In the past year or so, TBI has finally become a registered company, PT. Titian Buana Ilmu. What did you make of this development?
They had been talking about registering as a company for a long time, but like most of their plans, it took much longer to happen than they planned. Many years longer. Perhaps it is related to their problems getting visas for their teachers.
How is the decision to become a company related to the teacher visa issue?
I am just speculating. Maybe it would be easier to get visas if they were a registered, tax-paying company.
In your experience, did TBI have a long history of employing foreign ‘teachers’ without degrees?
Yes they had a very long history of employing teachers without degrees. Bandung was especially bad for it, and in fact most of the bad ideas that have ruined TBI came out of Bandung, especially from Luke Preece, Jodi Sheik and Scott Martin. All of them had used fake or Photoshopped degrees at some point to be able to stay in Indonesia.
How do you know that a faked degree had been submitted to Indonesian Immigration on behalf of Ms. Sheik?
Luke Preece told me. Also, I saw an email from Ms. Sheik in 2012 in which she admitted that she had not yet graduated from university with a degree but said she ‘hoped’ to have her Masters by 2016. That was then 4 years in the future.
I also heard that Peter Edgar, a ‘teacher’ who had no degree in any subject, was still working at TBI Kuningan on Saturdays as of early 2014. What’s your opinion about that?
He was a teacher who it was strongly recommended that they let go of in 2012, due dozens and dozens of customer complaints and also because he didn’t meet the government criteria under the new regulations. However, he is willing to work illegally for them, and they are desperate for Western faces, so he is back in. They are truly only motivated by greed for money and have no morals and scruples in terms of academics.
I have seen a copy of a large spreadsheet from Luke Preece from 2011 which summarized all of the latest information about the illegal teachers working for TBI in Jakarta and Bandung. He also marked the information as ‘top secret’ and asked managers not to tell a soul. What you agree he was the mastermind of all the illegal visa scams within TBI?
I wouldn’t use the word ‘mastermind’. It was nothing but a grubby little scheme to employ teachers illegally. But he was very proud of the whole thing and liked to boast that he had ‘saved’ TBI from disaster with his scheme. Just because he put the teachers’ names into a spreadsheet doesn’t make it some grand stroke of genius, however.
Do you think he perceived himself as some sort of Messiah or Savior of TBI?
Definitely. He had delusions of grandeur. He saw his illegal visa scam as some amazing plan that only he could have come up with to save the company. In reality, it turns out every second-rate school in Jakarta is doing the same thing. Should we think of the con-man at Rumaha Bahasa as a ‘mastermind’ too?
Did you ever criticize or argue against this scam?
He called the teachers ”knowledge transfer consultants” and said that as long as they transferred know-how to local teachers, as well as teaching classes themselves, they could arguably be regarded as business consultants. I had one of these KTCs in TBI Kuningan, so I scheduled him for several hours a week working with local teachers. Preece then emailed me that I was wasting money. He said that TBI only made money off the classes, not the knowledge transfer part, and instructed me not to put it on the schedule any more. He said that it had been mentioned in the contract, but that was really just for show. He said it was all just a cover, for appearance’s sake. I complained about it and the dodgy accounting to Head Office, and I was forced out shortly afterwards.
What do you make of the Indonesian government’s decision to make Bahasa Indonesia compulsory for aspiring teachers?
It is just one of a whole host of xenophobic laws they have made in recent times. They have ordered foreigner mining companies to build smelters for them unless they want to lose their licenses. They have said that 40% of components in Smartphones have to be made locally or you can’t sell them in Indonesia after 2017. They have put dozens and dozens of foreign drug dealers on death row. There is a real protectionist, anti-foreigner movement in Jakarta at the moment. This is already causing foreign investors to dry up and I notice the rupiah is at record lows, so things aren’t going well.
On the other hand, Indonesia is a lawless place. This test may just be another bargaining chip in terms of getting bribes when you apply to Manpower to get an IMTA to hire foreigners.
They say you will be able to sit it online from outside the country before you arrive.
Great, I will go to the nearest university in Sydney and pay an Indonesian student $20 an hour to sit it for me. Problem solved. It’s going to be a fiasco. You can just tell.