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The Warped Nature of Gifted Student Schooling

In-depth Study of the North Korean Education System – Part 2.
Moon Sung Hwee, from Jagang in 2006  |  2009-07-17 15:11
The birth of education for the gifted generated a new social trend which placed great value on science. First senior middle schools grew out of that trend.

In first senior middle schools, students are educated in the natural sciences using high quality text books produced especially for the task.

Only the graduates of these schools can enter elite science universities such as Pyongsung-ri College of Science, Kangkye College of Defense or the elite KimChaek University of Technology. Since 1992, the first generation of graduates has been distinguishing itself in professional fields. Naturally, they have had a great affect on military and scientific technological developments.

Being a first middle school student is even an exemption from compulsory military service.

In addition to being a shelter from undesirable military obligations, as graduates from the school tend to work in better positions in society, the first senior middle school is a great path to a comfortable future.

However, powerful and wealthy parents lobby hard to get their children into a first middle school, and as a consequence what was supposed to be national education for gifted students has degenerated into a school for the children of the rich and politically powerful classes. To add insult to injury, as the numbers of elite first middle school graduates rises, the number of opportunities for other, general students falls even further.

And indeed, since the March of Tribulation in the mid-1990s, this discrimination has grown more and more serious, so now there is practically zero opportunity for average children to enter the first middle school at all, and therefore little chance to use their innate abilities to climb the social ladder.

This is because, during and after the March of Tribulation, ideological training, “[proletarian] class spirit education,” seriously distorted the system of gifted-student education.

Through this “(proletarian) class spirit education,” under the slogan, “Without the revolutionary and proletarian classes we cannot maintain the achievements of the revolution,” the authorities emphasized the need for the Juche Ideology to dominate society. The classes encouraged abhorrence of capitalists and the bourgeoisie via lessons about capitalist contradictions and the superiority of socialist system.

Since 1998, revolutionary education facilities for (proletarian) class spirit education have been built in every province, city, county and neighborhood. This has changed society markedly, because since the Kim Il Sung period, until the March of Tribulation, the only area of life where class or family background had not had an effect on an individual’s chances was education.

This has resulted in the concept of three classes and 51 groups in society, formed originally in the 1970s, being more rigorously applied: the core class (workers, former farm hands, party members, intellectuals educated after 1945, etc.); the unsettled class (traders, intellectuals educated before 1945, former Confucian scholars and etc.); and the hostile class (former rich farmers, former landlords, pro-Japanese factions, religious persons, criminals’ families, those who have been exiled etc.). The unfavorable classes and groups have since grown more sharply defined and discriminated against, with different classes receiving vastly different treatment.

This has cemented a hereditary social system, and the vicious cycle of family background and class being passed down to descendants has irrevocably formed. Of course, the standard for admission to a school is also class. Ability is no longer of any relevance whatsoever. Now, countless young minds just wither on the vine.

General students feel defeatist when evaluating themselves, thinking they are losers with no social footholds. Since they are not elite students, and are not of a favorable class background, their chances are vanishingly small.

So, what do such groups do? Well, parents in lower classes who would have used education to help their kids escape from poverty or an unstable class have developed an interest in other methods, beyond the school gates. Money.

Since they cannot change their family background, these parents and students have started to believe that they need to earn a great deal of money to be able to give their children a chance. Not a side effect the authorities had hoped for.
 
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2014.08.12
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