North Korean children learn English with new tools, state media says

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Jan. 20 (UPI) — North Korea is employing new learning tools to teach English to kindergartners, according to state media.

Propaganda service Naenara said Wednesday that Changgwang Kindergarten in Pyongyang has introduced new ways of learning English at the earliest stages of formal education.

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According to the article, the kindergarten, which caters to children of the regime’s elite, has been using animations and other video-based media to help them learn the foreign language. Changgwang Kindergarten is a test site for the pilot program, state media said.

North Korea has stressed the importance of self-reliance and remains relatively isolated from the outside world. English-language learning is rarely highlighted in state media, and defectors have said school textbooks are more likely to include anti-American rhetoric than content that encourages the exploration of foreign cultures.

The new programs, which were described as “foreign language audio-visual education programs,” are popular, according to Naenara.

Teachers at the kindergarten said the children approach the learning material “with interest.” After following the examples through a repeating process, children lay the foundations for further foreign-language education at the later stages of schooling, they said.

Jon Chang Suk, director of Changgwang Kindergarten, was quoted as saying educating a North Korean child in their native Korean and foreign language “simultaneously” is “good for developing children’s intelligence, because it provides a shortcut” to foreign language acquisition.

The North Korean report comes at a time when leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to improve the economy. According to South Korean news agency Yonhap, Kim has been paying greater attention to education and cultivating future leaders.

North Korea’s interaction with the outside world is rare, but its students continue to participate in international events.

North Korean state media service DPRK Today said this week that North Korean student-programmers taking part in a recent CodeChef-hosted programming competition ranked high among teams battling for first place.

An Indian software company manages CodeChef.