|▲ The dormitory of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-MIddle school ⓒ Yonhap News|
Today is the day for the national academic aptitude test in South Korea. In North Korea, there is an entrance exam similar to that in the South, a so-called preliminary examination.
Applicants for admission to universities among senior-middle school students can get letters of recommendation to enter universities according to their test results. When applicable universities are decided for students, they should take the college-specific entrance exams.
There are four kinds of freshmen in North Korean universities: entrusted students (Uitaksaeng), employed students (Hyunjiksaeng), discharged soldiers (Jedaegunyin), and direct students (Jiktongsaeng).
Entrusted students are those who were entrusted or asked to study by a special government or military department. You can be entrusted after you work for the military, National Security Agency, United Front Department under the Workers’ Party or other especial offices for over 5 years. These kinds of departments send their experienced workers who have not yet acquired a bachelor’s degree but have good records to universities in order to promote them. They must return to their positions after graduation. These entrusted students do not need to take the preliminary examination.
Employed students are those who get recommendations to study at universities from their place of employment. Discharged soldiers also have a right to enter the university after completing military service. However, they must take the preliminary examination lead by the Students’ Recruitment Department under the People’s Committee in each city, county or province. After that they can take the entrance exam.
The Students’ Recruitment Department issues letters of recommendation to students according to how they rank on the preliminary examination. For instance, the first and second top-ranking students may be recommended for Kim Il Sung University, the 3rd and 4th ranked students for Kim Chaek University of Technology, those ranking from 5 to 15 may be recommended for universities in Pyongyang, and the rest of students can get the recommendations for local universities.
Direct students are those who enter universities right after they graduate from middle school. The graduation examination for middle school counts as the preliminary exam for direct students.
Since the conscription system was adopted in North Korea in 2002, senior middle school graduates, with the exception of special middle schools such as foreign language schools or No. 1 senior-middle schools, cannot enter universities directly due to their compulsory military service.
Students all over the country take the preliminary exam on the same day, and the graduation examination is also taken on a nationally appointed day. However, graduation examinations differ among senior middle schools.
Grading the exam is handled respectively by the each local university. During this process, bribes in return for raising scores are common. The situation is the same for preliminary exams as well.
Corruption revolving around the examination process is getting more serious. The number of students recruited is determined by a regional quota system. The Education Department distributes an allocated number of letters of recommendation for universities to each middle school.
When the quota for each university is handed down to the provincial recruitment office, cities and counties compete to get more recommendation rights for top universities. This is because the more students a county sends to the universities, the more kickbacks that county will receive.
But in the end, it is evident that money and power, rather than student achievement, present a more effective means of entering universities.