only continent to have strong feelings on schooling, education is considered to be one of the top priorities of most families in Eastern society. This importance is mostly due to the fact that it leads to a good future and career. Because of this value on education, there is a fair bit of competition. Many parents want their child to be placed into what they consider to be the top school. However, despite being the largest continent in the world, there are only three major, internationally recognized magical schools in this area. Some of you will be very interested to learn about these schools and their differences and similarities between Eastern and Western education and the theory behind the practices.
The three schools today’s lesson will cover are:
- Mahoutokoro School of Magic (魔法所)
- Li De Magical School (力德魔法学院)
- Koldovstoretz School (колдовсторец)
Mahoutokoro School of Magic (魔法所)
Located to the south of the main island of Japan is Minami Iwo Jima and the Mahoutokoro School of Magic (MSoM). This institution, for various reasons, is one of the most well-known schools around the world. As one of the oldest wizarding schools, it was founded by the highly-educated and wealthy Mahoutokoro family in 1000 CE, but the exact date was never really disclosed to the public. It has been debated if this was merely an investment by the family or an act of charity to the people of Japan.
According to official documents, Keiko Yoichii Mahoutokoro was the founder of the Mahoutokoro School of Magic. However, at this time, Keiko was actually already in his late 70s and not in the best of health. Thus, his two sons, Taisho and Shinga, waited for their father to decide who would take over the school. Typically, the eldest son of the family would take over the family's business, but Taisho had not proven his worth, thus causing Shinga, his younger brother, to expect to be named heir and take over the school. In the end, in order to preserve family harmony, Keiko decided to split the asset: Shinga Mahoutokoro took over the governing board of the school whilst his brother, Taisho, took over as the first official headmaster of the school, a deal which both brothers finally admitted was fair.
Let’s move on to more recent facts about the school. Unlike Hogwarts, MSoM is a school with an extremely strict entrance criteria. For one, they rarely accept Muggle-borns. This is not a decision made based on blood status, but a result of the particular interview process. Students do not get their letters of invitation automatically when they reach seven years of age. Instead, their parents receive a letter on the day their child turns six. For the next year, the school and the family are in contact frequently, putting both the student and the parents through a detailed interview process. After completion of the interview process, the student will begin at the MSoM boarding school to complete their education.
A hands-on aptitude test, though cleverly disguised and not overly stressful, is administered to the young, would-be student. The adults in the family are subjected to rigorous and thorough verbal, physical, and psychological tests. These tests are primarily administered to the parents, but aunts, uncles, grandparents and the like are welcome to admit themselves for testing as well if they think the results will help the child’s likelihood of admission. Obviously, this process is different for Muggle-born applicants as these tests take the form of frequent and stringent observations and while the Muggle-borns' parents have been notified of the possibility of being observed as a part of the entry process, but are not informed when the specific observations are taking place, or how many of them there will be. Because of this, Muggle parents typically achieve worse marks, putting any Muggle-born student at a disadvantage -- it is truly a daunting task to be on one’s best behaviour constantly, especially when most Muggles have only a hazy idea as to what traits would be considered desirable in the examiner's eyes! Still, this is not a process that can be rushed or skipped, as those in charge of admissions believe that if the parents are not of a certain calibre it is likely that their offspring will not be well-equipped enough to succeed in their school.
Each year, about 15,000 letters are sent out to parents for interviews, but only a fraction of those interviewed get a place in the school. Luckily for you, a few places are kept aside for foreign students, but the admission process is far more stringent.
Li De Magical School (力德魔法学院)
Next, we have Li De Magical School, located in Shanghai, China, which is at the east end of the country next to the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, their main mode of transport is ships. Each year, students travel to Li De Magical School via the licensed and authorised ships approved by the school’s board of governors. Its school term follows the Chinese Lunar calendar, which is different from the Gregorian Calendar, which we use.
