[imText1]North Korea’s special education program for the gifted began in September 1984, opening Pyongyang Senior Middle No.1 in Pyongyang (it is later renamed Pyongyang Middle School No.1). Pyongyang Middle School No.1 is comparable to South Korean science high schools. Kim Il Sung ordered the creation of this school in July of that year, in order to promote the education of students with extraordinary talents.
The school was built where Namsan Advanced Middle School used to stand. Namsan Advanced Middle School is best known as the institution that Kim Jong Il attended. It is in Sinwon village near the Botong River.
North Korea began to pay significant attention to special education programs for the gifted after realizing that it lagged far behind in the field of science. Several other such schools were constructed in Nampo, Gaesung, Chongjin, and Hyesan following Kim Il Sung’s order in 1985. Currently there are 12 schools of this sort.
These schools emphasize mathematics, physics, and other natural sciences to bring up excellent scientists.
Students are selected by taking an entrance exam after their elementary education. Some students in ordinary middle schools have chances to transfer to these special schools if they receive high marks in mathematics and science. Basically, elementary school graduates can enter these schools, but sometimes children with highly exceptional talents are accepted before their completion of elementary education.
Each school accepts approximately 400 students. To take the entrance exam, a student must be recommended by the principal of the elementary school s/he attended. The exam is said to be so difficult that children with an average level of knowledge have difficulty finishing even a few questions. To be selected, students must receive high marks in the sections that deal with mathematics, science, and the history of Kim Il Sung’s revolution.
Most importantly, one is not given the chance to take the entrance exam if his/her parents are not loyal to the regime.
The educational programs are systematic and thorough. Classes are concentrated on sciences and foreign languages. Students’ true talents are evaluated for the first and second years, and from the third year each student is separately taught based upon his talents and abilities.
A class consists of 25 students. Teachers are not graduates of colleges of education, but are graduates of Kim Il Sung University or Kim Chaek University of Technology, majoring in sciences and languages. They are highly educated. Text books are produced separately from those of ordinary middle schools. Educational materials and facilities are state of the art, and student facilities such as dormitories, swimming pools, and gymnasiums, are maintained in good condition.
Graduates of these schools proceed to Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, or Pyongyang Science College. They are exempted from military service, and are allowed to study abroad. Under these conditions and circumstances, schools for the gifted are desirable to elementary school graduates.