The biggest employer of foreign nationals in Japan BUSTO?
September 25, 2007 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Nova eikaiwa is the biggest foreign language school in Japan, teaching predominantly English through a network of over 600 branches across the county and employing over 7,000 foreign nationals. After adverse rulings to a number of complaints regarding Nova's refund policy, the Japanese Government imposed a 6 month ban from July to prevent the company from selling large lesson packages to students. The company has experienced a severe downturn in cashflow as a result and there are reports of late payment to Japanese staff and suppliers in the last two months. Foreign teachers were unaffected until salary payments for the 15th September were paid late, and more senior teachers have not yet been paid. Despite not being paid, many staff face a tough decision: quit, or continue to show up to work in the knowledge that if the company goes bankrupt they are eligible for unemployment benefits. Despite this, CEO Nozomu Sahashi declared last Friday "The dark clouds that have been hanging heavily over us will be cast aside... I said previously 'the darkest time is before the dawn,' and finally the first light of dawn can be seen". Five days later and some teachers are still waiting to be paid.
posted by cwhitfcd (20 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Interesting. NOVA is known as the sweatshop of the english teaching world in Japan. Not sure why some would rather hang on for unemployment benefits when they could just switch to another school -- another monster org if they wish, such as GEOS, Aeon, ECC, etc. But somehow this doesn't surprise.

I wonder how the private schools will be affected if they ever decide to finally get rid of JET after another abysmal year of scores.
posted by dreamsign at 10:26 PM on September 25, 2007

Don't knock the JET's more than just raising English scores. It is also a cultural exchange that introduces thousands of non-Japanese folk to Japan every year. They take this cultural understanding back their countries and help maintain ties between Japan and the rest of the world. I'm not sure what the Japanese teachers get out of it, but the students have fun.

Nova, on the other hand, is just terrible, both for the students and the teachers. Nova robs and cheats and steals. It will get what it deserves. This kind of reminds me of the YMCA crash back in the early 1990s...
posted by KokuRyu at 10:42 PM on September 25, 2007

It also didn't help that some NOVA teachers got busted for selling drugs to other foreigners, which made the national news a few months prior to the 6 month suspension of operations.

I think NOVA might be too big to go out of business completely, but this is definitely going to cause big changes for them. Oh well, RIP to the worst of the eikaiwas.
posted by p3t3 at 10:53 PM on September 25, 2007

Me knock the JET Programme? No. It just seems that lately more than the usual lineup of disgruntled Japanese university profs have it out for it, and more and more the schools are wondering if it's at all worthwhile. As for raising scores... heh. JET is in its 20th year, and Japan still gets some of the consistently lowest scores on international tests. Speaking from the inside, there is a major hate on for JET right now.

Though I have to say, having done some TESL beforehand, that at least the average English skills of the soon-to-be JETs that I met were far-and-away better than those headed off to do private teaching for other employers. Terrible English skills, to the extent that I found myself thinking that many of them were the ones that should be in English classes.
posted by dreamsign at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

p3t3: Also a NOVA teacher that beat the hell out of that taxi driver in Hokkaido not long ago.
posted by dreamsign at 10:55 PM on September 25, 2007

Terrible English skills, to the extent that I found myself thinking that many of them were the ones that should be in English classes.

Though I shouldn't be, I'm always shocked and depressed by the English skills on display in forums like ESLcafe and the like, forums that are frequented by 'English teachers' here in Korea. I visit them rarely, but I do occasionally decide to drop in and have a gander at the latest crop, for shits and giggles. The shits unfortunately tend out outweigh the giggles.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:56 PM on September 25, 2007

Also a NOVA teacher that beat the hell out of that taxi driver in Hokkaido not long ago.

I heard about that taxi driver thing, but I just heard it was a foreigner, not the NOVA teacher part. They certainly have a knack for hiring morons I guess.

Regarding JET, and English scores: As someone working for JET right now, I think our involvement in lesson planning, grading, etc. is so peripheral that it would be hard to make meaningful correlations between test scores and the JET program. Like KokuRyu said, JET is as much about English teaching as it is about cultural awareness teaching. The JET program is an easy scapegoat, but I think there are numerous other factors that are probably a lot more significant to the efficiency of the English curriculum in Japanese schools.
posted by p3t3 at 12:00 AM on September 26, 2007

High school or junior high, p3t3? Cause I was so involved in lesson planning and grading I was drowning in it. As was nearly every other high school teacher I knew. My junior high teaching friends, meanwhile, were bored silly. (mid-to-high academic, mind you, not agri/tech or the like)

I agree with you completely about the relevance of other factors. It's a cost-benefit analysis argument I keep seeing being raised, however, and against that I really have no good answer.
posted by dreamsign at 12:21 AM on September 26, 2007

dreamsign - Yeah, I teach junior high (actually mostly elementary). I know high school is a different story, and you're almost a real regular staff member, but even so, you're still technically just an "assistant" teacher. I guess that's where the cost-benefit question comes in- I don't think the Japanese public schools ever really learned to properly utilize the full potential "benefit" of having full-time native english speaking assistant teachers at their disposal. But regardless of wasting money, I don't think it has anything to do with their test scores.
posted by p3t3 at 1:06 AM on September 26, 2007

dreamsign writes "Not sure why some would rather hang on for unemployment benefits when they could just switch to another school"

Because they probably don't miss only a month, but same have 2-3 months or more of wage waiting to be paid ; some possibly think they are going to lose that
money and that recovering it by litigation would cost them more ; others live paycheck to paycheck and maybe fear that by losing their position they will not be able to immediately find another

dreamsign writes "JET is in its 20th year, and Japan still gets some of the consistently lowest scores on international tests. Speaking from the inside, there is a major hate on for JET right now."

