USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to the Philippines:
June 26 to July 4, 1999

By Elizabeth M. O’Dowd, St. Michael’s College


About the Specialist

Elizabeth O’Dowd is an assistant professor at St. Michael’s College, Vermont, where she has been since 1995. She teaches primarily in the MATESEL program and coordinates the summer TESL Diploma Program as well as the K-12 ESL Endorsement Program, all in the School of International Studies. She also teaches undergraduate linguistics courses in the larger college. Before coming to Vermont, Dr. O’Dowd taught linguistics, TESL, and undergraduate writing courses at the University of Colorado, where she obtained her doctorate in linguistics in 1995. She holds master’s degrees from the University of Colorado and New Mexico State University, and a postgraduate certificate of education from London University. She is author of a scholarly linguistics text: Prepositions and Particles in English (Oxford University Press, 1998), and co-author of an intermediate ESL textbook in the GrammarLinks series for Houghton-Mifflin Publishers.


Areas of Specialization

Discourse-functional syntax, rhetoric and style in composition, grammar teaching, bilingual education, and K-12 instruction.


Trip Report

During my visit, I presented one six-hour workshop at Bicol University and a plenary talk for the University of the Philippines in Manila. The workshop (about writing process) was for an audience of about 45 English schoolteachers and university faculty. The plenary talk (about bilingual education in the millennium) was for an audience of about 250 attending the International Conference on Teacher Education. The conference attendees were mostly English teacher and teacher-trainers at all levels of education, from all provinces of the Philippines, and from several countries including the U.S.A., Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan.

Both assignments enlightened my understanding of bilingualism in the Philippines. At Bicol, I was struck by the high level of English proficiency in this rural region. I was also struck by the high motivation of the participants, particularly by seventeen young teachers from the local Montessori school, who gave up their fiesta day to attend, and who asked many provocative questions. We both learned much about cultural differences in teaching styles: for my part, it took most of the day to elicit the type of interactive participation I am accustomed to in the U.S.A., but I was gratified by the end of the day when the most reluctant participants volunteered to role play a humorous situation or to read their creative writing efforts aloud. I believe the experience will affect the perceptions and perhaps the teaching styles of several participants.

I was assured by the Acting Cultural Affairs Officer, Mr. Lonnie Kelley, that the Bicol assignment was of great value to the USIS, who had felt that their connection with this province needed strengthening. The mission (which also involved the installation of two computers donated by the USIS) directly influenced the President of Bicol university to reverse his decision to close down the American Studies Resource Center on his campus.

The plenary talk at the University of the Philippines confirmed my expectation that bilingualism is a very controversial topic in the Philippines. The specific issue of English as the medium of instruction seemed particularly to concern the participants at this conference. Therefore, I focused my talk in such a way that its conclusions would be relevant to this issue. The result was a lively response to the talk, both during question time and after. The educators with whom I talked seemed to appreciate a neutral Western perspective, and since most of the research conclusions I presented were from U.S.A. studies, I believe the talk directly promoted an appreciation of American educational approaches and sociopolitical concerns.

Following the conference, I was invited to return to the Philippines in May 2001 for an international conference on language teaching, organized by the Philippine Association of Language Teachers (PALT). The President of PALT told me that this conference is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Association. I would be honored to return for the conference and am sure that the visit would promote further awareness of the USIA, should the Agency decide to sponsor me.



Suggested Bibliography

Baker, Colin. 1996. Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Bristol, PA: Multilingual Matters.

Crystal, D. 1987. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University Press.

Genesee, Fred. 1987. Learning through Two Languages. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Johnson, R.K., & Swain, M. 1997. Immersion Education: International Perspectives. Cambridge University Press.

Krashen, Stephen. May 1999. Bilingual education: arguments for and (bogus) arguments against. Georgetown University Roundtable on Languages and Linguisitics. Reproduced in James Crawford’s web site:

Pakir, Anne. 1999. Connecting with English in the context of internationalisation. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1.

Romaine, S. 1996. Bilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers.



Recommended Links


Institutional: Saint Michael’s College:

School of International Studies:



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