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In the early 1990s, the compulsory primary and secondary
education system was divided into one year of kindergarten, four
years of primary school (people's school) for ages six to nine,
and six years of senior middle school (secondary school) for ages
ten to fifteen)
fig. 5). There are two years of
kindergarten, for children aged four to six; only the second year
(upper level kindergarten) is compulsory.
In the mid-1980s, there were 9,530 primary and secondary
schools. After graduating from people's school, students enter
either a regular secondary school or a special secondary school
that concentrates on music, art, or foreign languages. These
schools teach both their specialties and general subjects. The
Mangyngdae Revolutionary Institute is an important special
In the early 1990s, graduation from the compulsory education
system occurred at age sixteen. Eberstadt and Banister report
that according to North Korean statistics released in the late
1980s, primary schools enrolled 1.49 million children in 1987;
senior middle schools enrolled 2.66 million that same year. A
comparison with the total number of children and youths in these
age brackets shows that 96 percent of the age cohort is enrolled
in the primary and secondary educational system.
School curricula in the early 1990s are balanced between
academic and political subject matter. According to South Korean
scholar Park Youngsoon, subjects such as Korean language,
mathematics, physical education, drawing, and music constitute
the bulk of instruction in people's schools; more than 8 percent
of instruction is devoted to the "Great Kim Il Sung" and
"Communist Mora1ity." In senior middle schools, politically
oriented subjects, including the "Great Kim Il Sung" and
"Communist Morality" as well as "Communist Party Policy,"
comprise only 5.8 percent of instruction. However, such
statistics understate the political nature of primary and
secondary education. Textbooks in the Korean language, for
example, include titles such as We Pray for "Our Master,"
Following Mrs. Kim, Our Father, Love of Our
Father, and Kim Jong Il Looking at Photos.
Kindergarten children receive instruction in "Marshal Kim's
Childhood" and "Communist Morality." Park noted that when
students read Kim Il Sung's writings in the classroom, they are
expected to do so "loudly, and slowly and with a feeling of
respect." They also are taught a special way of speaking toward
Kim, in terms of pronunciation, speed, and a special deference
system and attitude."
Data as of June 1993