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Throughout the world, formal education is a central aspect of society. The importance of learning is especially emphasized among the upper class of the Fire Nation, by many in the United Republic, and to a lesser extent, by some people in Ba Sing Se.[3]

Types of education[]

Air Nomads[]

Spiritual enlightenment was central to the Air Nomad culture, as all of its members regularly meditated in addition to practicing airbending. They were taught to value all forms of life and considered it to be sacred, regardless of whether it was good or evil.[4] At least some of them also studied calligraphy and poetry, producing works of written art valued highly enough to be sought in the Earth Kingdom.[5][6]

Young airbenders were raised at the air temples instead of by their parents.[7] Airbender boys often had one monk appointed to them as a personal guardian; similarly, airbender girls were raised by nuns.[8][9][10][11] Especially in the case of the Air Avatar, there were concerns about young airbenders growing too attached to their guardians.[9]

During periods of isolationism, educators tried to actively discourage young Air Nomads from absorbing news about the outside world, fearing they would be distracted from their spiritual paths.[12] During more open times when the Air Nomads forged close ties with the other nations, Air Nomad teachings spread to other nations, and the temples supported the building of a Fire & Air Center of Learning in the Fire Nation.[13] This was opposed by the sect known as the Guiding Wind, who believed that the Air Nomads' ties with the wealthy elite classes of the world were impeding the spiritual enlightenment of people of all nations.[13]

Meditation practice

The Air Nation regularly practices meditation.

Following the Air Nomad Genocide, the new Air Nation adapted to a world with an extremely small number of airbenders. Thusly, all airbenders were directly raised by their parents after the Hundred Year War.[14] Aside from learning their own bending art and meditation, children are taught about their history and culture, and may participate on educational trips, such as tours to the air temples.[15][16]

Air Acolytes are typically extremely well-educated about Air Nomad culture and sometimes practice nonbending martial arts that are heavily modelled on airbending.[17][18] Following the rise of new airbenders after Harmonic Convergence, many of the new airbenders grew bored of the traditonalist teaching approach of listening to lectures about famous monks, nuns, and gurus, but also struggled to adapt when Tenzin tried to implement harsher methods of airbender training. However, given time, the new airbenders and Tenzin managed to reach a healthy teacher-student relationship.[19]

Water Tribe[]

Healing hut

Healing huts are used in the Northern Water Tribe to teach young girls how to heal using their waterbending abilities.

Besides basic skills such as reading and writing, a warrior's battlefield skills are also highly valued, as the city maintains a fairly large army and armory.[20] Waterbending is also regularly taught, with waterbenders like Master Pakku instructing and testing male waterbending students during regular dueling sessions, and female waterbenders frequently attending healing classes. Prior to the end of the Hundred Year War, female waterbenders in the North were forbidden from learning any techniques beyond healing, while healing was also prohibited from being taught to male waterbenders.[21][22] In general, education in the Northern Water Tribe is considered to be rigorous yet flexible.[23]

Prior to its near-destruction at the hands of the Fire Nation, the Southern Water Tribe deeply valued academia. The Southern business magnate Tiqriganiannig funded the Unity with the world's academic institutions in order to spread technology and knowledge in all four nations.[24] The South hosted regular classes for its students, as the tribe once consisted of several large walled villages. Unlike the North Pole, it also regularly taught waterbending to members of both sexes,[25] and gender discrimination was not an issue for budding benders. Sadly, this art was virtually lost when the Fire Nation killed or captured the South Pole's entire waterbender population, except for Katara.[25] Like the North, the South maintains a strong regard for its warrior culture. In spite of the South's dire state and its lack of contact with the outside world, the South's tribesmen are quite literate, as Sokka and Katara were capable of both reading and writing without any difficulty.[26]

During the Southern Reconstruction Project, Master Pakku possessed a waterbending school in the city, where he taught Northern Style waterbending to waterbenders who were born after the end of the war in the South.[27]

Earth Kingdom[]

Ba Sing Se University

Ba Sing Se University is a highly renowned institution of higher learning in the Earth Kingdom.

