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.
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.
Baker, Colin. 1996. Foundations
of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Bristol, PA: Multilingual
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
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: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/JWCRAWFORD/Krashen3.htm.
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.
Institutional: Saint Michael’s College:
School of International Studies: http://www.smcvt.edu/sis/index.htm
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