So what did Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley actually learn at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? How good was their education?
Better than you might think.
Hogwarts offered them an education with creative depth and breadth, certainly compared to schools that have squeezed out a lot of science, history, art and other subjects to make way for test prep.
Here are the courses (some required, some elective) at Hogwarts, as listed on this Harry Potter wiki:
Defense Against the Dark Arts (Just Dark Arts in the 1997–1998 school year)
History of Magic
Flying (First years only)
Study of Ancient Runes
Muggle Studies (Core class in the 1997–1998 school year)
Care of Magical Creatures
Apparition (Sixth year, those of age only)
If you are scoffing, don’t. There’s more here than meets the eye.
Potions is an interesting way of teaching chemistry, Herbology is all about biology and Defense Against the Dark Arts is sort of like a fantasy criminology course.
The opportunities for experiential learning are legion, and we know from research that that’s the way kids learn best, especially in science. Care of Magical Creatures for third-year students is a multi-disciplinary course (that wraps in veterinary medicine, biology, etc.).
The arts aren’t ignored at Hogwarts, and as for physical exercise, well, the kids get plenty of exercise simply by walking from class to class up and down the staircases in the enormous castle.
If Arithmancy seems like a silly fortune-telling class, remember that it involves complex numbers charts and was Hermione’s favorite. Since Hermione is a brain, the course must have offered some real intellectual challenge.
A Hogwarts experience offers students a chance to really build their character in a way that traditional character education programs — with their themes of the week — don’t. Students ponder whether they should join the dark forces that want to destroy the civilized world, or fight for what’s right. That’s real character building.
Of course its not all fun and magic at Hogwarts. Kids have to take high-stakes tests called O.W.L.s, or Ordinary Wizarding Level exams, which are subject-specific tests that all fifth years are given to determine whether students can continue in that subject. Test prep starts at least a year before the exams are given, and the pressure is enormous. One student, Hannah Abbott, had to be given a Calming Draught after she started to cry in class, saying that she couldn’t take her exam. Here you can see who passed what O.W.L.
Then, when students have finished their seven years at Hogwarts
(which they enter at age 11) they take N.E.W.T.s, or Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Tests, again in each subject, which serve as gateways to specific jobs.
All in all, kids could do worse — and probably some do — than getting a Hogwarts education.
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