USIA English Language Programs

Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs


Report on Academic Specialist Visit to Bolivia:
July 1-14, 1999

By Ron Schwartz, University of Maryland
Baltimore County (UMBC)


About the Specialist

Ron Schwartz is a lecturer and Co-director of the ESOL/Bilingual M.A. program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been at UMBC since 1979 as a member of the Department of Education. He was responsible for beginning the ESOL/Bilingual M.A. Program which was institutionalized in 1983. Mr. Schwartz received his M.A. in English/ESOL from West Chester State University, West Chester, Pennsylvania in 1972. Previous to coming to UMBC, Mr. Schwartz taught EFL to secondary students in Puerto Rico; spent one year in Huaraz, Peru on a Fulbright-Hayes secondary teaching grant; was deputy director of one of the first ESP programs (1967-68) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; directed the Spanish language training program at the Peace Corps training center in Ponce, Puerto Rico; worked as an EFL and cross-cultural trainer for several Peace Corps training programs; was EFL staff advisor for Peace Corps Korea; and was a bilingual and ESOL teacher in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He has served as program evaluator for bilingual and ESOL programs in the U.S.; Peace Corps and USIA programs in Eastern Europe; and university, binational, and elementary/secondary school programs in Korea, Mexico, Ecuador, and Uruguay. He has appeared several times on USIA/VOA Worldnet programs and regularly speaks at TESOL conferences in the U.S. and abroad.

UMBC ESOL/Bilingual M.A. Program's Web Page:

How to contact Ron Schwartz:

ESOL/Bilingual M.A. Program
Department of Education
University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC)
1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, Maryland 21250 USA
410-455-2379 (phone)
410-455-3986 (fax)
e-mail: .


Areas of Specialization

Teaching for and evaluating oral language proficiency, program evaluation, ESL/EFL and cross-cultural teacher training, training for trainers, ESOL reading, and CBI. He's especially interested in working with non-native speakers whose level of English is intermediate/advanced (P-2+) or below.



Trip Report

The main purpose of the Bolivia trip was to speak at the National Conference of the Bolivian Binational Centers ("Centros Bolivianos Americanos" -CBA-) held in Sucre, July 2 & 3. I also visited Potosi, Tarija and Santa Cruz where I did teacher training and program consultation.

CBA National Conference:

Approximately 125 CBA teachers and administrators attended the conference. The conference was very well organized by the Sucre CBA staff. Presentations included Personal Productivity (Sadiq Durrani, CBA, Santa Cruz); Multiple Intelligences (Teresa Bleichner & Janett Diaz, CBA, La Paz); and Enfoques Psicopedagogicos (Jesus Lazo, Ministry of Education, Habana, Cuba). I gave a total of 4 1/2 hour presentation to each group. The title of my presentation was Meeting the English Proficiency Needs for Your Students: Ideas and Techniques for Going Beyond the Textbook. It has been my observation that both nonnative and native speakers of English need additional training and encouragement in using proficiency building activities and techniques in their classes. The presentations included ideas and techniques to improve classroom communication between teachers and students, teacher talk vs. student talk, error correction, communicative tasks and functions to get the students talking, and proficiency building classroom activities.

Throughout the conference I was impressed by the motivation and creativity of the participants. Their group work and micro-teaching was excellent. The participants demonstrated a high level of professionalism. We also had a very good time in the "CBA Games" which included basketball, soccer and volleyball. The closing ceremony and dinner was a huge success.


On Monday, July 5, I traveled to Potosi, accompanied by the CBA Sucre Academic Advisor, to conduct an all day workshop for public school secondary EFL teachers, Potosi CBA faculty, and university teachers. The workshop was sponsored by the Sucre CBA. Approximately 25 teachers were in attendance. The theme of the workshop was Techniques for Teaching EFL in Difficult Circumstances. It was directed to the public school secondary teachers who have up to 45 students in their EFL classes and only teach them for one hour/week. Topics included ideas for working with large classes, techniques for encouraging student participation, and activities for including proficiency building tasks and functions into the curriculum. Again I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the teachers. The public school teachers work under very difficult conditions with very little attention paid to their professional development. The Sucre CBA is to be commended for providing this professional development day for these dedicated teachers.


Tuesday, July 6 I spent at the CBA in Sucre. I worked with the Academic Director looking at their testing program. In the afternoon, I observed classes and participated in evaluating a group of advanced students for oral proficiency. CBA Sucre is a growing institution and provides a very important service to the community.


I then traveled to Tarija (July 8-10) where I conducted a series of workshops (12 hours) for EFL teachers at the newly established CBA in Tarija. 25 teachers participated in the workshops. The following was covered: Teaching EFL Under Difficult Conditions - Means, Methods and Motivation; Teaching for Proficiency - Techniques of EFL Teachers Who are not Native Speakers of English; and Administering and Scoring The Proficiency Rating - Evaluating What We Teach. On the final day of the workshop, we tested 3 of the CBA students using the proficiency rating. The Tarija CBA has grown rapidly since it opened six months ago and is ably administered by the Executive and Academic Directors.

Santa Cruz:

My final stop was at the CBA in Santa Cruz (July 11-14). The CBA was on holiday so I spent my time working with the Academic Director, Academic Coordinator and the Academic Assistants. I did a curriculum and program review, looked at their teacher policies and professional development program, worked with the Academic Assistants on their testing program, and did a short workshop on proficiency evaluation. I was able to evaluate the oral proficiency of several of their students. CBA Santa Cruz is a very large institution which provides English classes for thousands of students. It has a very well organized administration that coordinates the curriculum, texts and supervision of the CBA's 85 teachers. It is professional in all respects.

In conclusion, I would like to say that my two weeks in Bolivia was busy and I hope productive. At every CBA, I was impressed by the professionalism of the administrators and staff and the high level of English of the teachers.



Suggested Bibliography

During my workshops and presentations, I used approximately 30 different handouts. Some of the materials and ideas were taken from the following sources:

Denbo, S. (1986). Improving minority student achievement: focus on the classroom. Washington: Mid-atlantic Equity Center.

Educational Testing Service. (1982). ETS oral proficiency testing manual. Princeton, N.J.: Education Testing Service.

Harris, P. and R. Moran. (1991) Managing cultural differences. Houston: Gulf Publishing.

Nunan, D. (1991). Language teaching methodology: a textbook for teachers: New York: Prentice Hall.

Omaggio, A.C. (1993). Teaching language in context: proficiency-oriented instruction. Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Richards, J., J. Platt & H. Platt. (1992). Dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics. Essex: Longman.



Return to top of page

Return to English Language Specialist Program main page



On October 1, 1999, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs will become part of the
U.S. Department of State. Bureau webpages are being updated accordingly. Thank you for your patience.