JEDI RANKS AND TRAINING
From birth to age six:
Throughout the Old Republic, standard midi-chlorian testing was applied to youths aged two to six years old in an effort to assertain Force adeptness. Some candidates were selected as early as birth. However, their training was often delayed in an effort to allow for basic motor skills and speech patterns to develop. Only in the special case of orphans residing in the temple would any younger applicants be cared for. This extensive testing was more concentrated in the inner and mid-rim worlds, and was not a precedent on the outer-rim planets.
Ideally, the candidate would be selected by the first three years of life. These were the most important and dangerous years during development, because at this time, the mental and physical connections in the brain were made. If these connections and thought patterns are already developed, it becomes much harder to re-train the brain and remove undesireable attributes. By approximately ten years of age these characteristics and personalities are firmly set in place.
However, not all Jedi agreed with this training doctrine. Some critics of this method raised moral questions such as the parents' right to keep their children and the ethics in determining a life path for an individual before they reached an age where an informed decision could be formed on their own. However, such concerns were looked upon as minor in comparison to the will of the Force, and were deemed utterly irrelevant by the Jedi Council.
Until age thirteen:
The Jedi candidate was raised and trained in the Jedi Temple, often taught by several Jedi Masters. There they learnt to live by the Jedi Code, study the methods and techniques of the lightsaber (both construction and utilization), and received basic Force training. This continued until age thirteen, where upon the candidate is taken on as a Padawan Learner by a Master. Contact with one's family was permitted, if deemed appropriate by the temple's teachers.
At the age of Thirteen:
If the Jedi trainee was not taken by a Jedi Master as a Padawan learner by age thirteen, then the candidate was placed in service to the Republic in another fashion other than a Jedi Knight. These postions included Agri Corps, Scouting and Exploration, Medical, Shipyard Construction, Accounting/Administration, and Ambassadorial Aide/Intern just to name a few. The assignment was dictated by the Jedi Council based on the students aptitudes, as well as their current level of Force ability. Although the dutiful students usually accepted these postings, they were not required to. Some candidates that did not make the grade choose to return to their homes or set out on their own.
The students had no say in if or how the prospective master chooses a Padawan. The most a potential Padawan could hope for was to catch rumors of the visitation of a Master, and then prepare to put their best efforts forward in hopes of being selected.
From Padawan Learner to the Trials:
Once chosen by a Master , more advance training in the Force occurred, in conjunction with lightsaber construction techniques and other advanced skills. The Padawan stage of training was no less than ten years in length, and otherwise lasted as long as necessary.
If for whatever reason, a Padawan continuely failed the Jedi trials and the Master refused to teach he/she any longer, the Council retained the option to assign another Master to that student. If the failure was the Padawan's fault (frustration at the teachers, an inability to cope with the personal restrictions and hardships of Jedi life, etc.) and they were not turned to the Dark Side, they were allowed to choose to abandon the Jedi way and serve the Republic in a civil service manner similar to a temple dropout. In this instance, they were closely monitored by the Jedi, due to their potent Force Abilities and potential misuse.
If a Padawan's repeated failures were the cause of Dark Side leanings, and they abandon the Jedi way and were turned to the Dark Side, then monitoring of their activities was assumed by the Jedi Shadows. These intrepid guardians would assume their responsibilties and liquidate the fallen Padawan only if they became an active threat to the order and stability of the Republic, or a threat to innocents by their direct actions. If the fallen Padawan preyed upon the Underworld (gangsters, henchmen, assasins etc.) the Shadows would not interfere, and merely direct Sector rangers or other local law enforcement agents in response to criminal activity. If Force use against innocents was a direct contributor to that activity, a Shadow may have stepped in and carried out their duty.
The Trials were intended to be a crucible; a test of character as well as ability. The Trials were not set in stone and were custom fitted to each Padawan. They were an examination of the Padawan's commitment, ability, and moral grounds. The Padawan's fears, their hidden wants and needs, their passions, or their tragedies; all were weighed and somewhere amidst the Psyche layed the key, the measure by which the Council could judge the Padawan's worthiness. How they dealt with the trial, as much as whether or not they physically succeeded or failed was the true trial.
Normally the Trials were only given to those without the taint of the Dark Side, in the hopes that one mistake would be sufficient warning to drive home the dangers and responsibilities of being a Jedi Knight. Completing the trials without temptation (no Dark Side Points) was considered an "A" grade. One Dark Side Point would be a "B" or "C" grade, and 2 or more would receive a "D" or "F".
Although one would think that a ranked A+ Padawan would be the most desirable outcome, this was not completely the case. The straight A student would have problems of their own - since without failure, there was no chance to learn from one's mistakes. These Jedi, although noble and heroic figures, retained a fundamental lack of understanding of the Dark Side, and the ease with which one could be lured. For the others, if through the course of training or in the aftermath of the trials, they atoned for the stain of evil on their soul gained during the Trials, the experience would have had a greater value to them. It would have also yielded a better knight in the long run, than if they never had faced those kinds of risks.
Beyond the Trials:
If they were successful in the Trials, then the Padawan was granted the title of Jedi Knight. They were given permanent accommodations at the Jedi Temple, and received assignments according to the wishes of the Jedi Council, the Senate or the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic.
However, the transition from Jedi Knight to Jedi Master was slightly different. It was more than simply taking on a Padawan Learner. The Knight's first Padawan was to have complete his training, before the Knight could assume the title of Master. Nevertheless, one must point out the distinction between the title "Master" that was used by the Padawan when addressing his mentor, and "Jedi Master", the title that was used between fully trained Jedi and outside the Jedi hierarchy.
A Jedi Knight that did not retain a current Padawan were encouraged to make an annual visit to the Temple to watch the current crop of initiates. They had the option of not selecting a Padawan, but they were required to periodically appear and review the available candidates.