USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Indonesia: February 7 - 19, 1999

By Dayna House,
Universidad Tecnologico de Sonora (ITSON), Sonora, Mexico

About the Specialist

Dayna House, M.A. is an English Instructor at Universidad Tecnologico de Sonora (ITSON) in Sonora, Mexico. She has been with this institution since 1997 and is a former English Teaching Fellow (ETF) to Mexico. A native of California, Ms. House received her baccalaureate (1982) at San Diego State University in Spanish and Portuguese Language and her Masters of Science (1992) in Linguistics and a TESOL Certification from California State University at Fullerton. Ms House is currently enrolled in distance learning Ph.D. program with Barrington University. Apart from her current position in Mexico, Ms. House has also taught in Brazil (1980 - 1981) and Korea (1992-1994).

Ms. House can be reached by e-mail at: or by mail at:

Galeria de Arte -- Altos
Sector Villa Hermosa #111
San Carlos, Nvo. Guaymas
Sonora, Mexico 85506


Areas of Specialization

While an ETF in Mexico she worked with the Ministries of Education of the states of Nuevo Leon and Cohuhuila to create an English teacher training program that is currently in use in Cohuhuila. During her grant period Ms. House also traveled throughout Mexico holding teacher-training seminars in places such as Chiapas, Morelia, Aguas Calientes, Guadalajara, Saltillo, Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, etc. along with USIA English Language Officer Mike Jenson. For the past five years, Ms. House has lectured extensively in Mexico on the Communicative Approach to Teaching English as a Foreign Language for Secondary, High School and University Teachers.


Trip Report

During the week of February 7th to 13th I was in Dili presenting workshops in teacher training.

The first three days were directed toward junior high school teachers. During initial activities I discovered that many of these teachers had had poorly developed conversational skills and most had little comprehension of the English language. Seventy-two percent (72%) of the teachers were native Timorese. A quick rethinking of approach was in order and workshops were adapted or eliminated because participants simply could not deal with the level of English. Most teachers had only had the customary three years of English in junior high and three years in high school.

The final three days focused on high school teachers. Only twenty-one percent were locals and the others had been assigned to East Timor from other islands by the public education office of Jakarta. The latter group had a much higher level of English and were easily able to follow the seminar and materials handed out.

Several teachers expressed gratitude that the U.S. government had consciously considered them and sent trainers. Most of these teachers had finished only up to high school level. Their high school was a kind of "normal school" to train them to be elementary school teachers but with no specific training to be English teachers. The teachers realize their limitations and desire to be given more tools to accomplish their task.

Due to this lack of real training most Timorese receive, the majority of public school teachers on East Timor have been assigned there from other islands by the Indonesian Ministry of Education. Due to the current political problems in East Timor, the relationship between these teachers (not from East Timor) and their students (who are from East Timor) is often strained. It seemed appropriate then to spend some time during each session to help teachers discuss and trouble shoot discipline problems in the classroom.

Education in East Timor seems to be "on hold" as teachers spoke of the problem of unmotivated students, primarily due to the political situation. Another obstacle is that students often do not like learning English because they feel that it is a difficult language. Again, the lack of training provided to the teachers could be one of the causes of this.

To help ease the tensions in the classroom, I suggested that that the teachers discuss with their students the fact that they are tomorrow’s leaders and the importance of basic education in any language is essential preparation for their future. I also pointed out how learning different languages is socio-culturally beneficial to the the students in the long run --Education is Knowledge!

This program was just a drop in the bucket in fulfilling a gigantic need for training. Due to the current political problems it is doubtful that there will be much emphasis given to English or education in general until this situation is resolved. However, it is my hope that RELO Mike Jenson remain in contact with the local authorities that approved and supported this seminar and that in the future a more extensive program of teacher training for English teachers might be approved and organized. When the current political situation is resolved, East Timor will still require major efforts to educate the people who have had a scarce and interrupted educational career.

After returning from Dili, I gave a seminar at Jakarta Teacher Training College (IKIP Jakarta). These workshops were a refreshing change from dealing with the struggling teachers in East Timor. In contrast, these teachers were well-trained and had much experience. The materials chosen for the seminar were appropriate and useful to this group. The main theme of the seminar focused on becoming a better teacher by being in tune with the needs of the students and finding ways to collaborate with individual student to optimize learning by teaching students to take responsibility for their own language learning process. Based on Bloom's taxonomy, teachers analyzed their textbooks activities for learning strategies and learned how to apply these learning strategies. Other topics such as reading strategies, communicative writing and teaching children were also presented with an enthusiastic reception.



Suggested Bibliography

Ms. House has published 2 articles related to language learning:

"Numbers-Asian Superstitions" California Lingwistik Newsletter. June-July 1991:5-7

"Report on the Panel Discussion on English Teaching in Mexican Public schools" MEXTESOL Journal. Winter 1996, vol. 19, No 3 


Recommended Links

Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora


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