119 - The Office 2

Ah, the wonders of having one’s own desk. The building in which I work leaves the centre using floors 1-5 less floor two. The ground floor houses (this year) the IFY1 programme and the Sales/Recruiting office. The 3rd floor houses most of the teaching staff and the USEP1 programme, which the 4th and 5th floors house the A-level programme, plus the remaining support staff.

The company runs another site on the other side of town and the PMP¹ programme runs there.

The use of the building varies from year to year as numbers on programmes varies rather more than you might expect. The ALP is fairly constant at 130-160, the IFY has been at 40 but currently has 20, the PMP has been at 70 but this year is just under 20, the USEP runs between 15&30 and this year is 20. We have run other programmes too, but the total in the building has not passed 250. 
The second floor and rooms in the adjacent building are used by ‘the Korean programme’, not a company project, with under 30 students and using an awfully large amount of space.
There are no laboratory spaces in the building and we run practical work with the co-operation of our host school; we have a pitiful IT suite that accommodates 12 on a good day but realistically eight. The labs are a battle and I will write about those separately.

At no point in this writing am I criticising; if you think I do so, that is not the intention. What I’m attempting to do is describe what is, how that is and what we do to make things work. This is China and, as I have written many times already, planning (any form of forward-thinking) is an alien concept. Similarly and almost as a consequence, the local workforce² is happiest if employed and idle; the idea that unfilled hours might have consequences for future employment is also very foreign, especially given the information that those who rock the boat (because they care about their work) are most likely to be ejected first. Keep your head down, keep quiet, take the money; protect your own immediate interests – these are the objectives of the local worker. Changing that attitude within this building is a major task at which we are slowly succeeding. One cannot (and should not try to) change China, but effecting localised changes might improve the company’s future.

A local lawyer friend has been recently in Beijing to lecture on the way things are. Because he is iconoclastic he insists on being paid up front and he starts many of his public speaking events with an explanation that he will be described as a liar, biased, wrong and so on – for telling it the way it is. Last time I was listening to him in a tankard he said that this last event was rounded off with people coming up afterwards to explain that they had been fired for caring, for telling the truth and for pointing to an event where the company was going to be damaged by external parties. Screwed is the word. Fired they were. All ten of them, no two from the same company. Just at that event. This, as I write so often, is not Europe.

Moving on, the staff room, pictured to the right, does not meet the image expected in the west. This is a crowded cubicle space, to which students and parents have access more or less on demand. The picture shows one of four similar rooms, though this is arguably the busiest.

My office³, the same room that I had in the previous incumbency, is off the staff room above and is pictured at the top. 2.8x3.4 less a corner, so 8m² in all. I manage to use most of the windowsill as shelf space. The light switch is next door in the ‘secure’ room, the far side of multiple locks. More than half this little room is communication space, since people do need to come and talk, often with the door closed. I got rid of the previous cupboards because they take up floor space and I realised eventually that while I could have high-level storage, what I need in my room needs to be current and within reach. There’s a low output heater running under the window and the heat pump that is the a/c unit provides some comfort levels. The early morning sun dazzles and often the blinds are down, mostly in the warm months. The whole of autumn was indicated by irritating flies inside the building, but we are remarkably free of insect life mostly. There is a gecko somewhere in the system.

DJS 20121226

Essay No 80 has the same title and may be extended when I’ve stopped being in China.

1 Code: ALP = A-level Programme two years of A-level preceded by one year of GCSEs. Most students end up with 4/5 GCSEs plus 3 AS-levels and a bit more than half complete the A2 course. 70-90% A-C grades.
IFY = International Foundation Year, meaning the Northern Consortium of UK universities, NCUK. 100% success in achieving UK university entrance.
USEP = US Elite Programme, aimed at entry to ‘top 50’ Universities in the US, taking students mostly from our host school.
PMP = pre-Master’s programme, for graduates looking to go abroad.



2 ‘local workforce’ being nationals in employ in their home country, not at all the people working within our building, many of whom do begin to understand what is expected. That doesn’t stop them reverting to stereotype when (i) no-one is looking or (ii) they have no work they want to do. 

3 EASY and HA2D, usually seen on the white board in my room, was dreamed up and written by me way back in PMC, maybe as long ago as 2000.

4 Gekko or gecko, (though Ghecko feels a more likely English spelling). Dictionary says often vocal; never heard one. Name from the Malay Geko and I saw my first one in Malaysia, appropriately. The pic is the little guy himself in my room, the room pictured at the top.

5 I was in a tankard, he was later in his cups.

© David Scoins 2017