TBI and Rumah Bahasa: Two Fraudsters Compared

Throughout 2014 the Rumah Bahasa story has provided an interesting counterpoint to the story of TBI. Before a brave teacher came forward and exposed the illegal shenanigans at Rumah Bahasa, this blog had focused exclusively on TBI (The British Institute), a school with its own sorry history of illegal and immoral behavior, all of it hidden away beneath a veneer of respectability, which was largely maintained through threats, character assassination and fake positive reviews. With the arrival of Rumah Bahasa in Jakarta, it became clear that we needed to extend the focus of this blog somewhat; the scamming and confidence trickery that was revealed at Rumah Bahasa was truly egregious. If we didn’t run with the story, it was clear that a lot of potential teachers were going to be seriously out of pocket. So we ran the stories, got tens of thousands of hits, received a good deal of information from RB victims, and in the process received deeper insight into the interface between corrupt language schools and government authorities in Indonesia.

TBI and Rumah Bahasa Compared

The similarities with TBI were instructive, as were the differences. The first thing to say about RB was that it was slicker on the surface than you would imagine. This was not a scruffy, cheap language school in a ruko, a kind of modern shop-house which is a common sight in Indonesian cities. While TBI Kelapa Gading was located in a grubby ruko, Rumah Bahasa Kelapa Gading was set up in a spacious, expensive premises in a modern new mall complex. It was part of the Lotte Mart complex, which is owned by a huge South Korean chaebol. There was an ongoing relationship between RB and the Lotte group. Their school in Bintaro is also found in a Lotte mall.

They had also leased premises in other Lotte malls, such as the ones at Season City and Bay Walk, but those deals eventually fell through in 2014 due to the testimonies of RB victims on this blog. By early 2014, due largely to the information on this blog, the wheels were starting to fall off Frendy Horas’s language school scam. Understandably, once potential customers read that classes sometimes opened several months behind schedule and refunds took months to process, people got scared off. We learned that there were many dozens, possibly even in the low hundreds, of disgruntled customers who were owed in the vicinity of Rp5-6 million rupiah apiece. With each RB victim being owed around $500, the outstanding debts totaled in the tens of thousands of US dollars. RB was soon having ‘cash flow problems’, with an enormous backlog of customers waiting for refunds that would probably never come.

In this sense, TBI was a rather different sort of creature to RB. RB seemed to be more of a ‘hit and run’ operation, an archetypal confidence trickster amassing a pile of cash and then refusing to deliver on its sweet promises. TBI had a longer-term strategy than that. At TBI there was never any doubt that you would get a course if you paid for one, but a scam was often taking place nonetheless. For example, many TBI expat teachers were not approved by DIKNAS, the Indonesian Education Ministry.

Come Fly With Me

TBI has been flying unqualified-expats-calling-themselves-teachers in and out of Singapore on business consultant visas every couple of months. A TBI ‘teacher’ will often have run through 6 straight business consultancy visas within a  year, and at no point were they ever legally allowed to teach in Indonesia. So while the TBI students got a class of some sort, their English ‘teacher’ was often a complete fraud without a degree in any subject. TBI students were literally being taught by moonlighting illegals with a passport full of business consultant visas. Notable examples of TBI luminaries without degrees in any subject include Matthew France, who is now employed by Penabur despite not having a degree in any subject, and Scott Martin, the best buddy of the head con-man. This South Australian runs TBI’s biggest school without having a degree in any subject.

Therefore, both TBI and RB are scammers, but the scamming at RB was more egregious and more of a short-term, ‘hit and run’ affair. Clearly, both schools are best avoided, however, as neither has any respect for their customers or teachers. There are numerous superior options in Indonesia and beyond.



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