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North Korea’s education system is very important for all Korean citizens because the core Korean teachings are infused through education. Students in North Korea are taught the communist ideology and also the greatness of their leaders such as Kim Jong II and Kim II Sung through education. The subjects taught are also directed towards science and technology so as to enable students to be the future technicians, scientists, and workers that the government can rely on to achieve the country’s goals. Korean education is made up of kyoyuk which is basically technical skills and scientific knowledge. It also consists kyoyang which is indoctrination. Both of these act as the means of transforming the citizens into reliable communists.
The countries education system is made up of three kinds of schools. The main is the general school system. The other two schools are schools for continuing education and schools for special purposes. The education system has preserved its structure since 1975 when major reforms were done on the system following the Party’s main policy changes. These three types of school will be discussed in brief below.
General school system in North Korea (GSS)
Elementary school students, SourceThe general school system is what is referred to as school systems in other nations across the globe. It is referred to as general school system so as to differentiate it from the other types of schools mentioned above. GSS contains kindergarten all through 10th grade (K-10), elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher education. Kindergarten goes for two years and it has two levels. The lower class starts at age four while the upper class starts age five. At this stage, education is free and compulsory. Elementary (primary) school also referred to as people’s school or Inmin hakkyo, starts at age six and it takes a total of four years to finish. The next stage is secondary school which is higher middle school or Kodung chunghakkyo in North Korea. This offers students a total of six years of learning and it has two main levels: the lower-level middle school which is attended by students aged between 10-13 years and it goes for four years; and the higher-level high school that is completed in two years and it is attended by students aged between 14-15 years.
After completing secondary schools, recommended students can proceed and take up higher education. This has two main systems; for continued education and academic purposes. GSS academic higher education is inclusive of universities where students learn for four to six years depending on the course selected; Teachers’ College for primary school teachers which takes a total of three years to complete; and junior colleges attended for three years. After completing their studies at the university, students can continue their studies at the master and doctoral level at post-Doctoral learning institutions.
North Korea has three main universities that students attend. These are Koryo Sungkyunkwan University, Kin Ch’aek Technical University, and Kim II Sung University. Most of the students in the country go to school at Kim II Sung University and it is the only university that offers most of the higher education programs. Students who are highly loyal to the party and with a desirable social class are the only ones given a recommendation by their instructors to progress to higher education. Students who do not get any recommendation are supposed to work in the mines and farms, or to join the military.
Kim II Sung University was established in October 1946 and it is North Korea’s all-inclusive higher education institution and it offer’s undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees. The university is viewed as North Korea’s pinnacle of education and competition to join is very intense. Its faculties and colleges include foreign languages, economics, computer science, history, literature, mathematics, philosophy, chemistry, law, nuclear power, geography, and physics. The university has a total of 3000 faculty members, inclusive of research and teaching staff. All the facilities are sited on an up to date high-rise campus in the northern region of P'yongyang. Senior middle school grades are used to determine who gets admitted into the university. It is, however, important to note that political criteria can also be used as a main factor in the selection process.
Other notable higher learning institutions are the University of Natural Science and the Kin Chaek University of Technology. The former mostly focuses on natural science and computer science linked to nuclear research. Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies trains trade officials and working level diplomats. Kim Hyong Jik, on the other hand, trains teachers.
There is also a not for profit institution established by graduate students from Singapore, Wharton School, Yale, and Harvard; the Choson Exchange. This organization organizes consulting and training programs in Economics, Business, and finance in conjunction with the State Development Bank of North Korea and Kim II Sung Unversity. The programs offered by this organization target North Koreans who are below 40 years and combine on-site lectures and OpenCourseWare to train the students all year round.
Pyongyang University, SourceThe Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) was opened in 2008 and it is North Korea’s only dual venture higher learning institution that was established, financed, and is managed by citizens from both North and South Korea, and Evangelical Church groups, as well as the United States of America and China. The university was founded with the aim of recruiting about 200 graduate and doctorate students every year from both Koreas. Most of the faculty members have been hired from research institutions and universities abroad. Courses are taught in both Korean and English. There is also the Pyongyang Business School which offers short courses taught by foreign instructors. The university was established by the Swiss government and it helps educated the learners business management. Another economic higher learning institution is the Centre for the Study of the Capitalist that was founded in 2000.
It is important to note that all universities in the country have to admit a percentage (twenty to thirty) of soldiers who have been discharged from the army. They need to have served for over three years. They also admit workers who have been employed for more than five years.
Also, note that any person who wishes to get acceptance to any higher learning institution has to be proposed by the local “college recommendation committee” before they can get approval from the county and provincial level committees.
Continuing education system in North Korea
The continuing education system is attached to farms, factories, and fishery cooperatives. The country has also placed a lot of emphasis on continued education of all citizens. As a result, adult education is supported a lot. All the people in the country take part in one educational activity or the other and this often takes place in the form of study groups.
From as early as the 1990s people living in the rural areas were divided into “five-family teams” and this system has continued to date. These teams have surveillance and educational purposes; the teams are the obligation of a school teacher or any other scholar and each is responsible for a number of other similar teams. Factory and office workers are also expected to have study sessions every day after work to study technical and political subjects. These study sessions are usually two hours long.
Kintergarden at the Tongbong Cooperative Farm, SourceA number of adult education institutions are present in the country. Some of these include “factory colleges” where workers are taught new techniques and skills without them being forced to leave their jobs. Students get to work part-time, study in the evening or pursue short courses that are intensive. The students get to leave their places of work for only a month or so. “Farm colleges” are also available. These are attended by rural workers who want to study engineering so as to qualify as engineers and assistant engineers. These colleges also have a system of correspondence courses for its students. For peasants and workers who are not able to obtain regular school education, there can attend “labourer’s schools” and “labourers’ senior middle schools”. These have, however, become less relevant because of the free and compulsory education offered by the government in the general school system.
Special purpose school in North Korea
This education system is for talented and brilliant children and children from the elite class in the society. The education system is made up of the revolutionary school also known as the elite school. Students join this join from the age of 5 and it lasts for 10 years. The other is for schools of arts and sports attended by students aged between 6 to 18. The other is the schools for foreign language. Students who attend these schools are aged 10 to 18 years. The last are the schools for science attended by students aged between 10 to 21.
These three schools have made sure that everyone in the country gets some form of education thus increasing the country’s literacy rate which has been approximated to be 100% for citizens aged 15 and above. The schools have also enabled them to be more productive thus being able to contribute to the country’s goals.