Former TBI Kuningan Manager Interviewed (Part 2 of 3)

What did you make of the decision to appoint Nunu Pratama as manager at TBI Kelapa Gading in 2012? You had previously been his manager at TBI Kuningan.

Well, I thought it was a highly risky decision because he had said to be many times, “I am lazy. I just want to be teach my classes.” Also, he had never shown any interest in management before and had never taken on any extra responsibilities. He had no management background or experience. He also didn’t have a TEFL certificate, which is supposed to be a requirement for school managers. Also, I was aware that as soon as he had gone onto contract, he had used up all 6 of his sick days within the first two months. So I thought he was a very odd choice.

Would you be surprised to hear that he told teachers at a staff meeting that the job was a lot more work than he expected, and he was “basically a lazy person”, so he didn’t like the stress of the job?

No that wouldn’t surprise me. No, let me re-phrase that. It surprises me that he would be so stupid as to say that. But it doesn’t surprise me at all that that was how he felt.

He was offered the job without being formally interviewed and within 3 months of him starting, 35% of all classes had closed due to collapsing student numbers. Based on your experience of TBI, how is it even possible to lose a third of all students within 3 months?

I can’t imagine how it is possible to lose so many, so fast. I guess the answer must be to do absolutely nothing.

TBI seems to have a view that anyone can be a manager, you just have to follow Ashley’s ”system”. Yet how many failed managers did you know of during your time in the company?

I couldn’t count how many. There were four at TBI Serpong alone in the first couple of years it was open.

Why do so many TBI managers, such as Nunu, fail so badly?

Because Ashley’s system is not really a system. It simply doesn’t work.

Could you please elaborate?

It is a huge amount of work to run a school with even a couple of hundred students. You are looking after other people’s children, and it is a very important job. Yet at TBI these managers are not even properly trained or supported. You are handed a copy of Ashley’s system, which amounts to a lot of photocopied papers, and sent on your way. But what practical training are these people given in terms of dealing with angry parents or difficult customers or whatever? Next to none. Head Office won’t even support franchise schools with recruitment in most cases.

When Nunu was ‘removed’ in 2013, there had been comments on the TBI Kelapa Gading website for 6 months saying (correctly) that TBI Kelapa Gading was a tax evader who didn’t even give receipts for student payments. Does it surprise you that neither Nunu nor Head Office looked at their own website for 6 months to check up on customer comments?

No, not at all. This is completely typical for the company. Lilies and the other people at Head Office are always ”busy” they tell you, but they produce very little in terms of marketing and the website is not properly maintained. This is actually completely normal for TBI.

Were you surprised when Nunu was replaced by Anita Pasaribu as School Manager in 2013?

Yeah, I guess I was.

Why was that?

Because she had previously said that she didn’t want to work in Kelapa Gading. It was too long a commute. Also, she had always said she didn’t want to work for a TBI franchise school, because many of the school owners had a very dishonest reputation. So it was a surprise on that level. Also, she didn’t have a TEFL certificate. TBI policies were that she had to have one to apply for the School Manager position. But then it is also normal for them to ignore their own policies when it is convenient.

What was her relationship with Luke Preece?

Actually, she told me she didn’t trust him at all. She said that Indonesian staff had been gossiping for a long time that you shouldn’t trust Luke. She had warned me not to trust him when I still did. But after I left, she clearly changed her view. I was told that she had become very close with him. Perhaps she thought he would advance her career.

How fluent was her English?

She was doing Pre-Intermediate level. She could communicate on common topics but her speech and writing were completely riddled with grammar mistakes and typos.

Was her English good enough to write reports and business emails to represent an English school?

Absolutely not.

How can you have a school manager whose English is too bad to write decent emails? How does she communicate with business clients?

I can’t answer the question. I didn’t work there when she was in charge.

What did you think when you learned that she too was fired after lots of complaints about her lack of competence in English?

This kind of thing is hardly surprising by now. What do they expect? It seems they just throw person after person into the role without ever vetting them properly. Then they fail time and again. Yet we’re supposed to believe that they know what they are doing.

What advice would you have for Tersi Valentina, TBI Kelapa Gading’s 4th manager in the last 3 years?

Have a Plan B. This company isn’t a decent career path.

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