All the Korean People are entitled to learn as much as they want. Their desire for learning is fully met thanks to the socialist education system—the system of free compulsory education.

Children enter school on the first day of a new school year when the universal 12-year compulsory education is enforced fully.

Children enter school on the first day of a new school year when the universal 12-year compulsory education is enforced fully.

Universal 12-year Compulsory Education

Korea’s universal 12-year compulsory education system was aimed at providing comprehensive, general education up to secondary schooling for all children until they reached the working age. It consisted of a two-year compulsory preschool course and compulsory 10-year schooling. This was implemented  through the senior kindergarten class, the 4-year primary schooling and the 6-year secondary schooling for children aged 5-16.

In a short period of time after Korea’s liberation from the Japanese imperialists’ military occupation, Kim Il Sung, leader of the new Korea, saw to it that a well-regulated democratic education system was established through construction of schools at all levels from primary schools to colleges across the country. On the basis of this he made sure that universal compulsory education was enforced stage by stage as the revolution and construction made progress and the economic foundation of the country strengthened. As a result, universal, compulsory primary education was enforced in 1956, universal, compulsory secondary education in 1958 and universal 9-year compulsory technical education in 1967.


After the establishment of a socialist system in the country, in particular, the leader thought deeply about how education should be done—its direction, principle, content and method—and how the education system should be developed in order for education to make an effective contribution to the cause of socialist construction. His idea was to make it possible for all people to get education throughout their life and develop all members of society into intellectuals with knowledge of university graduate’s level. So he set about making preparations to enforce new compulsory education of a higher level on the basis of achievements in the previously enforced universal 9year compulsory technical education. He actively explored the way to solve such problems as lengthening the period of the compulsory education, organizing the necessary education system, determining the content of the education, building up the ranks of teachers, and providing educational conditions and equipment, and meticulously led the relevant work.

In order to determine how old children should be to get school education, Kim Il Sung took a measure to set trial classes in schools in towns, workers’ districts, and flat and mountainous areas, and then examined for several years how the classes were working. One day late in September 1971, a year after he arranged the trial education course, he summoned over 50 teachers in charge of the trial classes to have a consultation. After warmly receiving them, he looked through mother tongue and maths notebooks and examination papers they had brought from the children who entered school at the age of 6, and listened to what they said about the process of the trial education. And he asked in detail about the distance the children had to walk to go to school and the educational conditions of schools in mountainous areas.

On September 1, 1972 he visited Taedongmun Primary School in Pyongyang. Congratulating the children for being the first to get the 11-year compulsory education, he assessed their preparation for learning and their health conditions and attire, and estimated their intellectual standard again. Then he entered some classrooms where there were children who had spent one or two years learning in the trial classes. He understood how good they had been at studies, how much they had grown and how they were participating in the organizational life of the Children’s Union, and what else—all in detail. In the course of this he confirmed that the age of six could be defined as school age, and he saw to it that the new compulsory education was completely enforced from September 1, 1975. On the day he visited Pyongyang Changjon Primary School. After meeting children, he had a talk with teachers there. Speaking of the great significance of the enforcement of the universal 11year compulsory education, he put forward the task to improve the superior education system.

The complete enforcement of the universal 11-year compulsory education meant the development of the socialist education system of the country up to a higher stage, making it possible for all children to grow as well-qualified revolutionaries equipped with the essentials of the revolutionary world outlook and possessed of complete knowledge of the general secondary school level, more than one technical skill, strong bodies and fine cultural attainments while getting regular schooling until they got old enough to work.

In his classic work Theses on Socialist Education published in September 1977 Kim Il Sung put forward the goal of enforcing compulsory higher education in the future to attain the target of intellectualization of the whole society on the basis of consolidating the universal 11-year compulsory education. And he wisely led the relevant work.

Universal 12-year Compulsory Education

In September 2012 the 6th Session of the 12th Supreme People’s Assembly adopted the law on enforcing universal 12-year compulsory education as required by the developing times and revolution.

Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, who carries on the education ideas of President Kim Il Sung and Chairman Kim Jong Il, published in August 2014 the immortal classic work Let Us Glorify Ours as the Country of Education and a Power of Talents by Bringing About a Revolution in Education in the New Century.

The Supreme Leader clarified in detail tasks and ways to carry out the revolution in education, and energetically led the effort to enforce the universal 12-year compulsory education. He solved the problem of paper needed for production of textbooks and had all schoolchildren provided with school uniforms fit for different schools and sexes and the relevant season. Under his care and guidance the Mindulle Notebook Factory and the Pyongyang Bag Factory were erected with modern equipment while baby homes, primary and secondary schools for orphans, schoolchildren’s palaces and children’s camps were built across the country.

Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace

Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace. See more photos here

True to the Supreme Leader’s lofty intention, all the Party, State and people pushed ahead with the effort to enforce the new education system.

Specific projects were carried out including correct determination of the ultimate goal of the education and the criteria of attainment for different schools and different subjects of study. Meanwhile efforts were made to improve educational conditions and environments. As a result, the new education was comprehensively enforced across the country on April 1 this year, on the occasion of the new school year.

Now projects are under way to bring about a revolution in the sector of education now that the new education system is in operation. A shortcut is being paved to realization of the goal of making all the people well versed in science and technology and creating a talented nation.

The education system is getting more perfect. Efforts are made to enhance the level of education at senior middle technical schools, which is a new mode of education in the country, and gradually expand the kind and number of such schools, and education at schools is closely combined with education and edification at extracurricular centres. And the distance-education system for refresher courses is being completed, and the distance education for correspondence courses in the teacher training sector is further developing.

The sector of primary and secondary education is radically improving the contents, forms and methods of education, and efforts are made to renovate educational conditions and environments for the purpose of raising the material and technical foundation for education up to the world standard, and establish the habit of giving top priority to the sector of education.

The country is now steadily improving the quality of education while consolidating the success in the enforcement of the new education system.

Article: Ri Kyong Sim