Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School, the Best Elite Training Institute in North Korea

Daily NK
Yoon Il Geun

As part of special education policy for the talented, North Korean government established in 1984 Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School, whose education course corresponds to the national curriculum for high schools in South Korea. By 1985, the North Korean regime had finished establishing No.1 Senior-middle School at every seat of provincial government and started a full-scale special education for the gifted.

The competition for No. 1 Senior-middle School is fierce because only those graduates from these schools can get into universities. The No. 1 Senior-middle School is different from the ordinary schools in terms of teaching materials and the quality of teachers. However, there is a huge difference even among No.1 Senior-middle Schools. The best one is Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School.

Located in the Shinwon-dong of Bontongkang-district, Pyongyang, Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School has a total floor space of 28,000 square meters, a four-story building for primary school, a ten-story building for Senior-middle school, dormitories, cafeteria, and other accessory buildings. It is surely the best school in North Korea.

The entrance quota is approximately one thousand students with around 300 selected from the countryside. The dorms for these students from provinces have better facilities than the dorms of Kim Il Sung University have.

The predecessor of the present Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School was “Pyongyang Namsan Advanced Middle School,” that Kim Joing Il attended between 1957 and 1960. In those days, the school only received as its students the children of army general, anti-Japanese fighters, the cadres of the central party, cabinet members, and renowned artists or intellectuals. It was “the school for the nobility.”

As part of Kim Jong Il’s policy for special education, the school changed its name into Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School. The latter now boasts about having best education and experimental facilities, and prominent teachers. The school buildings which were constructed at a cost of 5.8 million U.S. dollars are very modern. All facilities were imported from Japan including desks and chairs, interior decorations, laboratory tools, reagents, musical instruments, and sports equipment

Also called as Kim Jong Il’s alma mater, the school has a pool of teachers, most of whom are graduates from Kim Il Song National University, Kimchaek University of Technology, and Kim Hyong Jik College of Education. It also has twenty (or so) up-to-date laboratories, an excellent specimen room, and the scanning electron microscope, one which is not available even in Kim Il Sung University.

At the 10-story and its accessory building, there is the “Kim Jong Il Memorial Hall,” which exhibits materials from Kim Jong Il’s school days, and is used for idolization education of Kim Jong Il. Moreover, the school has an auditorium with the sitting capacity of 500 persons, libraries, gyms, swimming pools, dispensaries and a barbershop.

Inside the 10-story building are the principal’s office, the room for party secretaries, teachers’ rooms, classrooms, laboratories, audio-video classroom for foreign language studies, “Kim Il Sung Revolutionary History Study” room, modern computer labs, and a studio fully equipped with Japanese electronic musical instruments.

Those students originally from Pyongyang are mostly the children of the central Party or central ministry members, anti-Japan fighters, army generals, and rich Pyongyang citizens including some Korean-Japanese. Unlike the children of the upper classes, students from the countryside are selected not based on family background but talents. Most of these students are transfer students from provincial Senior-middle Schools. Therefore, there is a stark contrast between less qualified students from affluent Pyongyang families and highly talented transfer students from not–so- rich families.

The students from provinces display real talents.

In fact, it is these transfer students from provincial No.1 Senior-middle School who really raise the prestige of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School. For the most time, it is them who won awards at the International Math Olympic or computer tournament, or achieve academic success later in college.

Apparently, Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School serves two purposes. It is both an aristocratic school for the upper-class children and a special school which offers education for the gifted and produces the most brilliant men in North Korea.

As the most elite school, Pyongyang No. 1 Senior-middle School values not only science and technology education but also art and physical education. This is what makes Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School different from other provincial No.1 senior-middle Schools. The physical education program emphasizes activities such as basketball, swimming, and apparatus gymnastics (horizontal bar, parallel bars), and offers lessons of boxing, soccer, and table-tennis. It is mandatory to make swimming lesson two times per week. In addition, the music education program offers classes such as singing and composition course, and electronic piano lessons. There are also music bands in the school.

As a result of the broad-based curricula of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School, the graduates of this school are taller on the average than their counterparts from No.1 provincial Senior-middle Schools, and display better performance at physical and music education. The self-confident students of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School are also good at dating.

On the streets in Pyongyang, people can easily spot schoolboys with school badge of Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School flirting with school girls from No.1 or No.2 Geumsung School Special Art Schools.

Thanks to Kim Jong Il’s favoritism, Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School enjoys many kinds of privileges. In 1997, the students received exemption from military service. Furthermore, they have great advantage over the students of No.1 provincial Senior-middle Schools in obtaining the nomination letter needed to get into top universities,

When it comes to entering into Kim Il Sung University, each No. 1 provincial Senior-middle School is allowed to write about 5~9 nomination letter whereas Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School can write about 80~90. Similarly, the provincial schools can write no more than 1~2 nomination letters for Pyongyang Medical School whereas Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School can write 20~30 nomination letter. Almost all students who graduated from Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School go to top universities. Those graduates who were poor at school performance go to Pyongsung College of Science.

The graduates from Pyongyang No.1 Senior-middle School also enjoy special treatment in their universities. They are more likely to be selected as student leaders and to receive attention from professors. As Kim Jong Il’s alma mater, Pyongyang Senior-middle School No.1 draws national attention and support. It is surely the best elite school in North Korea.


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