The End of Expat Managers at TBI: Part 4 of 4

In this, the final part of our exposition of the end of expat school managers at TBI, we ask what it means for the future of the company and for TBI expat teachers.

The most important point is obvious: There are now no opportunities for advancement.

Having interviewed about 20 different teachers while I was manager of TBI Kelapa Gading, I know that at least one-third of applicants will ask some version of, “Are there any opportunities for advancement?” ESL schools everywhere from Turkey to China view this as a selling point, especially to ambitious people.

It has been noticed that TBI now has no expat managers and this point has been discussed on online ESL forums discussing the relative merits of TBI versus Wall Street Indonesia. The fact that TBI has no possibilities for advancement has already been noted in the ESL community, and it is viewed as a substantial negative. Much as Luke Preece might tell new teachers were are lying, it is our version of the truth which is gaining the upper hand. The message about the TBI Mafia is out there and many people accept it as a fact.

But how much does this ‘no possibilities for advancement’ matter? I suggest it will depend on a case by case basis. Most expat teachers in Indonesia are men and many have Indonesian girlfriends or wives (or in a not insignificant minority of cases, boyfriends). For many of these people, they just want to be able to be able to get a KITAS or visa and stay in Indonesia with their partners. Being able to earn a good enough wage to support themselves is the number one priority for many  of these people; not everyone is interested in any sort of supervisory role and many teachers will be content with a decent pay-packet.

We note, however, that recruitment of expats is becoming much more problematic for TBI than it used to be. Nothing defines TBI Head Office more than ‘delusions of greatness’ and having to place ads all over the Internet to try and attract teachers must be uncomfortable for them. EF has long had a recruitment problem, and some EF branches advertise perpetually for new teachers. Until recently TBI always had applicants approaching them and recruitment was not a major headahce. Those days are gone.

Cam was amused to see TBI advertising in some kind of online ‘backpackers and volunteers’ e-zine in October 2012. People like Mariam Kartikatresni and Luke Preece used to laugh at EF who used to recruit from a host of ‘grubby backpackers’- as they mockingly saw it. They are now begging backpackers to work for them themselves. This must grate against their group narcissism. Now TBI finds itself in an EF-like position of never having as many legal expats as it needs, and some schools (especially TBI Serpong and TBI Malang) have suffered from chronic expat shortages.

Is it really smart at this point to be sending the message to expat teachers that TBI just wants bule faces to justify high prices but that there are no opportunities for advancement? Increasingly, we wonder why applicants with the right degree would even consider TBI. Why don’t they go straight to Penabur, which would snap up anyone with the right qualifications? Penabur would also pay them at least Rp 6.000.000 more a month.

Surely TBI’s recruitment crisis is partly due to the fact that teachers see that TBI is a closed shop, where unless you are a crony of Luke Preece, doors are shut for you.

TBI will probably try and deny that any recruitment crisis even exists, but the facts suggest otherwise. We know, for example, that in recent months they have taken back A****, a former TBI Kuningan teacher who does not have the correct degree. (He had spent some time abroad in the meantime). Now unless TBI is now in the business of buying fake degrees for teachers they want, A**** does not have the right degree and so we can assume the KTC scam (employing teachers illegally on business consultant visas) is still going on. Back in 2011, the plan was for it to be phased out by June 2012. Hmmm…..chalk up another failure for the current management mafia.

We also hear that TBI Kuningan has been filled with part-time teachers who do not have TBI on their KITAS. This suggests that the recruitment crisis is still as acute as ever. Luke Preece is desparate to make a success of Kuningan- the TBI flagship school. If TBI doesn’t have enough qualified teachers for the flagship school, the lesser schools must have chronic recruitment issues.

So at the end of 2012 we find illegally employed teachers, TBI scrabbling to find enough expats and more and more job ads on the net. We ask Luke and Ashley: Do you still think this no-expat-managers-except-us policy is working well?

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