When Children of Knowledge say “The Academy”, they always mean the academy in Hicho, the first educational institution in the world.
The Academy began as a common school for all children in the village of Hicho. As the city grew, the Academy expanded.
As the Children of Knowledge spread over the farmland, it became impractical to send students to the Academy every day. The Academy became a boarding school for children ages 18 to 27. (Among Children of Knowledge, people are not recognized as mature adults until they graduate.)
Children ages 9 to 18 now go to a school within walking distance.
The first 2 years are mortar years. Students fill in any cracks in their education and become accustomed to Academy life.
Then students have 5 years of focus study. Each student must choose 3 disciplines: 1 pure science, 1 craft or trade, and 1 food-producing activity.
The final 2 years are spent in independent research which usually emphasizes one of the three disciplines. Because young people are expected to find mates at this time, there are also many social activities.
The Academy is able to feed its students and faculty because it produces its own food. In fact, it produces excess food, which is sold to raise funds for building projects and faculty expenditures.
Students work on Academy farms and fishing boats as part of their tuition. Food production occupies enough of students’ time that it takes them 9 years to complete what would be in our world a 4-year undergraduate education. (Even so, they are the most educated people in the world. Most other cultures don’t even have elementary schools.)
In the early days, everyone was expected to go to the Academy and so it seemed reasonable to expect everyone to produce food. By 1311 (The Artificer of Dupho) Hicho has reached a size where it relies on the agricultural communities of the Redwood River Valley to support its population, but the tradition of food production persists.
Role of the Academy in Society
The Academy takes on many functions that we might expect a government to perform.
The Academy mints coins. Each coin represents the amount of money it would take to keep a student at the Academy for a certain amount of time. For example, the thozi is a coin that could theoretically cover one day of study at the Academy.
The Academy codifies laws. A faculty council reviews customs and judicial rulings. From these, the council deduces basic legal principles, which are then published as the standard for all Children of Knowledge. This is not quite the same as making laws, but it is close.
The Academy graduates judges, who are then empowered to judge disputes.
But most importantly, the Academy sets educational standards which are followed by all educational institutions of the Children of Knowledge.
No Longer the Only Game In Town
Eventually the population grew too big and it was no longer feasible for every student to study at the Hicho Academy. Other educational institutions were authorized.
Since 1217, apprenticeships have been recognized as a substitute for academy-style learning.