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English Teacher - 2019-02-08

I am writing this as a warning to anyone considering working at EF in Kupang, Indonesia. As one of the first native speakers to arrive for the opening of this school, I have firsthand experience of this center’s culture and shortcomings and would like to share it with others who may be considering a placement here. I have been in the workforce for 15 years and this was by far the worst work experiences I’ve ever had, all due to ownership conduct and faulty business practices. Whether you are a Western or Indonesian teacher, please read and consider these points carefully before further pursuit of a position at this English center.

About the owners - EF Kupang is a family-owned business primarily managed and run by the wife of the family. She has taken on the official role of Owner and Center Director, as well as adopted additional responsibilities in the absence of an academic team leader. The husband of the family has no official capacity at the school but has a domineering presence nonetheless. With limited knowledge of day-to-day operations he makes his authority known by ordering staff and teachers around when present. His unprofessionalism is defined by a lack of professional appearance, fiery temper and disrespect towards employees. His presence noticeably increases stress and frustration levels, adding tension to the center’s atmosphere.

Communication - Expectations are inconsistent and unreasonable resulting in frequent misunderstandings between the owners, teachers and administrative staff members. Ownership lacks empathy and doesn’t show high value for the professional development or personal matters of their employees. Major projects are assigned at the last minute and everyone (teachers and staff) are expected to work overtime to meet deadlines.

Honesty and transparency - Ownership was very deceiving and offered vague answers to avoid accountability. Before our arrival we negotiated parts of our contract. Upon arrival many pieces were changed, like number of holidays, starting date and omitted important benefit clauses. It took further “re-negotiations” to retain these points we had previously agreed upon during initial negotiations. Many teachers past and present have felt taken advantage of and feel like contractual rights have been violated. *Note* - Most EF contracts are one-year with benefits and bonuses received upon completion. However, at this center, two-year contracts are the norm with bonuses and benefits received after completion of the second year. If you do accept a position here, make sure to be detailed and clear with negotiations, get things in writing/ email before arrival, repeat yourself throughout the process and MOST IMPORTANTLY- demand a written contract prior to arrival!

Trust - Micromanagement is the trademark business style of the owners as they believe they know better than the more experienced people around them. Staff are not trained properly and are confused about their job duties. This results in ownership abruptly taking over employee tasks while simultaneously reprimanding them because of incompetence. Ultimately, ownership doesn’t trust their employees so in turn the employees don’t trust them either which has had a very negative impact on morale at the center.

Basic respect - Teachers and staff are often talked down to and spoken to very rudely, especially those from Indonesia and Kupang in particular. The ownership expects everyone to work when they are working (which is a considerable amount as the owner has taken on the additional responsibilities of so many of the employees). No overtime is paid as per company policy and zero compensation/ appreciation is given to anyone working overtime or beyond their job description (not even a “thank you”).

Ownership mismanagement and an inability to conduct their operations fairly, professionally and with respect, has lead to a 50% turnover of teachers and staff during their first year of operation.
The decision to stay and finish my contract was not an easy one. The silver lining at the school was with the colleagues and students. I stayed because I genuinely enjoyed teaching the students at the center, the other teachers were inspiring, talented and wonderful people and it was an adventure to live in Kupang.

Working at an EF center can be an amazing and once in a lifetime experience, however I’d exercise extreme caution if considering a placement at EF Kupang. The overall corporate structure and EF Central support is world-class but any center is only as good as it’s individual ownership/ management (which happen to be the same people in Kupang). If you are considering a position at a center in Indonesia, make sure to get in touch with current or previous teachers to get an impression of the centers atmosphere and work culture before making any serious commitments.

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