North Korean Teachers Gear Up For ‘Ideological Battle’ With Students

north-korea-wonsan-classroom-dec16-2011.jpg A teacher addresses elementary school students in Wonsan, Kangwon province, North Korea, Dec. 16, 2011.

North Korean authorities have organized nationwide lecture classes to prepare teachers in all schools for an “ideological battle” with students over an increase in socially undesirable behavior and criminal acts among young people, sources inside the country said.

The newly launched classes at teacher training schools are based on educational goals presented at last year’s National Education Workers’ Convention to teach educators in cities and counties across the isolated country about their role in the ideological battle to prevent young people from engaging in behavior that runs counter to that which the regime advocates, they said.

North Korea’s education system at all levels emphasizes indoctrination based on the greatness of the ruling Kim family, sacred revolutionary sites, the political ideology of juche, or self-reliance, and moral rectitude.

“At the instruction of the Education Department of the Korean Workers’ Party, there have been lecture classes for education workers across the country since Sept. 2,” a source in Jagang province told RFA’s Korea Service. “The current classes, which will last until Sept. 5, have been designed to discuss various issues raised at frontline education spots.”

Authorities set up the current classes to review the accomplishments and shortcomings of the goals presented at the 13th National Education Workers’ Convention held last Sept. 5 on Education Day, the source said.

Education Day is held every Sept. 5 to commemorate the publication of a treatise entitled “Theses on Socialist Education” by North Korea’s founder Kim Il Sung on that day in 1977.

Despite heavy indoctrination, more and more students have been committing crimes and engaging in socially unacceptable behavior, such as using illegal drugs, gambling and engaging in premarital sex, sources said.

Youth League cadres and instructors, school principals and assistant principals, and Boy Scout instructors have been required to attend the classes at the behest of labor unit secretaries in local branches of the Workers’ Party and the head of the Party’s Education Department, the source from Jagang province said.

A tense atmosphere

The current atmosphere in the country’s education sector is tense, as educators fear they may be replaced en masse by more capable teachers under a Workers’ Party directive that calls for those considered too old or nonperformers to be relieved of their duties, he said.

“The lecture classes this time basically seek to deal with students’ crimes and misdemeanors that are growing more and more violent, rather than focusing on the fostering of innovative and talented students,” a source in Yanggang province told RFA.

For example, there have recent reports about a spate of incidents in the province’s Hyesan city, where students were caught using drugs, gambling and watching illegal videos, he said.

In addition, some students from advanced middle schools were involved in sexually immoral behavior, according to the reports, for which local education authorities came under heavy criticism, he said.

In early August, police in Hyesan arrested about 14 boys and girls from Sunghu Advanced Middle School for playing the Chinese gambling game mahjong, the source said.

Since then, North Korean authorities have forbidden the selling of mahjong tiles at all jangmadang, or quasi-legal open markets, he said.

Reported by Sunghui Moon for RFA’s Korea Service. Translated by Changsop Pyon. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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