Teachers’ rally sparks hope for change in North Korea’s education system 

Inside the Grand People’s Study Hall / Image: Daily NK

The North Korean government has announced through the Rodong Sinmun and other state-run media that a rally will be held to discuss ‘transformation of the education system’ in the country. Teachers, students and parents are reportedly expressing hope that the event will lead to new changes. 

Several Daily NK sources in Ryanggang Province have reported rumors circulating among teachers that the rally will include a ‘practical discussion on new educational methods based on experience and achievements’ in regards to the country’s 12-year compulsory education system, which was established in 2013. North Koreans are keen to understand issues concerning the country’s education system to be discussed at the 14th National Teachers Rally in early September, participants of which have recently been selected. 

Many are expecting that the rally will serve as a catalyst to further popularize the new educational system in place over the last seven years. Some predict that the discussions will lead to an increase in practical courses, which are popular among students. 

The new 12-year compulsory education system introduced in 2013 shortened class times from 45 to 40 minutes, and increased the number of school hours devoted to ‘outside-the-classroom experiences’ and ‘practice-based education’. Education authorities even adjusted school vacation periods so that there are fewer classes held during times of intense heat and cold throughout the year. Despite these efforts, Daily NK sources have reported many teachers face burnout due to financial difficulties and are sometimes even mobilized to work in construction projects.  

Some rumors reported by Daily NK sources suggest that the rally will bring about new measures to encourage students to study abroad, given that the authorities have placed a strong emphasis on science and ‘modernization’ in educational the curriculum in recent years. 

“Several middle-school students at schools in Hyesan are studying abroad in China,” said one of the sources from Ryanggang Province. “Just like the saying ‘Keep your feet on the ground but turn your eyes toward the world!’ [a slogan attributed to Kim Jong Il], people are hoping that if young students can study modern technology, then national development will follow.” 

That being said, North Korean officials have placed an emphasis on “self-sufficiency” in recent years, so the rally may simply focus on developing the country through North Korea’s own education system. 

Teachers selected to participate in the rally include those with outstanding track records from schools throughout the country. 

“Teachers received recommendations from other teachers and school party cells, which the central education authorities then used to select participants,” said the source. 

“Just participating in the rally is considered a huge honor, so teachers who didn’t get chosen are feeling envious,” added another source in Ryanggang Province. “For teachers, participation in the rally smooths the road ahead for them because all participants get to have a commemorative photo taken with the Great Leader (Kim Jong Un).”