Accessible only by a magically-enhanced waterfall, Li De Magical School is the second largest school on the continent in terms of population and area, behind Koldovstoretz by only a small margin. Sitting on roughly over 20 square miles of land, the sprawling campus is based loosely upon the construction of the Chinese Imperial Palace and the Forbidden City. The architecture of the school has not changed much since its inception, apart from minor renovations and the building of additional blocks around the vicinity of the school compound. In addition, its education system and focus has not evolved much either.
The Chinese Imperial Palace, upon which Li De’s architecture is based.
The school has a strong martial focus as all students have to take a compulsory course on martial arts for an hour and a half each day. It is believed that the discipline and strength that this course instills is helpful to students in many areas of life, including spell-casting. In addition, Li De Magical School also places a focus on wandless magic, which is also believed to be improved by physical strength and fine mental concentration.
Moreover, students at Li De must take at least one elective based purely on their interests, such as fashion designing, wandmaking, photography, cooking, sports, or even entrepreneurship. These courses are heavy on hands-on, practical assessments. This requirement is in place to create a more well-rounded and holistic approach towards the education of students, a topic which will be touched on later by Professor Morgan in her guest lecture.
Now let’s take a look at daily life at Li De. Unlike the rotating block schedule at Hogwarts, those at Li De have lessons from eight in the morning to eight at night every day of the week, including Sundays. They are allotted a 30 minute break for breakfast at 10am in their dormitory canteen and an hour’s break for lunch. Like Hogwarts, there is a curfew, but the difference is that even in private areas such as dormitories and Common Rooms, lesson review and homework must cease in order to maximise sleeping hours and the potential to succeed. Students follow this schedule for about six years of their lives and ten months each year.
Despite its large population, students do still have to take an entrance test to matriculate. However, no outsider knows exactly how the test is conducted or what the criteria are to enter the school, as examiners and candidates are made to sign an oath of secrecy before testing begins. What we do know is this: after the entrance tests each year, courses are pre-allocated to ensure that students are groomed and specialise in areas in which they can excel, rather than using time to study courses they would not be able to handle. Thus, the aforementioned elective courses play a big role in the students’ educations
Koldovstoretz School (колдовсторец)
Lastly, we have Koldovstoretz School. Located in the Ural Mountains of Russia, this school provides a third alternative to the aforementioned institutions. One thing that sets this institution apart from its Eastern brethren is that it is not only attended by Asian students. As I mentioned in the first lesson, Russia is a part of Asia, but it is slightly more complicated than that. It is also considered part of Europe by many. Because of this, Russia is often referred to as part of a region known as “Eurasia” and thus attracts students from both of these continents.
The school, located somewhere in the expansive, snowy tundras of northwestern Russia, is famous in both Asian and Slavic territories. It does not have a rigorous entry test, allowing admittance of anyone who wishes to enter and creating a very large student body. However, there is a large amount of “culling” that occurs in students’ third year at the institution which I will get into more in a moment.
The courses in Koldovstoretz don’t always match up with counterparts of our own, as they focus more on various “schools” inside the school. In fact, Koldovstoretz does not have houses as we think of them. Instead, over the years, five “pathways” have developed: Dobrynia, Lesovik, Vedmak, Volkhvs and Yagov. Each pathway focuses on a different use of magic or, that is to say, each pathway’s members view magic a little differently. Dobrynia views magic as a weapon, Lesovik sees magic as an inherent part of nature, Vedmak uses magic to give them knowledge of the future, Volkhvs focus on changing the forms of both themselves and other objects and Yagov is regarded as the pathway that sees magic as a mystery to be unraveled. For the first two years of their magical education -- typically beginning at about ten years of age -- students belong to no house. They are simply known as “novichóky” (written новичо́кы) or novices.
