North Korean education authorities announced on Apr. 3 that school vacations would be extended until the end of April in response to the global novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Daily NK has learned.
The announcement by the country’s education ministry represents the third time North Korean authorities have delayed the restart of school, following delays announced on Feb. 20 and Mar. 16.
Daily NK sources reported that the education ministry decided to delay the start of the school year further because of the “global spread of the coronavirus pandemic,” although it was quick to mention that there have been no COVID-19 outbreaks in North Korea.
In short, the announcement reconfirmed what North Korea’s state media has long emphasized: the country is free from the coronavirus, but the state must take actions that reflect the global spread of COVID-19.
NO SUMMER VACATION
Before the announcement, the school year was set to begin on Apr. 17, following celebrations for Kim Il Sung’s birthday on Apr. 15. The repeated delays in the restart of the school year have created headaches for the country’s teachers, who will now have to create lesson plans that make up for almost three months of missed classes.
“The Ministry of Education has informed schools that the semester will start in early May no matter what,” one source in the country told Daily NK. “It has also ordered teachers to account for the missed schooling of the past few months, adjusting the lesson plans in accordance to what is feasible at their schools.”
Schools throughout the country are reportedly planning to conduct classes during the summer vacation period that stretches from July to August, essentially meaning that North Korean students will not get the summer off this year.
The education ministry did not provide any special instructions to students regarding the extension of the school vacation period, and education authorities are reportedly stressing that the most “patriotic” thing they can do is stay in their homes.
North Korean education authorities have turned to the potential of online learning platforms to fill the gap in class time. “Education information platforms” such as “Sea of Knowledge” and “Top Student Companion” allow students in the country to access important lessons in various subjects and to even practice solving test questions.
Many North Korean students, however, are unable to access these online platforms. Many schools own computers and mobile phones for student use, but students are not allowed to enter school premises to use them. Students who do not own smartphones or computers are unable to access the platforms.
“Students without computers at home are unable to study through the country’s intranet,” one source explained. “Children of high-level officials are reportedly studying with their mobile phones, but ordinary students can’t even dream of doing that because of expensive monthly mobile data rates.”
Many North Koreans are also coming to the realization that the regime’s propaganda machine is wrong when it claims that no COVID-19 patients exist in the country. They are questioning why the government would extend the school vacations further if there was nothing to worry about.
Separately, Daily NK sources confirmed that all North Korean students in Kim Il Sung University’s “gifted program” have graduated and are now taking graduate-level courses at the school amid strict disease control procedures.
Daily NK reported in early March that gifted students at the university continued to take courses despite the closure of all other schools in the country.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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