TBI Bandung’s Teacher Retention Woes

Yesterday we posted a comment from an online forum in which a prolific commentator known as “Tudor” discussed the status quo (as of August 2014) in the Indonesian TEFL industry. This comment-poster is in no way aligned with us; in fact, he has been highly critical of this blog and its authors in the past. Yet, tellingly, the substance of what he says backs up pretty much everything we have been saying for the past 2 years. In essence, he reports that the new DIKNAS regulations shouldn’t be taken seriously. In particular, he reports knowing several “semi-reputable” schools which are employing foreign teachers who don’t even have degrees. Based on what he has seen of the new regulatory regime, he concludes it is pretty much “a complete joke”. On the same theme, we have reported for 2 years that many dodgy schools, notably TBI and Rumah Bahasa, have made a habit of employing teachers illegally on VKU and Sosbud visas and lying to people that these are the same as KITASes (work visas). One of the main topics of this blog has long been that many schools are defrauding their customers by employing foreign “teachers” who are simply not qualified to teach TEFL. Also, we have long argued that the new regulations are being flagrantly broken, a view which “Tudor” has now endorsed. Anyone who doesn’t believe this by now can only be willfully ignorant. Therefore, the most interesting or revealing part of Tudor’s post is the part in which he discusses TBI’s chronic teacher retention problems at TBI Bandung, their home city and supposedly their strongest market. If TBI isn’t doing well in Bandung, really what hope is there for them?

TBI Bandung Recruitment Woes

According to “Tudor”, TBI is still only paying a miserly Rp 11-12 million at TBI Bandung, which has made them very unpopular with English teachers. As “Tudor” tells it, TBI Bandung are constantly losing teachers to Penabur, a prominent chain of Christian schools in Indonesia. The reason for this is that Penabur pays Rp 15 million at its National Plus schools and Rp 18 million at its International Schools. TBI is unable to compete on salaries and foreign teachers are constantly being poached by Penabur, who pay a lot more and therefore are a more attractive employer.

First, a few comments about this Rp 11-12 million wage. This wage has been extremely flat for a long period of time. I knew a TBI Bandung teacher who was getting Rp 10.5 million as far back as 2005. That means that TBI is only paying 5-10% more than it was 9 years ago. In the meantime, inflation in Indonesia has averaged 6% per annum, so prices have gone up perhaps 60%-70% but TBI wages have only gone up 10%. That means the purchasing power of the TBI salary has been severely eroded over the past decade. It is simply nowhere near as good a deal as it used to be. This is reflected in the attitude of their teachers. In 2005 people spoke of them as a good-paying, desirable employer. Now everyone who can gets out of their and works for someone like Penabur, who pays enough to have a decent lifestyle. At the same time, TBI has routinely upped its prices by close to 10% per annum. They have jacked up prices as often and far as possible, at the same time as they have kept teacher wages at rock-bottom levels. Over time, this has made them seem less and less desirable as an employer, and it is no wonder they have a hard time keeping people.

Working for Peanuts at TBI Bandung

For newcomers to Indonesia, the rupiah is now back at Rp 12.000 to the USD again. That means the Rp 11 million starting wage is as little as $910 a month. This really is pitifully small for a school whose mission statement boasts of a desire to be “the best language training provider in Indonesia and South-East Asia.” Click on Dave’s ESL Cafe and you will find “fun-in-the- sun” style promos in which you can study a TEFL certificate for 1 month in Phuket and end up with a guaranteed job paying 30,000 baht (around $1000 a month). If any old backpacker can walk into a job in Thailand paying $1000 a month with no experience and a fresh TEFL certificate, then what on Earth does TBI think it is doing offering less money to qualified teachers? No wonder they are losing teachers to Penabur when they are paying these rock-bottom wages. It also explains why they have been reduced to employing unqualified “quack” teachers on VKU visas to cheat the Indonesian government. What self-respecting, experienced teacher would sign up for a year at TBI Bandung on the measly promise of $910 a month from a rapidly fading language chain?

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