Upon entry to their third year of school, things become much more mysterious. Students are separated into one of the aforementioned five pathways, but it is unknown how this is decided. Some imply there are tests and grueling challenges that novices must undergo to be allowed admittance. Others say the system is based on invitations; those already in the pathways decide who is worthy to enter based on observing the students for the first two years and invite the students to join them. Others still say it is simply up to the students themselves to decide, giving them the opportunity to choose a path based on their interests and magical strengths. Whatever the case, it is documented that a large number of students leave Koldovstoretz after their second year, keeping the school’s population just at reasonable levels, though still very large.
If you are still curious about the schools, you will certainly enjoy Lesson Eight which delves into some of the founders of these schools in an overview of important witches and wizards in Asia’s history.
Now, in the last few moments of class, I would like to invite Professor Morgan back to tie all of these topics together regarding Asian magical education in terms of theory and where students go who are not accepted at --or do not apply to-- the aforementioned schools.
Hello again, class! Before we jump into specifics, let’s have a quick word about Mahoutokoro. While this very prestigious Japanese school is responsible for producing students of incredible skill, it teaches them in a Western style. There was a great deal of influence brought to Mahoutokoro from Hogwarts and other major Western schools, and as such their students receive an education not that dissimilar from our own. Yes, the focus and content of their Charms class may be slightly different, however everyone still has to take it.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Asian magical schools, whether they are world-renowned or not, practice a very different style of magic education. Your professor hinted at this difference a bit when speaking of Li De. He mentioned that students must complete an elective of their choice as part of their education, something based solely on their own personal interests. In truth, Eastern magical theory often focuses directly on an individual’s interests instead of a standard curriculum such as those found in Mahoutokoro and Western magical schools.
Let me explain a bit further. At Hogwarts, you are required to take a specific core set of classes, and may add electives from pre-selected areas of study. You are somewhat limited to what Hogwarts has to offer. Yes, we do offer a great deal to our students, and have chosen the material that we believe will give you the best possible chance at any magical career of your choosing, however you are still presented with a list of courses and topics that we have already decided upon.
Eastern magical education follows a more specialized and individualized path. It can be seen as an art or even a way of life. It is less about the specific pieces of knowledge that a person learns, and more about the journey they take to discover their passions as well as their strengths and abilities. We may complete our time here at Hogwarts in seven years, however a student in Asia may study for much, much longer to truly master the aspect of magic that most appeals to them.
So what does this look like in terms of magical education? Messy. Or, rather, it might seem messy and disorganized to us. In truth, magical education in Asia is much more fluid. There are many, many magical schools, if you wish to call them that. These small, specialized places may be no more than a master’s home, or a meeting place on the side of a mountain, or two friends walking down a road together.
You see, magic is learned where it can be found - from others who practice it. Younger students may be sent to a local magical school to help them get a feel for the types of magic that they can learn. After a time, however, these students journey to other places to continue their studies by finding a specialized school or master to teach them more about their chosen path. A student might find themselves traveling from place to place, master to master, until they feel as though they have learned enough. For some, this journey is relatively quick. For others, the journey lasts a lifetime. As the students have very little to fear in the journey, given Muggle beliefs on magic, this tendency to learn and move on to someone who could teach you more has not been as subdued as it would be in a Western culture.
While these two types of magical education are very different, there is no one that is superior to the other. Both have their positive and negative traits, and both have worked to produce incredible witches and wizards.
You may now be wondering about Li De Magical School and how it fits into this less-structured education system. Li De is a sort of compromise between the two schools of thought, pardon my pun. While the classes are structured, the inclusion of courses that a student is passionate about learning is a nod to the more traditional, Eastern, manner of education in terms of making education into a journey. Parents may prefer to send their children there for a myriad of reasons - from wanting them to experience a more Western education to simply not wanting them to wander the countryside for decades on end. Whatever the reason, there are many different options for magical students in Asia.
I hope you’ve learned more about the education system of Asia’s top magical schools. Next week we will be covering The Silk Road and its influence on Asian culture, economy and history in both Muggle and magical terms. Bring questions and prepare yourself for an interesting week ahead.