One of the most renowned academic institutions in the Earth Kingdom is Ba Sing Se University, with its own enrolment materials proclaiming it to be the greatest university in the world. By 296 BG, the university boasted a zoology department headed by Professor Shaw,[28] and by 100 AG young scholars could attend an extensive range of classes in both the sciences and humanities.[1] However, during the Conspiracy of Ba Sing Se, teachings on the Hundred Year War were strictly forbidden in the university, as displayed by Joo Dee when she silenced a student who was asked about the conflict by Team Avatar. At the peak of the Dai Li's power, public knowledge of the War was forbidden in the city as a whole.[29]

During Avatar Kyoshi's lifetime, education in the Earth Kingdom was known to have a certain level of corruption, as cheating on tests with the help of friends was considered a time-honored tradition.[30] It was also common for tutors to swap identities with children of wealthy families in order to pass the government tests needed for prestigious administrative jobs.[31]

By 296 BG, some of the larger cities in the Earth Kingdom also had literature schools, which offered formal training in methods of ink preparation and ceremonial calligraphy that commoners did not normally learn, such as the Pianhai method.[32]

Later in Kyoshi's life, the Earth Sages embraced their role as wise advisors and academics, and tried to continue the policy after her death. They lectured on how to expand bureaucratic channels to benefit the poorest in society. During this time period, the world was also on the brink of a technological renaissance made possible by new universities springing up, and academic institutions around the world forging new connections with one another.

However, during the reign of Earth King Jialun, the sages were purged for speaking out against the king's changes to the constitution. The sages were purged, with a few remaining as Grand Lectors, now loyal to only the crown. Their temples reopened as Royal Learning Halls, which were tightly controlled by the government. The Earth Kingdom was suspicious of international academic collaboration, viewing such attempts as plots to deploy spies around the world. Innovation stagnated during this time, since any new technologies were quickly seized by the crown and distributed to vassals as the Earth King saw fit.[13][33]

Other than general knowledge and education, earthbenders could learn earthbending from many high level masters throughout the Earth Kingdom in their dojos. One such dojo was Master Yu's Earthbending Academy in Gaoling. These masters also privately tutored rich and high class students like Master Yu did with Toph Beifong.[34] Other masters, like Jianzhu, used their status as high-level sages to fund bending schools throughout the Earth Kingdom and Four Nations.[35]

Toph Beifong herself later established a metalbending academy near the city of Yu Dao to teach earthbenders metalbending.[36] She was able to offer free tuition after the school was sponsored by Earthen Fire Industries, and hired scouts to search the Earth Kingdom for new metalbenders. Toph also accepted earthbenders who were not capable of metalbending at the academy, as well as other skilled earthbenders such as the lavabender Sun.[37]

Fire Nation[]

Fire Nation school afar

A Fire Nation school was visited by Aang in 100 AG.

Education has been highly valued in Fire Nation since at least the lifetime of Szeto. In 296 BG, Rangi noted that it was highly rare for school to be canceled in the Fire Nation, with one notable exception being the celebrations after the Fire Sages revealed a new Fire Avatar.[38]

By the reign of Fire Lord Sozin, the Fire Nation had a Minister of Education, Science, and Technology.[39] During the first true industrial revolution, the Fire Nation and the world began to enter a period of unprecedented academic collaboration, and Sozin encouraged his people to drink deeply from the well of knowledge of other nations, while preserving Fire Nation culture within his own borders.[40]

Education was strict during the Hundred Year War and was often oriented toward the ultimate goal of indoctrinating the student population in the country's politics. There were few forms of personal expression, as such actions were considered a threat to the Fire Lord's unquestioned authority during the War. Many common arts such as dancing were thus omitted from the school curriculum. After Zuko became Fire Lord, the Dancing Dragon movements became mandatory in schools.[41]

There was also very strict censoring to make the students believe that the Fire Nation's war against the other nations was in fact a justified one, as Sozin's official reasoning for the Hundred Year War was to spread his nation's prosperity to others. At the beginning of every day, the students must stand up and pledge loyalty to the Fire Lord, promising to serve him for as long as they live. The Fire Nation also altered certain aspects of historical events to make it seem as though they were fighting for the greater good. For example, a school textbook stated that the Air Nomads used military force to repel Fire Nation attacks, though the peaceful nation had no such organization.[2] The authorities also fostered the impression that Fire Nation history began with Sozin's ascension, as Sozin had forbidden all knowledge of their history prior to his reign to be shared with the people. However, after the end of the Hundred Year War, as a result of Zuko's reforms, scholars strove to recover lost history and eliminated deceitful propaganda long taught in school texts.[42]

Education, especially military knowledge, is also valued for the children of the Fire Nation Royal Family, as shown in the case of Prince Zuko and Princess Azula.[43] Aristocratic children are often educated in well-respected institutions, such as the prestigious Royal Fire Academy for Girls.[44]

As of 100 AG, the Fire Nation had several universities, including at least one on Capital Island.[45]

United Republic of Nations[]

Expanded Beifong Metalbending Academy

The Beifong Metalbending Academy in Yu Dao later became part of the United Republic.

