TBI Careers: The Road to Nowhere

One of the greatest lies pedalled by the TBI authorities is that working in their schools is a good idea for your career. In reality, working for TBI has long proved to be one of the biggest mistakes that you could make. Whether you are a teacher or a manager, again and again TBI has proved to be a career “road to nowhere”. I know literally dozens of people who have left this company cursing their name. Whether we are talking about the former TBI Bekasi teachers who left the school around $2000 out of pocket or the innumerable personal assistants to Mariam who quit after a few months, tired of the abuse, bullying and gaslighting, TBI has a sorry track record of exploiting people and then spitting them out. Like all practised scam artists, they can appear very convincing when you first hear their lies, but time has proven that these are people who don’t value their own word. For these people, breaking promises is a kind of “day of the week ending in y” phenomenon. If you believe their slick promises and lies, you will come to regret it. Let’s give a detailed example of what we mean.

TBI Riau: How to Rig an Apppointment

In 2010 Aussie con-man Luke Preece pulled a swift one on TBI by installing his best mate since kindergarten as the head of TBI’s largest school. He did this in spite of the fact that Scott Martin didn’t have a degree in any subject. By appointing Scott Martin, TBI was breaking its own rules about qualifications and even Indonesian law. Of course foreigners without degrees can’t legally be employed as managers in Indonesia for various reasons. How was he able to get away with such a blatant example of cronyism?

Here is where things get really dodgy. Other more qualified candidates had applied, such as Mariezka, Ratna and Jodi, but he disqualified the later two on the basis that they wanted to co-manage the school, which he said was against TBI rules. Um, so was appointing people without degrees, but then Luke had long had a tendency of deeming that TBI rules applied to everyone else but himself. What about Mariezka? He claimed never to have received her application, even though she still had a copy of the sent email in her email account. Basically, people like Ratna and Mariezka who had served the company well for years were overlooked in favour of unqualified cronies who would turn a blind eye to illegal and dishonest schemes. This is one reason we know that TBI is a career “road to nowhere”. But it doesn’t end there.

The Misery of the Teachers

In 2012, when this blog was in its early days, we were approached by a representative of the expat teachers at TBI Riau, who were serving under Scott Martin, Luke’s degreeless crony. Unsurprisingly, they painted a picture of utter dysfunction. Many of their students didn’t even have course books because Scott had stuffed up the book orders. As simple a task of keeping books in stock was beyond him, and when questioned about the issue, he was high-handed and arrogant. A popular refrain was that if teachers didn’t like it, they could leave.

The rot didn’t end there. The informant told us that Scott Martin was even forcing teachers without work visas to work in government schools, exposing them to the risk of deportation if they were caught. This was highly unpopular but again Scott showed no sympathy. Backed up by his corrupt crony, Luke Preece, he arrogantly told teachers to leave if they didn’t like it. Unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what they did. According to out informant, there soon wasn’t a single expat teacher in the staffroom who had been there 12 months; and this was at their biggest school. Further, the teacher informed this blog that the most popular topic of conversation in the staffroom for expats was when they could escape TBI. Everyone knew that TBI Riau was a corrupt dead end, and teachers were unhappy and demotivated.

So what happened next? There was brief ray of sunshine. Scott Martin was forced out to TBI Paskal, a small, badly performing franchise school in the suburbs of Bandung. Ratna, a long time employee, took control of the school and things looked up; there was more sensitivity to teachers working there without a work visa and books were kept in stock. The teachers reported a much better experience once Luke’s crony was gone, but they were still looking forward to leaving TBI, and by mid 2012 we lost our informant. He had moved on to greener pastures, seeing TBI for the “road to nowhere” that it really was.

And then, at the end of 2012, Ratna got fired too. Luke Preece, enfuriated at having lost his stooge in TBI’s biggest school, got his revenge and forced Ratna out of the company for good. Scott Martin, the illegal school manager was back, proving that the Indonesianization of management policy applied to everyone except people in the corrupt inner loop around Luke and Mariam. Predictably, within months, there were no longer any updates on the TBI Riau website and the same old photos stayed there month after month. The incompetents were back in charge, and their laziness and unprofessionalism was right there in the open for everyone to see.

The TBI Scrapheap

Ratna, despite 10 years’ outstanding service, had been thrown onto the scrap-heap, and the same old incompetent crony was back in charge. It was an instructive lesson for anyone who was paying attention. People in TBI had long presumed that if they were loyal, hard-working employees who achieved good results, they would be rewarded. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Ratna and Mariezka had found out, hard-working employees are likely to be seen as a threat from the corrupt do-nothings who are in charge of TBI. Rather than being rewarded for good results, you are liable to be viewed as a threat to the status quo and axed. Ever since Luke and Mariam gained control of this once-decent school chain, it has truly been a career “road to nowhere”. More on this theme tomorrow.

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