Part 6. The Early History of TBI Kelapa Gading

What can you tell us about the establishment of TBI Kelapa Gading?

The school was opened in 2006 as a Franchise school. It was sold to a group of three different owners / investors by Retty, who was then the Head of Franchise and who had sold all of the TBI franchise schools to investors. One of these owners is called Pauwsan Sutanto. He was the one who came into the school and spoke to the staff. The other owner is called Djaladin Djaprie. I didn’t lay eyes on him until 18 months after I started as a teacher there. There was a third owner, but he died at some point in 2007 or 2008 and Djaprie and Sutanto took over his share of the business. I have no idea at all whether they brought out his stake, but after he passed away there was only the pair of them. Pauwsan’s wife Diana Sutanto also took an interest in the business, but she wasn’t referred to as an owner or partner.

What kind of instructors did they use in the early days? How many Native Speakers were there?

I started in August 2008, at which point the school had probably been open around two and a half years. When I joined there were only expats in the school. There were two other teachers, C **** and M***. Both of them were British. There were no Indonesian teachers at all in the school. The school manager BF was an American citizen who had lived in Indonesia since the 1970s. His opinion was that students in the Kelapa Gading market were wealthy and were only interested in Native Speaker teachers. He point blank refused to hire Indonesian teachers and was very adamant on this point. I later learned from other sources that Indonesian teachers had been employed at one point, at least on a part-time basis, but by the time I was there, B**** was having none of it.

Much later, after the Office Supervisor, Nissa, was fired for theft, I found some records from the early days of the school. According to the reports, TBI had opened with 6 Native Speaker teachers on the books. This tallied with what I had been told. Many of them clashed with B**** and resigned. Some left Indonesia and others went to better-paying jobs in National Plus schools. Within 2 and a half years they have gone from 6 to 3 Native Speaker teachers.

Was the school successful at first?

Broadly speaking, yes. It seems that when TBI Kelapa Gading opened, new enrolments flooded in. In 2006 TBI had a good reputation and TBI Setiabudi, the forerunner of TBI Menara Kuningan, was well-regarded. I have heard that a good marketing campaign accompanied the opening and student numbers were great. A couple of times I have heard people say that student enrolments peaked at 400 students- once from Mariam and once from Nissa. I’m not sure if this true, actually. I eventually found the files for 2006 after I cleared out a filing cabinet and the highest number on that was around 360. And that was the highest week for the whole year. What was interesting too was how quickly the numbers trailed off. There were far more students in the early months than there were by the end of the year. I would deduce that discerning customers were disappointed by what they saw. The school numbers declined from a high of around 360 to the around 300 pretty quickly.

Also there was a gigantic problem with these stats. BF was a very negligent boss, and there was a chronic problem with late payments. Pauwsan Sutanto had mentioned this to me and this report which I found illustrated the point very clearly. In that week when 360 students were on the registers, only 260 had paid. And this wasn’t a one off. The trend was that 50 to 100 students were more than a month late at any time. I had heard from Nissa that many of these would then just drop out leaving large debts. So when Brian was saying he had 300 to 350 students taught by 6 expat teachers, what he really meant was that he had 250 to 300 paying students taught by 6 expat teachers. This was a highly inefficient use of resources and so he was probably quite happy to lose some of these expats, as he had far too many for the number of paying customers.

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