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North Korea intensifies crackdown on private education

The North Korean authorities have recently tightened restrictions on private education, with several offenders facing legal consequences, Daily NK has learned.

“A woman in her thirties was sentenced to six months at a disciplinary labor camp after being caught working as a private tutor in Chongjin at the end of April. The woman had been teaching elementary and middle school children at her house,” a source in North Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

The North Korean authorities have been cracking down on the private education market as more tutors are paid by parents to teach school subjects such as Korean language, math and foreign languages, as well as musical instruments, dancing and singing.

“Nowadays, many schools demand money for various expenses without even teaching basic reading and writing, so quite a few parents think that money is better spent on hiring a private tutor to teach their children at home. Perhaps that’s why private tutors have been growing more popular,” the source said.

The source quoted one resident of Chongjin with a child in the third grade of elementary school as follows.

“Beginning with an educational plan, the school asks us for money for one excuse or another. If we also do favors for the homeroom teacher [making gifts of money or rice], it adds up to more than KPW 700,000 a month. Since my child doesn’t learn much at school despite all that, I thought it would be much better to just get a private tutor. That’s why I’m having my child study at home instead of sending them to school.”

The source said that many parents think it makes more sense, both financially and in terms of educational impact, to hire a private tutor for their children than to send them to school.

“Families with little money and no connections can’t afford to send their children to school, and families with money hire private tutors and use illness as an excuse not to send their children to school. The result is abysmal school attendance. After being briefed on the situation, the provincial party committee mobilized the task force in charge of monitoring non-socialist behavior for a large-scale crackdown on private tutors,” the source said.

The Chongjin private tutor who was given a six-month labor sentence was immediately carted off to the labor camp as a warning to other tutors as the crackdown on private education heats up, the source said.

The woman had graduated from the Chongjin Teaching College but instead of taking a position at a school, earned money from dance and song lessons at private homes.

On Apr. 20, a woman in her forties in Chongjin was busted for tutoring three elementary school students in math and was also given a six-month labor sentence.

The woman had been working as a math teacher at a middle school until 2022, when she quit the school because of financial difficulties and turned to teaching private math lessons. She was making good money with a growing clientele because of her reputation as an excellent teacher.

“Who would want to be a school teacher when you have to beg parents for your daily bread? Parents want the best for their children, even if that means going without food and clothing for themselves. They’re looking for private tutors because school education isn’t cutting it,” the source said.

“The crackdown may drive private education out of sight for the time being. But private tutors will never disappear entirely until school education improves and teachers’ livelihood issues are addressed.”

Translated by David Carruth. Edited by Robert Lauler. 

Daily NK works with a network of sources living in North Korea, China, and elsewhere. Their identities remain anonymous for security reasons. For more information about Daily NK’s network of reporting partners and information-gathering activities, please visit our FAQ page here.

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May 10, 2024 at 12:00PM

by DailyNK(North Korean Media)

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