The United Republic has a formal education system, which covers both children and teenagers.[46] However, the school system does not reach everyone: Tenzin's children are exempt and are educated on Air Temple Island in the customs of the Air Nation.[14]

Additionally, a number of children do not attend school in cases of severe child poverty, such as Mako, Bolin, and Skoochy.[47][48] Projects have been organized to combat educational inequality in the nation, such as the Dragon Flats Reform School, with some of the best teachers being hired to educate some of Republic City's worst students in an especially disadvantaged neighborhood.[49] In general, truancy is looked down upon by middle-class citizens, and by law enforcement.[46]

The nation is home to several educational institutions of note. The Beifong Metalbending Academy in Yu Dao was the first of its kind in the world,[36] and Republic City University was quickly established as a prominent institution when Avatar Aang helped to bring scholars from all over the world to Cranefish Town.[23] The university was even respected enough that Wu, a prince of the Earth Kingdom, was enrolled there at the time of his great-aunt's assassination.[50] Higher education has tuition costs, although there are scholarship programs for the underprivileged.[51]

The educational curriculum in the United Republic takes inspiration from nations across the world, and then adapts traditional principles for a more modern and cosmopolitan environment. For example, Republic City University is partially modelled on Ba Sing Se University and tends to use Earth Kingdom teaching methods, but also adopted the flexibility found in the Northern Water Tribe.[23]

During the period leading up to the Anti-bending Revolution, radical politics became fairly common in academia, with one graduate student of Republic City University openly professing support for the Equalists and pursuing his agenda full-time in his studies.[14][52] After Amon's defeat, a non-violent Equalist revival movement remains especially popular at the university. The near-absolute pacifist Peace Lily Society is also primarily made up of Republic City's students.[53] In general, students are prone to trying to understand perspectives other than their own and to question systems in place, with universities full of lively debate.[54]

Notable educators[]

Notable educational institutions[]

References[]

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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 O'Bryan, John (writer) & Dos Santos, Joaquim (director). (September 28, 2007). "The Headband". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  3. Ehasz, Elizabeth Welch (writer) & Spaulding, Ethan (director). (October 26, 2007). "The Avatar and the Fire Lord". Avatar: The Last Airbender. Season 3. Episode 6. Nickelodeon.
  4. Shown throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender by Aang.
  5. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Nine, "Desperate Measures". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
  6. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Eighteen, "The Town". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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  10. From older Avatar: The Last Airbender official site, originally on Nick.com. Encyclopedia now broken, archived at The Lost Lore of Avatar Aang - Gear: Female Air Nomad statues.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Promise Part Two (May 30, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
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  15. DiMartino, Michael Dante, Konietzko, Bryan (writers) & Dos Santos, Joaquim, Ryu, Ki Hyun (directors). (April 14, 2012). "A Leaf in the Wind". The Legend of Korra. Book One: Air. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  16. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Heck, Colin (director). (September 13, 2013). "Rebel Spirit". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 1. Nickelodeon.
  17. Hamilton, Joshua (writer) & Graham, Ian (director). (September 13, 2013). "The Southern Lights". The Legend of Korra. Book Two: Spirits. Episode 2. Nickelodeon.
  18. DiMartino, Michael Dante; Konietzko, Bryan; Yang, Gene Luen (writer), Sasaki of Gurihiru (penciling, inking), Kawano of Gurihiru (colorist), Heisler, Michael; Comicraft (letterer). The Promise Part Three (September 26, 2012), Dark Horse Comics.
  19. Hedrick, Tim (writer) & Zwyer, Mel (director). (July 18, 2014). "Original Airbenders". The Legend of Korra. Book Three: Change. Episode 7. Nickelodeon.
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  22. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 21, 2020). Chapter Seven, "The Headmistress". The Shadow of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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  26. Shown throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender by Sokka and Katara.
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  35. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Eight, "The Fracture". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 Hicks, Faith Erin (writer), Wartman, Peter (artist), Matera, Adele (colorist). Toph Beifong's Metalbending Academy (February 16, 2021), Dark Horse Comics.
  38. Yee, F. C. (author), DiMartino, Michael Dante (author). (July 16, 2019). Chapter Twelve, "The Decision". The Rise of Kyoshi. Amulet Books.
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  40. Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game. Core Book, Version 1.0, 2022, p. 48.
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