A Comparative Study on the Secondary School Mathematics Education of South and North Korea

남북한 중등학교 수학교육의 통합방안 모색

  • Published : 2002.01.01


There have recently been increasing exchanges between South and North Korea in many areas of society, involving politics, economics, culture, education. In response to these developments, research activities are more strongly demanded in each of these areas to help prepare for the final unification of the two parts of the nation. In the area of mathematics education, scholars have started to conduct comparative studies of mathematics education in South and North Korea. As a response to the growing demand of the time, in this thesis we compared the secondary mathematics education in South Korea with that in North Korea. To begin with, we examined the background of education, in North Korea, particularly predominant ideological, epistemological and teaching theoretical aspects of education in North Korea. Thereafter, we compared the mathematics curriculum of South Korea with that of North Korea. On the basis of these examinations, we compared the secondary school mathematics textbooks of South and North Korea, and we attempted to suggest a guideline for researches preparing for the unification of the mathematics curriculum of South and North Korea. As a communist society, North Korea awards the socialist ideology the supreme rank and treats all school subjects as instrumental tools that are subordinated to the dominant communist ideology. On the other hand, under the socialist ideology North Korea also emphasizes the achievement of the objective of socialist economic development by expanding the production of material wealth. As such, mathematics in North Korea is seen as a tool subject for training skilled technical hands and fostering science and technology, hence promoting the socialist material production and economic development. Hence, the mathematics education of North Korea adopts a so-called "awakening teaching method," and emphasizes the approaches that combine intuition with logical explanation using materials related with the ideology or actual life. These basic viewpoints of North Korea on mathematics education are different from those of South Korea, which emphasize the problem-solving ability and acquisition of academic mathematical knowledge, and which focus on organizing as well as discovering knowledge of learners' own accord. In comparison of the secondary school mathematics textbooks used in South and North Korea, we looked through external forms, contents, quantity of each area of school mathematics, viewpoints of teaching, and term. We have identified similarities in algebra area and differences in geometry area especially in teaching sequence and approaching method. Many differences are also found in mathematical terms. Especially, it is found that North Korea uses mathematical terms in Hangul more actively than South Korea. We examined the specific topics that are treated in both South and North Korea, "outer-center & inner-center of triangle" and "mathematical induction", and identified such differences more concretely. Through this comparison, it was found that the concrete heterogeneity in the textbooks largely derive from the differences in the basic ideological viewpoints between South and North Korea. On the basis of the above findings, we attempted to make some suggestions for the researches preparing for the unification in the area of secondary mathematics education.