Headline:Education Systems on Long Duration Space Missions
Date:Monday, February 10, 2020
Posted By:Plaid Hatter Games

I have been pairing down ideas for how to tell the story of Iliad-07. I have settled on the idea that the player character is the roommate of 11 other well-connected students who are all around 18 years old. The player and these characters have just moved out of their parent's housing units. They are all figuring out what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Each is also struggling to figure out what kind of person, if any, they want to share the rest of that life with.

The player character will regularly interact with characters of other ages. He or she will have a backstory that limits their own relations, be it that they are an artificial life form, an orphan, or the happy accident of a pair of workaholics.

But, if I'm going to start the story in "Space College", how exactly is the education system structured in the colony?

The first thing to get out of the way is that most information on board is learned on the job. Ships are notoriously complex, and technological solutions to problems tend to be ad-hoc. Human energy is a limited resource, and as such cross training is such a pervasive goal this society doesn't even have a word for it.

Primary Education

Every member of society starts with a primary education. Generally between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. This education covers all of the basics that every person on board will need to know. The skills taught are on abstract subjects, and the organization of the subject matter is based on my my Mind/Will/Soul magic system. Fundamental concepts are taught as being all part of a giant continuum.

Their system of instruction in primary school would very much resemble the Montessori style of education in our world. Children are grouped by age mainly to coordinate socializing activities like gym or field trips. Documentation and programs exist to allow children to be taught at home, but the on-board day care also serves roughly the same role as the elementary schools in our world.

Another quick aside: Lunch is the big meal of the day in this society. Schools and workplaces actually close for 2 hours in the middle of the day to allow everyone an opportunity to gather with family to eat. Larger housing units contain kitchen facilities, but people are encourage to utilize the many cafeteria facilities on board. Cafeterias even have special family seating areas. Central food service makes more efficient use of food, and their ability to clean dishes and process waste on an industrial scale just makes life easier for everyone all-around.

Secondary Education

Every member of society goes on to secondary education between the ages of 10 and 18. During this period curricula do specialize somewhat. Instruction becomes more formalized. However, the idea that all knowledge exists in a continuum is still stressed. Everyone is taught the same 6 subjects: Humanities, Logistics, Philosophy, Science, Sociology, and Technology. Every student has to pass each of those classes. In the last 3 years, students can elect for each subject whether to follow three tracks: practical, professional, or theoretical.

Practical tracks covers the basics of what each person needs to understand as a functioning human being on board. Practical classes are, as the name implies, largely instructions on how to carry out activities. How to operate the computer system. How to cook an egg. How to operate a fork lift. Basic shipboard safety. How to operate as part of a damage control team (Firefighting, pipe shoring, hull breach containment, etc).

Professional tracks cover material that someone operating in a professional capacity. While practical matters are covered, these classes include much of the theory. But only on the level that a tradesman would need to know. Keeping in mind that a masters level tradesman may be back in school in the future to take a few theory level courses.

Theoretical tracks cover material that someone who wishes to understand the subject on a what we would think of as a university level would need.

All members of society with a normal intellectual capacity must learn all subjects on a practical level, and at least one subject on a professional level.

Post-Secondary Education

After secondary education, learning is a bit less... formal. One does not "major" in, say Engineering or Medicine. One takes classes from these schools. A budding engineer takes the same higher math classes as a forensic accountant. A medical doctory may very well be seen in an engineering classroom.

Specific trades have specific courses that practitioners are required to pass. Each course has a set of prerequisites. And much like University courses today, one can elect to forgo the classroom instruction and simply test out.

What is different from our society today is how regimented and organized all of the classes are. All instructional material was designed by an educational committee prior to the ship's launch, and all of the material is tailored to the needs of this particular society. One very important part is a system for self-taught individuals to be able to work their way up to being instructors in cases where a living instructor is not available.

A mechanism also exists to extend the educational system with new courses. This is a rather long and drawn out process with a pile of red tape and certifications. The goal is to ensure that new courses are an actual improvement to education, and not simply a path to replicate the educational churn of the late 20th century.


Specialists are artificial life forms that undergo an accelerated growth rate. Part of this growth regime is a set of physical modifications to the body and mind in order to replicate certain learning disorders, handicaps, or other anatomical abnormalities that a recognized legendary individuals in the field possessed. The growth regime also includes stimulating the nervous system in such a way that specialists emerge with a complete secondary education. Specialist "in-womb" education can also include the foundations of any major field of study that is part of the ship's educational system. The alterations to a specialist also include tailoring personality and interests to ensure compatibility with a chosen field.

The ship may need a theoretical physicist, or a legendary engineer. These individuals may occur naturally at rate of one in a million for large populations. But with a population on the ship of only 3000, they are unlikely.

The most common specialists found on ISTO ships include ELF and DWARF. ELF are tailored to be living computers. DWARF are a diminutive race adapted to withstand the extreme G-forces experienced while piloting small spacecraft.