Before we ran the story of the school closures at Semarang and Malang we asked people inside TBI whether they had heard of it, including both teachers and students. No one knew it had happened; not one word of explanation had been given. Why are TBI so totally secretive with their own staff? I believe the answer lies in TBI’s highly idealized and fantastical self image, which Luke and Ashley have manipulated to their own selfish advantage. TBI has long been based on the ‘group fantasy’ that it is the most prestigious, well-respected and premium language school in Indonesia. As one of the TBI Bekasi teachers insightfully observed, “They speak so highly of themselves and their achievements.” This glorified self image is trotted out especially for new recruits into TBI. Recruitment material never fails to claim that this illustrious language school has been Indonesia’s premier language academy for 28 years. In reality, it only had one school outside Bandung until 2001! This fantasy is the bait or hook which captures idealistic and trusting new recruits into the TBI lair. They usually leave after one year, especially expats, and as they go off to better paying jobs, they chalk it up to experience and get out with their bonus and don’t look back. They leave knowing that TBI isn’t what it pretends to be,usually nursing grievances. But TBI has got a year’s worth of money off them and knows there are fresh expats in the bule vending machine. A favored ‘bait and switch’ technique is the way they advertised TBI last week on one website with the false promise ‘opportunities for advancement.’ This promise is bogus: no new expat school manager has been appointed since 2010 but they are still trying to lure graduates with English degrees based on the blatant lie they might have a future in TBI management. They are serial offenders at luring new recruits with the ‘group fantasy’ that this is a premium language school and then break their promises again and again and gang bully anyone who dares to expose their lies.
Luke Preece actually embodies none of the supposed TBI values. He has only a high-school education, showing a lack of academic achievement, and he has attacked and snitched on his colleagues with monotonous regularity, showing a lack of professional ethics. But he has presented himself as a results oriented achiever who is helping to bring glory to the TBI brand. Just read the tributes to him by other TBI cronies like Mariam and Bradbury and you will see him described in just these terms. In short, he has packaged himself to fit into the baseless group fantasy of TBI grandeur, even though his true face is that of a degree-faking, back-stabbing gangster.
Based on this analysis, it becomes clear why the double defection of TBI Malang and Semarang is so damaging to both TBI Head Office, in general, and the Business Development Manager in particular.
These recent events are a true nightmare for a school claiming to be elite and premium, as they show that the TBI brand is held in such low regard by two of their business partners that they have removed the name TBI from their schools, judging it as not even worth the piddling 4% royalty fee paid to use it. We have received news that TBI Semarang too may be reopening under a new name. Two out of seventeen schools have now punctured TBI hubris by kicking them out and scoffing at their claims to be premium or even competent. It is a nightmare for a school based on self-deluding fantasies and lavish claims of grandeur. For Preece who had cast himself as the hero and saviour of the TBI dream, these are dark days. The spin and hype machines must be working overtime now. We can already hear the flimsy excuses being trotted out from thousands of miles away.