Changes made to North Korean education system

At 6th session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly in September 2012, the government announced the creation of a new school year–raising the number of compulsory school years from 11 to 12.

You can read more at the link above, but here is how the new system compares with the old:

OLD:
Kindergarten (유치원): 1 year
Primary School (소학교): 4 years [formerly Primary School was called "People's School"]
Secondary/Middle School (고등중학교): 6 years
Total: 11 years

NEW:
Kindergarten (유치원): 1 year
Primary School (소학교):  5 years
Junior Secondary School (초급중학교): 3 years
Senior Seoncdary School (고급중학교): 3 years
Total: 12 years

The new naming convention has been applied to KCTV, which now regularly refers to 초급중학교 and 고급중학교.

However, it appears that there are also more substantive changes being made to curriculum and these still have a ways to go before they are completely implemented. KCNA has [superficially] discussed some of these in two articles this year. Here they are:

Preparations for 12-year Compulsory Education in Active Progress
Pyongyang, January 27 (KCNA) — Preparations for introducing the universal 12-year compulsory education system are progressing apace in the DPRK.

According to Kim Song Il, a department director of the Ministry of General Education under the Education Commission, the 12-year education system will begin in the country on April 1 this year and go into the full enforcement through a transition stage of three years.

New programs, drawn up in accordance with the 12-year education, will be given to kindergarteners (higher class) and first-year pupils of primary schools and junior and senior secondary schools this year.

The new educational system is aimed to train all schoolchildren to be talents equipped with ample knowledge, sound moral character and good health.

New subjects necessary for secondary schoolchildren will be added in the system. Textbooks are edited with emphasis on preserving the Juche character and national identity, and priority will be given to heuristic method in teaching.

Meanwhile, various kinds of courses for teachers are going on in all provinces, cities and counties to generalize the new teaching methods created in Pyongyang and other areas.

Also, efforts have been made on a nationwide scale to increase the number of teachers and provide school things and other conditions for enforcement of the new education system.

and…

Big Efforts Directed to Improving Education in DPRK
Pyongyang, January 30 (KCNA) — Officials of the Ministry of Higher Education under the Education Commission of the DPRK have striven to bring about a new turn in the education this year.

Attention was paid to improving the contents, methods, conditions and environment of education and measures taken to raise the quality of the heuristic teaching methods and introduce them into education.

The officials are now working to widely introduce the newly-developed simulation software and generalize good experiences throughout the country.

Meanwhile, big efforts have been channeled into reinforcing teachers and applying advanced foreign educational methods to local educational work.

The officials are stepping up the work to perfect educational system in some universities, including Pyongyang University of Architecture and put the university education on an IT basis.

They also channel efforts into renewing educational environment of universities, including Kim Il Sung University and Pyongyang Jang Chol Gu University of Commerce.

And they pay deep attention to supplying students with textbooks and reference books in good time.

Yonhap also reported on Changes being made to the DPRK education system (2014-2-2):

North Korea is promoting a double major system and other reform measures at its universities, a magazine reported Sunday, in what experts here said were efforts to boost students’ freedom and emulate schools in capitalist nations.

“In accordance with demands of the new year, projects to innovate the education systems are being pursued,” said an article published in the Jokuk monthly magazine obtained by Yonhap News Agency. The magazine, whose name means “My Nation” in Korean, is read by North Korean nationals residing in Japan.

“The second major system is being implemented and other reformative measures are also being taken in order to accomplish our education objective of spreading science and information,” said the article titled “How bright North Korean scientists are nurtured.”

The magazine also noted that universities are downsizing their curriculum as part of the education reform efforts.

The undergraduate-level diploma courses for liberal arts and social science at the North’s leading Kim Il-sung University used to be a five-year program, but they were shortened by six months in 2002. They now will be shortened further to a four-year program.

Experts here said such reform measures reflect influences from capitalist education systems, where the double major system is allowed under a four-year undergraduate diploma curriculum.

“North Korea’s push for greater student freedom as reflected in its adoption of the double major system seems to be in line with the development of a market economy in North Korea in which more individual autonomy is allowed,” said Lim Eul-chul, a research professor at Kyungnam University.

North Korea expanded its 11-year compulsory education system by one more year in 2013, matching the 12-year basic education plan used in South Korea.

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