Announcing a plan to hire more than 5,500 Spanish teachers and professors, Ecuador is making its first move to fulfill President Rafael Correa’s pledge to rebuild the country’s public education system from kindergarten to the university levels.
The plan is sure to incite protests from Ecuador’s educators, many of whom claim they feel insulted by the president’s approach. It could also have a significant impact on Cuenca, as construction continues on a nearby university designed to coordinate the country’s educational transformation.
On Monday in Madrid, Ecuador’s deputy education secretary announced a plan to hire 5,500 Spanish educators to teach in Ecuadorian schools and universities and to train Ecuadorian teachers and professors. Miriam Aguirre said plans are to bring 500 university professors and 5,000 primary and secondary level teachers to Ecuador.
In addition to improving the educational system, Aguirre says, an immediate objective is to fill teaching vacancies that she says plague the entire system.
Eduador is targeting Spain not only because it shares a common language, but because tens of thousands of teachers there are unemployed. Spain’s national unemployment rate is over 25%, and many teachers and professors have lost their jobs in recent years.
One aspect of the program that is sure to fire emotions among Ecuadorian educators are the salaries being offered to the Spanish recruits. They will range from $2,226 to $5,009 a month, depending on qualifications and position requirements, Aguirre said. Besides the salary, those who are hired will receive subsidies for housing, food and transport.
Ecuadorian teachers, on average, are paid less than half of these rates.
The government says the program to attract Spanish teachers is just the first step of a world-wide iniative to improve education. Future hires will come from other European countries, the United States as well as other countries, officials say.
The plan could also have a major impact on Cuenca. The Universidad Nacional de Educacion (UNAE), a national university that will coordinate what officials call the “reconstruction of Ecuador’s public educational system” is under construction only 18 miles away, in the city of Azogues. Although Azogues is the capital of Cañar province and has a population of about 60,000, it is often considered a “bedroom community” for Cuenca. The government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing UNAE, where classes began last year. After the Yachay Rsearch University, north of Quito, UNAE is the country’s most ambitious educational project.
A teachers union in Quito was the first to call the compensation being offered to Spanish teachers unfair. “If we plan to pay these people so much, let’s first increase the pay of the teachers already in Ecuador who have been working for years to improve education,” a spokeman for the union said.
Ecuadorian educators have also been upset by statements made by Correa that many of them are poorly trained and that they “perpetuate educational mediocrity.”
In a speach two years ago, Correa said he wanted to bring education in Ecuador up to world standards. “We cannot advance as a nation until we have a well educated population. We cannot judge our education on that of other countries in Latin America because education is substandard in the entire region.” One of his goals, he said, is to hire more teachers with graduate level training.
Later, he apologised for some of his remarks about Ecuadorian teachers. “This is not personal. It is not their fault that they received a poor education but we need to start now to improve the system, not just for teachers but for all our people.”
Correa, who received his university graduate education in Europe and the United States, has also called university education in Ecuador “second rate,” and said that real improvement means retraining and replacing faculty to meet a higher standard.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa