North Korean teachers will again conduct home-based classes for their students when the school year begins on Mar. 1, Daily NK has learned.

“On Tuesday [Feb. 16], the education ministry ordered all provincial education departments to [conduct classes] by visiting [students’ homes] as they had done last year,” a source in the country told Daily NK yesterday.

COVID-19 made it difficult for students to go to school last year, and education authorities in the country replaced in-school classes with having teachers visit students’ homes to conduct classes. The continued spread of COVID-19 appears to have led North Korean authorities to again turn to home-based lessons for the upcoming school semester.

“There continue to be students who show symptoms [of COVID-19] such as fevers and coughing,” the source said, adding, “[The authorities] say that [the symptoms] are not COVID-19, but these students are nonetheless being quarantined in state-run isolation facilities or at home.”

The source also told Daily NK that the authorities believe that home-based lessons are a “way to achieve the Workers’ Party’s education revolution plans” and that home-based classes will be as effective as those in school.

Typically, North Korean schools take a winter vacation from late January to mid-February before starting the new semester. During this period, students head to school for one or two months and practice schoolwork that they failed to learn properly over the past school year and may even take classes aimed at helping them review the past year’s material. They also take part in cleaning and beautification activities at their schools.

The COVID-19 crisis has delayed school curriculums, however, and schools will not open until Mar. 1, according to the source.

notebook computers
Students at North Korea’s Pyongyang Elementary School taking computer lessons. / Image: Ryukyung

“From Mar. 1, students will take classes at home focused on reviewing class material, including things that they learned [over the past school year] and, if required, students will head to schools in groups of two or three to clean designated areas such as building interiors and exteriors, the school exercise fields, green belts managed by the school for students to observe nature, and livestock pens,” the source said.

The source also noted that students will officially move up a grade and begin the new school year’s curriculum from Apr. 1, but that “there is no news yet about whether students will head to school [for classes] in April.”

According to the source, the parents of students find it “very burdensome” to have teachers show up to their homes to conduct classes, but they are quietly accepting the government’s order to conduct home-based classes because of the concern that their children will fall behind if they do not receive instruction.

Some powerful government officials and members of the donju (North Korea’s wealthy entrepreneurial class) have hired private tutors to help their kids keep up with their studies. In light of this, some ordinary people are complaining that given the government’s emphasis on “self-sufficiency” it is only possible to properly raise one’s child if parents resort to “self-reliant ways” to education their children.

Following the education ministry’s order to start home-based instruction from Mar. 1, teachers have prepared and submitted one-week long curriculums for home-based classes to their schools’ education affairs departments. City and county education departments, along with provincial education departments, will thoroughly review these curriculums before conducting a “trial home-based instruction period” from Feb. 26-27.

Education authorities have ordered teachers to carry electronic temperature readers with them during the home-based classes to measure the temperatures of their students and record these temperatures in ledgers. The authorities have reportedly emphasized that the teachers will be evaluated on how well they conduct these disease control measures.

In Pyongyang and the capitals of each province, where students can take classes in a remote setting, teachers are reportedly confirming that their students have computers and that the computers are linked to intranet modems that will connect to education support software.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.
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Ha Yoon Ah is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.