The Big Read Summarizes:
"The young Ged is born—a fated seventh son—on the island of Gont and, by accident, discovers that he possesses an innate talent for magic. Even as an untrained boy he is able to use his nascent powers to save his town from marauders. Soon, though, he goes to study with gentle Ogion the Silent, whom he foolishly fails to appreciate. Sent to complete his studies at the Archmage's school for wizards on the island of Roke, Ged grows increasingly proud, over-confident, and competitive. To display his much-vaunted skills, he rashly attempts a dangerous spell—with dire consequences for Earthsea and himself. Hoping to repair the damage he has caused, the chastened Ged embarks on a series of journeys around Earthsea—and eventually beyond the known world."
"While several fairly recent books have depicted magic education taking place in a school, an earlier tradition is that of the apprentice in magic who worked with an accomplished master in what we might today describe as an individual tutorial situation" - Pat Pinsent (paragraph 1, Apprenticeship in Magic)
Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea, published in 1968, became the first tale (that I know of) in fantasy which possessed a school of magic. Up until this point, magical learning was taking place through apprenticeships (see above quote) instead of formal schooling.
The cool part, though, is that Le Guin first utilizes an individual mentor for Ged: Ogion..
"if he prove apt I will keep him as a prentice" (18-19)
...which doesn't seem to work out, since Ged ends up at the magic school anyway.
It would seem that while apprenticeships can teach a young witch or wizard a lot, the benefits of organized education institutions lend something that cannot be gained through individual mentoring: magical authority institutions, and a standard way of learning magic.
"...for they being sorcerers studied now with the Master Patterner in the secrecy of the Immanent Grove, where no prentice might set foot. Ged stayed in the Great House, working with the Masters at all the skills practiced by sorcerers, those who work magic but carry no staff..." (Le Guin 71)
This section of the text may seem dry, but it has a plethora of information in it about the way that magic is taught. The rules about prentice's prohibited from the Immanent Grove may indicate that they are learning magic reserved for more advanced students, like our world's version of advanced calculus.
The Great House that Ged is staying in could indicate that the novices are kept away, possibly for their own safety in their limited knowledge of the magical arts...
Either way, magic in the world of Earthsea is controlled by authority figures: The Masters.
Pretty different from Mickey's apprentice experience in Fantasia, huh?
Why?!?! - An Author's note
For a final project in Fantasy Fiction (check out sf@sf- its a great resource for everything fantasy and sci-fi) I decided to do a timeline. But I couldn't do any ordinary timeline, right? I mean, that would be entirely too easy.
So for your pleasure, and my pain, this is a timeline showing the progression of magical education since A Wizard of Earthsea was published in 1968-- to see if apprenticeships have died in the wake of the magic school phenomenon... or if they're coming back. Or even more interesting, if they never left in the first place.
And even though this is for a class, I plan on working on it for.. well, forever. So any and all feedback is welcome, and appreciated.
Enjoy the journey through time, my weary travelers. Because here... we... go!