Jehovah's Witnesses are very well educated and we highly value divine education. (Isaiah 54:13) Any interested person must go through a Bible study program with another baptized member of the congregation as their personal teacher before getting baptized. Thereby every member is well taught. When we study the Bible, taking in accurate facts and knowledge is very important to us. (John 4:23, 24) However, we make sure that this never overshadows the purpose of this knowledge. Knowledge should deepen our faith in God, in his Word, and in his standards. Knowledge should be put into context and understood so that we can appreciate what we are learning and see how to apply it in our own life. Before someone gets baptized they would need to be able to demonstrate a reasonable understanding of the answers to a series of Bible questions. However more than head knowledge is required. The quality of Bible education we receive is so thorough and moving, that it becomes who we are, and changes the way we think, feel, and act. We focus on grasping the very principals underlying different parts of the Bible so that we can apply them in our lives. In fact, a person has to reasonably demonstrate that they are already living by Bible principals and living up to Jehovah's standards before they get baptized. They would also need enough faith and courage to already be engaging in door to door preaching (what we call an unbaptized publisher). (Romans 10:10) Not until they get baptized are they considered a member, and we are taught not to pressure anyone to get baptized because it represents a very personal dedication to Jehovah God.
Our education does not stop at baptism. We are continually educated week after week, day after day, throughout our entire life. (Psalms 1:1-3) We are taught that if we do not read and meditate on God's word daily, that our relationship with him will weaken over time. We also attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall where we worship God together. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) We are encouraged to study the material covered at these weekly meetings in advance.
The information that we continually study covers the following types of things. We study Bible accounts of people who remained faithful to Jehovah and lived by Bible principals. We study background information about the history and way of life surrounding Bible accounts. We study supplementary information about the full and alternative meanings of Hebrew and Greek words beyond their simple translation that we read in the New World Translation including alternative renderings that are not necessarily wrong from other translations. We learn about modern day examples of people who apply Bible principals. We study things that give us more insight into Jehovah's personality.
Often times when commenting on the meaning of words or historical and background information, sources are sighted from known and learned scholars and historians that are not Jehovah's Witnesses. However we do not blindly put faith in what those with a worldly education say. Those producing our literature do extensive research to verify the information. We consider the ultimate authority to be the Bible itself. Sometimes a more accurate understanding of the true meaning of Hebrew and Greek words as used in the Bible is gained from comparing all the instances and contexts in which it is used in the Bible itself than by going off of the popularly accepted meaning for these words. In this way we are careful not to put human tradition and honor ahead of God's word. (John 17:17; Matthew 15:5-9)
There are several schools or Bible courses that Jehovah's Witnesses run for the benefit of their brothers and sisters. While these courses do help us to gain knowledge, the main focus is always to strengthen our relationship with Jehovah and to learn to rely on him and do his will. One of the schools is primarily attended by those who are already elders. Among other things, this helps them to become even more effective in this capacity.
The primary qualifications of an elder are their spiritual traits. They are examined to see if they are developing the fruits of the spirit that appear and grow when Jehovah is blessing your effort to apply what you learn. We go by the requirements for elders as outlined in the scriptures. You can read the requirements for elders and ministerial servants at 1 Timothy 3:1-10,12, and Titus 1:5-9. Elders are not a paid clergy class, but a group of humble men who freely volunteer their time to both teach and shepherd the flock. Instead of having one elder per congregation we have a body of elders for each congregation so that the needs of the flock can be well cared for.
For more information about the way we are organized, see the brochure "Who Are Doing Jehovah's Will Today?" available for reading online at jw.org. Specifically, you may want to read Lesson 15, "How Do the Elders Serve the Congregation?"