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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said his country’s education system “lags far behind” the world’s development trends and the ruling party’s plans, calling on teachers and officials to rectify these defects “as early as possible,” state media reported on Wednesday.
The remarks came in a work titled “Teachers Should Fulfill Their Duty as Career Revolutionaries in Implementing the Party’s Policy on Bringing About a Radical Turn in Education” published on the occasion of Tuesday’s 14th National Conference of Teachers held in Pyongyang.
The work is reportedly the outcome of a meeting with officials from the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) held on August 22 on ways to develop the education system.
The purpose of that meeting, the DPRK leader said, was to “improve the standard of overall education and further expedite the building of a powerful country of socialist education and a talent power.”
In a Korean-language report carried by state media including Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and the party daily Rodong Sinmun, Kim said this week’s conference should serve as a “turning point in developing the education of the country,” adding the WPK considers the event “greatly significant.”
To that end, participants were asked to “analyze and review achievements, experience and shortcomings” in the course of implementing the party’s education policy and “discuss practical matters to bringing about a revolutionary improvement in education.”
In his work, Kim most notably pointed to deficiencies in the country’s education system, urging attendees to “draw a serious lesson from these defects and rectify them as early as possible.”
“Comrade Kim Jong Un pointed out that education has not yet met the party’s intention and demands and it lags far behind the world trend of education development,” KCNA reported.
Plans to “complete the education system and innovate the contents and methods of the education system were not carried out in accordance with the principles of socialist pedagogy,” Kim reportedly said.
He also bemoaned the “lack of interest in education science among education officials and teachers,” lamenting that projects aiming at “improv[ing] the educational environment could not proceed corresponding to pedagogic needs and are biased more towards form than content.”
TEACHERS UNDER FIRE, THOUGH LEADER EXPRESSES REGRETS
A “reeducation” program for current teachers must be organized, Kim said, to “prevent the aging of their knowledge and functions and to constantly enhance their qualities to meet the needs of the times.”
Teachers must work as high-caliber educators, he continued, as their qualifications can decide the “quality of education, the ability of students, and the speed of the country’s advance.”
“The fact that a transition in educational work has not taken place is mainly linked to [the fact] that the quality of teachers is not high,” he said.
“Students who learn from low-quality, ineffectual teachers are likely to become dead wood, and parents don’t want to leave their children to these teachers.”
Teachers, he said, “must be a strong root which can bear faithful fruits by decisively enhancing its qualifications.”
In his work, the North Korean leader accused some teachers of being preoccupied with “complaining about conditions and keeping their position” instead of committing to educating future generations.
Kim called on the country to “strengthen” the quality of university teachers, suggesting that more students who have studied abroad be appointed as professors.
“The country has put a lot of effort into sending students to other countries for their study,” Kim said. “They have to be placed in the university education field so that one can grow ten talents who can nurture 100 talents.”
Kim emphasized that the “teachers’ camp” should be composed of those who are highly skilled and have good prospects as educators, as well as those who have completed Ph.D. courses.
“The problem is that university teachers do not know reality very well,” he said, urging them to be aware of changing and developing realities and take measures to push forward educational work accordingly.
“We should not proceed with the work of fostering talented individuals in the manner of pouring water into a bottomless jar, only thinking about today,” he said.
In addition, the North Korean leader said the country “urgently needs to supplement the shortage of teachers” to meet the needs of elementary and secondary schools.
Expressing some regrets, however, Kim Jong Un emphasized that a “social ethos” in which teachers are respected and treated courteously “should be set up.”
“I want to give everything to our excellent teachers — who keep the education front for our fatherland and future generations by solely trusting our party — without a shortage, but I am not doing it properly,” he was quoted as having said.
Problems raised in teachers’ lives and work should be solved in a timely manner so that they can better concentrate on their teaching and education, he said.
“State-level investment in education should be decisively increased and material conditions necessary for education should be sufficiently provided,” Kim continued, highlighting the importance of greater investment in “secondary general education.”
To that end, the North Korean leader suggested all institutions, factories, industrial establishments, and cooperative farms become sponsoring bodies for schools.
To prevent any unit from being excluded from these school-sponsoring projects, Kim ordered that new measures be devised as well as review and assessment on the projects be carried out.
These organizations, he continued, must “provide substantive help to educational work by actively supporting schools,” adding this aid should be “physically and laboriously” implemented.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA