A recent national conference of top officials in North Korean education ranked some of the country’s top universities, party daily the Rodong Sinmun reported Monday, as well as condemning some schools for “whining” and the continued shortcomings in the sector.
The meeting, conducted “in a format of a video conference,” saw officials from across the country assess “the achievement, experience, and lessons in accomplishing the party’s educational policies,” the newspaper reported.
Kim Il Sung University, Kim Chaek University of Technology, and Pyongyang Medical University were ranked as North Korea’s top national universities, it continued.
Medical schools in Chongjin, Sinuiju, and Wonsan were named as the leading provincial-level universities, while engineering schools in Pyongyang, Sinuiju, and Pyongchon were ranked highest in the technical field.
The meeting follows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s September complaints that the DPRK’s education system “lags far behind” global trends, urging educators and officials to improve the system “as early as possible.”
Monday’s article on the conference was prefaced with Kim’s remarks, and saw substantial criticism of the officials in the sector.
While the universities that had succeeded in improving standards “despite hard conditions” were named and praised during the conference, those that failed to do so came under fire.
While not naming the lower-ranking organizations, Monday’s article said that the successful units stood in “stark comparison with some of the units… that ranked the lowest in managing their faculties, complaining about the conditions and whining.”
Monday’s conference comes amid a broader move in Pyongyang to implement directions set forth by the country’s leadership at December’s ruling party plenum and North Korea’s new “frontal breakthrough” policy line.
A similar conference was held in the agricultural sector last month, with high-level officials such as State Affairs Commission (SAC) vice-chairman Pak Pong Ju and cabinet premier Kim Jae Ryong in attendance.
Monday’s article, however, did not provide names of the officials who attended the conference on education.
Officials present lauded universities that developed new teaching methods, including “pursuing advanced science technology and creating new departments such as AI (Artificial Intelligence).”
Schools such as Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology had made educational materials more practical and modern, the Rodong said, adding that the schools that pursued the standardization of academic material helped the country bridge gaps between regional discrepancies in teaching standards.
Students of top schools such as Kim Il Sung University and Kim Chaek University of Technology had international achievements as well, the article claimed, such as their works being published in academic journals abroad and some making it to the final round of an international programming competition.
It appears that Pyongyang is pushing for further development in its education system, in part, for carrying out its new policy line proclaimed on the new year’s day: a “frontal breakthrough” against sanctions and other hardships in and out of the country.
The officials in the education sector should “fulfill the mission of the flag bearer in today’s head-on breakthrough battle, breaking through all barriers,” the Rodong said.
“Fundamental transformation in university education work should be made, and talented individuals should be nurtured more — both in quantity and quality.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham