It seems to me like the DADA class syllabus is not set in Hogwarts. In book 2, Lockhart set all his books as the year's syllabus for the class. In book 5, Umbridge set her own syllabus - sort of pre-Hogwarts baby books for fifth, sixth, and seventh year at Hogwarts.

Although the OWL examiners had their expectations from the 5th year students, and students were judged on those levels, it seems like what happens inside classes could be as irrelevant to the syllabus and nobody would bother.

What was even more strange that in book 2, when Harry and Weasley's received their Hogwarts letter, Fred/George peered down Harry's list of books and said that You are also told to purchase all Lockhart's books. This proves that not only the second year students, but the students in the higher classes were also given a similar syllabus, including students of OWL and NEWT classes. How come?


3 Answers 3


Not until Umbridge turned up.

We learn from Umbridge that there was a Ministry-sanctioned syllabus for Defence Against the Dark Arts. It was, however, ignored by most of the DADA teachers.

"The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in you being far below the standard we would expect to see in your O.W.L. year."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 12, Professor Umbridge).

Umbridge, of course, followed this curriculum to the letter.

"We will be following a carefully structured, theory-based, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic."
(Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 12, Professor Umbridge).

Most teachers wouldn't have cared much what the syllabus put forwards by the Ministry was. Dumbledore effectively gave his teachers free rein, meaning that the terrible teachers like Lockhart were allowed to teach terribly (and set their own titles as school textbooks to push themselves up the bestseller list).

As the question suggests, what counts is how students perform in exams. Teachers would've been judged on the performance of their students. As long as the children are able to perform well and receive a decent all-round education neither Dumbledore nor the Ministry took a great interest in the contents of the lessons themselves. Umbridge's era was a break from the norm in this regard.

  • " free reign" *rein "Teachers would've been judged on the performance of their students." As in ... what? Teachers whose students did poorly on NEWTs and OWLs would not be hired again the next year? Oct 26, 2017 at 0:09
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    @TheDarkLord: Is there any indication that (1) there was an official syllabus prior to Umbridge's year and (2) the DADA teachers were not making up their own exams? Oct 26, 2017 at 6:33
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    @Acccumulation Hogwarts DADA teachers always lasted for only one year anyways, regardless of their students' performance. Easy to see why motivation to follow the official curriculum dropped so low if the main consequence for low performance is the meaningless threat of not being hired again. :P
    – Annatar
    Oct 26, 2017 at 8:07
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    @MatthieuM. 1) Yes, the fact that Umbridge says that no-one's been following the syllabus is evidence in itself that there is a syllabus there to follow. 2) None of the teachers write their own exams. They're externally assessed by Ministry staff. Oct 26, 2017 at 17:30
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    @MatthieuM., they write their own exams for the year (Lockhart's exam is proof of this) but the O.W.L.s are written and administered by Ministry officials not connected with the school. Vaguely similar to the SAT, I suppose.
    – Wildcard
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:08

Yes, but it doesn't seem to have been enforced

Curses. They come in many strengths and forms. Now, according to the Ministry of Magic, I’m supposed to teach you countercurses and leave it at that. I’m not supposed to show you what illegal Dark curses look like until you’re in the sixth year. You’re not supposed to be old enough to deal with it till then. But Professor Dumbledore’s got a higher opinion of your nerves, he reckons you can cope, and I say, the sooner you know what you’re up against, the better.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Chapter 14


There is a DADA syllabus, but Hogwarts teachers don't follow it.

Barty Crouch Jr. mentioned that the Ministry didn't think fourth years should be shown Unforgivable Curses yet, so that shows that the Ministry did have guidelines for what was supposed to be taught at Hogwarts, even before Umbridge came along and started making up new laws like she was being paid per new law created.

However, the answer to "Does Hogwarts follow the syllabus?" is undoubtedly no. What students were taught in Defense Against the Dark Arts varied widely, from Lockhart's class on himself to Barty Crouch Jr. teaching more advanced things than he was supposed to. From this, it's easy to see no syllabus was followed or enforced - despite its existence.

Instead, it seems like the teacher gets to choose what they teach.

Almost nothing Lockhart teaches is actually about Defense Against the Dark Arts. Instead, he turned it into a class on him. This seems like a very good indication that there isn't any set curriculum that the teachers were supposed to follow, because Lockhart was able to keep teaching his class on himself and didn't seem to be reprimanded on it, or start making any effort to teach actual Defense Against the Dark Arts content. Lockhart makes everyone study Lockhart's books, as the textbooks for at least three different years, probably for all of them. He also gives a test where the questions are all about him. This almost certainly wouldn't have been on any approved syllabus.

“Nothing to worry about – just to check how well you’ve read them, how much you’ve taken in …’

When he had handed out the test papers he returned to the front of the class and said, ‘You have thirty minutes. Start – now!’

Harry looked down at his paper and read:

1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite colour?

2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?

3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 6 (Gilderoy Lockhart)

This seems to be a pretty good indication that the Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers are allowed to basically teach whatever they want. Those questions aren't even related to Defense Against the Dark Arts, not even tangentially.

Lockhart also reads passages from his books, and makes the students reenact the stories about him from in his books during their classes.

“Since the disastrous episode of the pixies, Professor Lockhart had not brought live creatures to class. Instead, he read passages from his books to them, and sometimes re-enacted some of the more dramatic bits. He usually picked Harry to help him with these reconstructions; so far, Harry had been forced to play a simple Transylvanian villager whom Lockhart had cured of a Babbling Curse, a yeti with a head-cold, and a vampire who had been unable to eat anything except lettuce since Lockhart had dealt with him.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)

He makes Harry pretend to be a werewolf and they reenact the defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf.

“Nice loud howl, Harry – exactly – and then, if you’ll believe it, I pounced – like this – slammed him to the floor – thus – with one hand, I managed to hold him down – with my other, I put my wand to his throat – I then screwed up my remaining strength and performed the immensely complex Homorphus Charm – he let out a piteous moan – go on, Harry – higher than that – good – the fur vanished – the fangs shrank – and he turned back into a man.”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)

Then as homework, the students are required to write a poem about Lockhart defeating the werewolf.

“Homework: compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga werewolf! Signed copies of Magical Me to the author of the best one!”
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)

  • I think most Hogwarts teachers would be offended that you are inferring a general criticism of them using Lockhart as your only example. Lockhart was incompetent. And there was a jinx on the post, or Dumbledore would never have had to stoop so low.
    – Wildcard
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:12
  • @Wildcard I'm not criticizing the other teachers - I'm using Lockhart as an example of how little the syllabus was enforced. The other teachers were more interested in actually teaching, so if they weren't following the syllabus, it didn't matter much. Quirrell was teaching a first year class, so it's unclear if his basic lessons were actually what was appropriate for that level. Lupin may not have been following the syllabus but he taught a good class. "Moody" says he wasn't following it, but his class was useful. Lockhart's class was the clearest example of a class being taught wrong.
    – Obsidia
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:29
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    I looked more carefully at your opener. It should say "for DADA," because as currently worded it implies that other teachers don't follow a syllabus either. I rather suppose Dumbledore doesn't bother to enforce the syllabus for DADA because he knows that every student will have from five to seven different teachers' takes on the subject anyway, and getting DADA teachers every year is hard enough without the perk that they can teach it their own way.
    – Wildcard
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:39
  • @Wildcard I've changed it. :)
    – Obsidia
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:46

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