Out of curiosity, given that I am in the market for obtaining a test, which are the best and toughest ? As far as I know Cambridge ESOLs are , Proficiency being not only the "toughest" but the most representative of real command of the language, are "the" standard ?
posted by elpapacito at 1:56 AM on September 26, 2007

Japan Economy News has provided good coverage as well. It's doubtful that NOVA will survive the next few months.
posted by ejoey at 4:45 AM on September 26, 2007

Attention NOVA teachers: You are now free to steal students and teach them privately out of your apartment, sleep with the college girls and introduce them to the joys of marijuana.

Really, has anything changed?

This is a pen.
posted by planetkyoto at 7:07 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

There is a delicious irony here. When I worked at Aeon in the 1990's, NOVA managers used to tell prospective students not to sign up with rival Aeon because "Aeon was on the verge of bankruptcy."
posted by planetkyoto at 7:15 AM on September 26, 2007

I was hired in Australia by Nova about 600 years ago and I lasted there 3 weeks. It amazed me that people could stay working for them for years.

And those are the people who are staying - not your average classroom slogger but the ones who've put in time to actually move up the ranks a bit.

Plus let's face it - 5,000 English teachers aren't going to be absorbed that easily, I can understand why they are hanging out to get paid or fired.
posted by gomichild at 8:02 AM on September 26, 2007

Oh cripes. My sister's church-funded eikaiwa out in Chiba went under, and they were looking for work. They're really, really hosed, aren't they?
posted by ormondsacker at 8:11 AM on September 26, 2007

Crap, I was planning on applying here.
posted by spec80 at 11:06 AM on September 26, 2007

Japan still gets some of the consistently lowest scores on international tests.

That is totally not true!
There's still one country that fares consistently lower in standardized English tests than Japan --- North Korea.
posted by sour cream at 11:18 AM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

The reason that Japanese people score so badly on international test scores is because Japanese students don't study English for the purpose of speaking it or using it; they only study it to get into high school and then university. They are only trying to pass those tests, which involved reading ridiculously complicated grammar and no speaking at all. (My theory is that when the Japanese English education system was developed in the Meiji period, it wasn't created for the purpose of learning to communicate with foreigners; the idea was to be able to learn as much about their technologies and stuff by reading all their books.) So of course Japanese people do badly on international tests, where the focus is more on communication and well-rounded English ability. And of course, most Japanese teachers of English can't speak English very well, so they are unable and unwilling to properly utilize foreign teachers. Most JET members are really idealistic and want to teach kids to speak some English, which is not really the teachers' goal. In fact it's almost contrary to it, as it takes away from the time the kids could be memorizing grammar points, and it embarrasses the teacher in front of everybody when he can't even say, "I am a pen."

That said, NOVA is crap and deserves to die.
posted by donkeymon at 4:26 PM on September 26, 2007

I find it hilarious that people refer to NOVA as a school. Like all the other eikaiwa crapholes, it is more of a language brothel where native-speakers whore themselves out for a meagre wage.
posted by nightchrome at 6:51 PM on September 26, 2007

elpapacito: my TESL materials were Cambridge but being the public school system all of our ESL texts were made in-country, except our 3rd year conversation text. This is largely due to expense. The Japanese texts were absolutely terrible -- even going out of their way to take topics perfect for practice and interaction (say, your favorite foods) and making them into rote memorization and passive listening exercises (shall we talk about our favorite foods? No! Let's listen to the teachers read a dialogue between two fictional people, and then answer multiple choice questions on what their favorite foods are!)

Our third year text, on the contrary, was absolutely excellent. The name of the publisher escapes me for the moment, unfortunately, but it was not Cambridge.

I agree with you donkeymon that a lot of the problem is the emphasis on entrance test prep, but there's also something attitudinal going on that I can't quite put my finger on. There are a whack of students who want to go on to careers where they will need to actually speak English (#1 desired occupation: flight attendants), but they seem to think it will come easily and then they rapidly lose hope when it doesn't. The effect of -- 10%? -- of their language consisting of loan words similar but not the same as the originals both in pronunciation and meaning also doesn't help. There's more to it than either of those but I haven't quite got it yet. A pride related issue, I think, but I'm not sure what.
posted by dreamsign at 7:12 PM on September 26, 2007

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