12: The Impact of the Opening of the Market Economy on Education and Teachers in Cuba: An Analysis of the Special Period

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Cuba has suffered from severe economic constraints since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 and, as a response, the government developed various economic policies that dealt largely with the opening of a market economy. The expansion of the tourism industry was one of them, and many teachers left the profession to seek opportunities, which has led to a chronic teacher shortage since the 1990s. By employing document analysis, this chapter outlines how the changes in its economic system impacted teacher policies in Cuba and discusses the results of these changes: lowering the entry bar, diversifying the supply chains, accepting teachers with few or no qualifications, and shifting responsibility towards remaining teachers by imposing extra work to make up for the insufficient number of teachers. These measures mimic the practices in countries in Central America and the Caribbean, which suggest dim prospects for Cuba. The chapter argues for the importance of revamping Cuba’s previous approach, which recruited and retained teachers through high professionalism; that is, through high social status, top salaries in the state system, and selective and rigorous training processes.

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