North Korea’s education ministry recently issued orders regarding this year’s summer vacation during a virtual meeting with the education departments of the nation’s 13 provinces and provincial-level cities.

According to the orders, elementary schools nationwide will go on formal holiday for a month in August, while middle and high schools and universities will go on a half month of holiday from mid-August.

A source in North Korea told Daily NK that following the politburo’s recent expanded meeting, educational authorities convened their first virtual meeting after making extensive efforts to build a system of monitors, modems, and cables. “[The education ministry] issued an order pertaining to vacation during the meeting, which was attended by officials from the ministry and provincial education departments,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

During the meeting, the education ministry said elementary schools nationwide will go on vacation for a month starting Aug. 1, while middle and high schools will go on vacation for half a month from the middle of August. It also ordered schools to check their readiness to reopen, setting Aug. 30 as the preliminary date for the restart of classes at all schools nationwide.

With the exception of Kim Jong Un National Defense University, which remains open in summer, North Korea’s universities plan to begin vacation from Aug. 15, with final classes now reportedly underway. “Universities in Pyongyang plan to issue travel certificates to students when classes end by Aug. 13,” said the source. “After going to their hometowns, the students must return to Pyongyang by Aug. 28.”

Interestingly, North Korean education authorities are reportedly preparing to distribute “vacation workbooks” to elementary, middle, and high school students this year. Previously, teachers had assigned homework by telling students to solve questions on such-and-such page of their textbooks during the vacation. This year, however, they are providing separate books for vacation assignments.

pyungyang students school vacations
Students attending class in North Korea’s Pyongyang Elementary School. / Image: Ryukyung Website

“Provincial, city and county publishing houses and print shops are now printing the vacation workbooks,” said the source. “The workbooks differ from grade to grade, and they include not only basic questions, but also sections to write down thoughts on various athletic and natural science activities, as well as a diary section.” In fact, it appears similar to South Korea’s “EBS Vacation Life” textbooks.

North Korean educational authorities have reportedly asked universities to submit written plans detailing which assignments they will be tasking their students with during the summer vacation. Universities had previously assigned vacation assignments by themselves, but this year, they must receive approval from the Central Committee. Accordingly, universities have to submit their plans to the Central Committee from the last week in July to the first week in August, according to the source.

Meanwhile, North Korean students must reportedly carry out “little kid plans” — mandatory economic tasks for students this summer vacation as well. Though North Korean authorities call the assignments part of a “good works campaign,” these are simply economic tasks for kids, according to the source. 

“The Socialist Patriotic Youth League and Korean Children’s Union have already issued plan assignments,” said the source. “Generally speaking, each student has to submit two empty bottles, a kilogram of discarded glass, a kilogram of scrap paper, three kilograms of scrap metal, 100 grams of scrap aluminum, one rabbit hide, one set of gloves, and five sets of mittens. The plans specified that the gloves are to support the construction of 10,000 new homes in Pyongyang.”

Parents are reportedly quite unhappy about the rabbit hide assignment. The source said parents believe they “absolutely must” submit the hides because the “behavior scores” on transcripts depend on how well students have fulfilled their quotas. “However, many parents say the leadership has rashly tasked them with the assignment, not knowing realities – namely, that when you skin a rabbit in summer, all the fur falls out,” said the source.

The source added that students should also catch insects for pest control given that the country is putting all efforts into improving agricultural output. In fact, students reportedly must submit a 500 milliliter glass bottle filled with walkingsticks and other agriculturally harmful pests collected during the vacation.

“With supplementary classes unnecessary because schools will likely finish first semester work before the vacation begins, students need to do only their homework and plans during the vacation,” said the source. “Last year, there was a panic since classes couldn’t proceed because of the sudden outbreak of the coronavirus, but this year, there’s no chaos regarding whether to go on vacation given that classes are set to proceed as scheduled no matter what.”

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.