Socioeconomic Issues in Kelapa Gading

One of the very difficult things about Kelapa Gading was the fact that I had to work very hard to get the owners to accept Indonesian teachers. Kelapa Gading is a high-income part of the city and about 75% of our students were Chinese Indonesian. Many of the Chinese-Indonesians would come in and say outrageous things (to modern Western liberal sensibilities) like: “Do you have Indians and Filipinos here? We don’t like Filipino and Indian teachers!” They were also highly opposed to having Indonesian teachers. They usually said that they came to TBI Kelapa Gading because we had lots of ‘Native Speakers’.

In 2009 Helmy had forced the school to convert to 50-50 Indonesian-Native Speakers and public student numbers had collapsed. A month after Helmy had started Kelapa Gading was TBI’s second smallest school, ahead only of TBI Cengkareng (since bankrupt). Ashley Platts had been behind this push for Indonesian teachers but had completely failed to monitor the implementation of this policy and had claimed it wasn’t his fault when the initiative failed. The pathetic excuse which he gave to me was that, “He hadn’t told Helmy to forcibly convert the classes to Indonesian teachers”. Um, proper managers supervise the implementation of their policies, Ashley. But Platts is not a proper manager.

Apart from touchy ‘multicultural’ politics of Kelapa Gading, there is also the money issue to consider. Wall Street Kelapa Gading charges far, far more than TBI and it has been packed constantly since opening in 2008. Here is what one Indonesian blogger has to say on the matter:

Wall Street Institute = Tempat Kursus Orang Berduit ,
kalau lu punya uang berlebih(dalam hitungan puluhan juta), ya bolehlah ambil kursus sini
Kalau lu ga punya uang berlebih , ya coba deh browse another course,.jakarta getu loh…tinggal cari yang kita mau n sesuaikan ama kemampuan finansial.
 
The point she makes is that a student can easily burn through Rp 10.000.000 in a few months there. A TBI student would only use Rp 2.700.000 for seven months of study. And yet despite the far greater cost of tuition in Wall Street Kelapa Gading, it was packed with students. There are many affluent people in the area for whom money is no object. Therefore, selling Indonesian teachers to students (and more importantly parents) who want Native Speakers is no easy task. But by the end of 2011, 35% of public courses were 50-50 Combo. I had worked very hard to introduce this slowly over the previous 15 months and had had to fight Pauwsan Sutanto hard to get him to accept Indonesian teachers on a trial basis. 
 
This is important background to understanding some of what I am going to explain about how Nunu could have caused TBI Kelapa Gading to collapse in such a short time. There were many other schools in Kelapa Gading and the people who had chosen TBI had done so for its ability to provide a large Native Speaker component in all its courses. When the expat teachers starting leaving en masse in the first half of 2012 (by June 2012 there was no longer a single Native Speaker teacher legally employed there), most of the customers felt disappointed and let down. They had chosen this school specifically because of its abundance of expat faces. Within 3 months, student numbers had nosedived- we have the timetable to prove it! For the umpteenth time, a TBI franchise school had imploded.

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