Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
DPRK state media reported on 25 September (Tuesday) that the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly [SPA] convened at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n), along with SPA Presidium President Kim Yong Nam, DPRK Cabinet Premier Choe Yong Rim, Korean People’s Army [KPA] General Political Department (bureau) Director VMar Choe Ryong Hae, KPA Chief of the General Staff VMar Hyon Yong Chol, Vice Chairmen and Members of the National Defense Commission [NDC], SPA deputies (delegates) and, according to KCNA, “officials of party, armed forces and power bodies, public organizations, ministries and national institutions and those in the fields of science, education, literature and arts, public health and press.” The agenda of the 6th session of the 12th SPA focused on modifying the country’s education laws and making personnel changes to the SPA Presidium (standing committee) and appointing a new chairman of the SPA Budget Committee.
The SPA adopted a revised education law, making elementary and secondary mandatory for 12 years. Previously, DPRK law required 11 years of “compulsory education.” The new education law was described as a “a step reflecting the dear respected Kim Jong Un’s noble outlooks on the country, the younger generation and future” and was justified because the country “is now demonstrating its might as a dignified military power possessed of nuclear deterrent, a country that manufactures and launches satellites. Korean-style CNC technology and flexible production system have been introduced to the different domains of the national economy and a great number of Juche-based and modern heavy and light industrial bases and grand monuments have been built.”
The law does not take effect until the 2013-14 academic year and also calls for increased government funding to make up for teacher shortages and expand the training and education of the country’s teachers. KCNA reports:
According to the decision, the universal 12-year compulsory education shall be enforced in all areas of the DPRK.
The universal 12-year compulsory education shall be enforced free of charge and all children from 5 to 17 years are obliged to receive this education.
This education consists of one-year pre-school education and five-year primary schooling, three-year junior middle schooling and three-year senior middle schooling.
The six-year middle schooling shall be enforced from the 2013-2014 school year, divided into three-year junior middle schooling and three-year senior middle schooling.
The work for converting the four-year primary schooling to five-year primary schooling shall go through the preparatory phase to be started in the 2014-2015 school year and this shall be finished in 2-3 years.
Educational system and education of special courses of study shall be decided as separate issues.
Measures shall be taken to solve the shortage of teachers resulting from the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education, raise their qualifications and improve educational methods.
State investment in education shall be increased and conditions and environment necessary for the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education be created.
Administrative guidance and legal control shall be strengthened for the successful enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education.-
SPA Chairman Choe Tae Bok, the KWP Secretary for Science and Education and a former school teacher, college professor, university president and Minister of Higher Education, delivered a report prior to the education law’s adoption:
The new education system is aimed at helping the younger generation round off the secondary general education by teaching them general basic knowledge and basic knowledge of modern technologies in the period of the 12-year systematic education which consists of one-year pre-school education, five-year primary school education, three-year junior middle school education and three-year senior middle school education.
The reporter said that the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education is a huge task to be carried out as a nationwide movement with the involvement of whole society. He elaborated on it.
The order and phases for the enforcement of the system shall be fixed properly and be thoroughly carried out, he said.
An important task for enforcing the universal 12-year compulsory education is to properly shape the educational contents and improve the methods of education, he added.
He called for stepping up the work for improving the curricula which constitute a basis in arranging the educational contents, and confirming the general goal of the secondary general education, goals of the courses of study and the scope and level of educational contents. He also underscored the need to write and publish necessary textbooks at an early date.
He also underlined the need to strengthen education in computer technology and foreign languages with a main emphasis on the education in general basic knowledge in the field of basic sciences including mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.
He also called for kicking off an intensive drive for creating new and substantial educational methods and generalizing them as well as actively introducing test methods for correctly assessing the abilities of students.
All the schools should carry out the positive drive to put the teaching, experiments and practical training on an IT basis, computerize the educational administration and management and establish information communications network between the education committee and educational institutions across the country so that teachers and students can receive information necessary for the education in time, the reporter noted.
He also called for successfully building up in a substantial way the ranks of teachers who are directly responsible for education and drastically raising their levels and roles.
Increased state investment in the educational field and provision of educational conditions are a sure guarantee for the successful enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education, he said, and continued:
The expenditure for education should be markedly increased in the state budget, and electricity, equipment and materials needed for education be provided on a preferential basis.
The role of organizations patronizing schools should be raised and the officials of all units including provincial, city and county people’s committees should pay deep attention to the education and push forward the work for the enforcement of the universal 12-year compulsory education in close combination with the model education county movement.
Educational and scientific research institutions should strengthen study for raising the quality of the universal 12-year compulsory education on the basis of a correct review and analysis of the present state of education of the country and the worldwide education trend. They should analyze and systematize scientifically and theoretically the new and advanced teaching methods and experience created in practice and generalize them.
The 6th session of the 12th SPA also appointed new members to the SPA Presidium and the Budget Committee. Appointed to the SPA Presidium were Hong In Bom, Chief Secretary of the South P’yo’ngan KWP Provincial Committee and a deputy (vice) director of the KWP Organization Guidance Department, and Jon Yong Nam, Chairman of the Kim Il Sung Youth League Central Committee. Dr. Choe Hui Jong, Director of the KWP Science Education Department, was removed as Chairman of the SPA Budget Committee. He was replaced by Kwak Pom Gi, KWP Secretary and Director of the KWP Finance and Planning Department.
Despite a deluge of prognostications and anticipation, the 6th session of the 12th SPA did not promulgate any modifications concerning special administrative regions/economic zones, market mechanisms or agricultural policies. It is entirely likely that the legislative session addressed one or all of these policy initiatives, but chose not to publicize them to external observers. As to Pyongyang’s possible reticence, Yonhap cited an anonymous ROK government who remarked that ” even if the North had approved a reform drive in the latest session, it may shy away from announcing it now for fear of potential humiliation if the reform efforts fail.” It is also possible that in its deliberations, the central leadership opted to keep any policy modifications and their implementation within the Korean Workers’ Party (whereby instructions are issued through the party [OGD] to people’s committees and cooperative farm committees). Kwak Pom Gi’s appointment as SPA Budget Chairman could illustrate how new policies might be implemented. Kwak directs the KWP Finance and Planning Department, which was a 2005 consolidation of (among other entities) the KWP Economic Policy Control Department and the KWP Agriculture Department.