THE TEACHER SHORTAGE ISSUE IN CUBA: HOW THE CHANGES IN ITS ECONOMIC SYSTEM IMPACTED TEACHERS DECISION TO ENTER, REMAIN, OR LEAVE THE PROFESSION
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Cuba has suffered from the severe economic constraints since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, and as a response the government directed various economic policies that largely dealt with the opening of the market economy. The expansion of the tourism industry was one of them, and many teachers left the profession to seek opportunities that allowed access to foreign currency. Although there have been other periods of teacher shortage in Cuba, the post-1991 era has witnessed an almost continuous situation of teacher shortage. The purpose of this study is to focus on the issue of teacher shortage in the contemporary Cuba and analyze how the changes in its economic system, particularly the opening of the market economy, have impacted teachers‘ decision to enter, remain, or leave the profession. To address this question, I conducted a qualitative study, relying primarily on semi-structured interviews with 22 teachers, who were in various stages of their careers, in Havana, Cuba. The study was informed by Bronfenbrenner‘s ecological systems theory and human capital occupational decision-making theory and contextualized by a review of policy documents and other literature. For analytical purposes, the informants were divided into groups based on the different historical periods they entered teaching. The overall trend has been that the more senior teachers are, the more likely they are to depend on high level of factors (i.e. social norms, values, perspectives on the government) when they make occupational decisions. However, few factors were equally represented by all groups such as the interest in teaching (individual level), poor teaching environment in public schools (microsystem), low teacher salary and alternative jobs (exosystem), and perspectives on the government (macrolevel). In some cases, the same factor applied in different ways for different groups. For example, poor teaching environment provided for younger cohort of teachers a rationale to drop out, while for the older cohort, it served them as motives to persist and demonstrate solidarity by continuing teaching even after retirement.