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Will I be qualified for NOVA?

senseiman

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Always encouraging to post a lengthy reply only to see it die...

Sorry, been busy over Christmas and all that...

Actually I was amazed at reading your post because our experiences in Japan are almost identical (except that I'm not in Japan anymore). I spent my first year in Japan with GEOS, then went over to AEON for two years. After that I went on my own and started arranging my own work, mostly doing privates out of my home and teaching lessons for other schools/ institutions on the side. I was there for a little over five years total.

I agree with your views on hiring, though I would add that it seems to be luck of the draw. If you get an interview at a time in the year when they happen to really need teachers, they'll probably take just about anybody who qualifies. Other times when they aren't so desperate, I'm sure lots of well-qualified people get turned away and they only take the best. When I interviewed with GEOS in 1999, there were about 30 people for the first interview and only about 7 or 8 wound up getting hired. But when I interviewed with AEON a little over a year later, I was the only applicant being interviewed and they called me back the next day to offer me a job in the exact location I had requested. Luck of the draw.

About the financial rewards, things seem to be gettting worse, at least for Canadians and Brits (not so much for Americans) due to the weak yen. My salary in my first year in Japan worked out to nearly $50,000 Canadian, which was an astronomical sum for a 23 year old fresh out of university. Today that same salary in Yen would only be a little over $30,000 thanks to the change in exchange rate.

When I went into business on my own (which I admit I couldn't have managed without being married to a Japanese woman) things were a lot different. Like you I was totally happy with that new lifestyle and felt it was quite rewarding.

I'd be a bit worried about the long term potential for English teachers though (one of the reasons I'm not in Japan anymore despite being perfectly happy with the lifestyle). The population has peaked and the number of young, student-aged people is in rapid decline. The market is already saturated with schools charging astronomical fees, but they don't have any room to expand and the student base is actually getting smaller. Its not such a bad thing for an independent operator who can undercut the prices of the big schools, but for teachers just starting out it will be a problem because all of the big schools will have to start closing branches and hiring fewer teachers just to avoid going bankrupt. I think NOVA lost something like 3 billion yen last year alone.

Interesting topic for conversation!
 

Pachipro

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senseiman said:
I'd be a bit worried about the long term potential for English teachers though (one of the reasons I'm not in Japan anymore despite being perfectly happy with the lifestyle). The population has peaked and the number of young, student-aged people is in rapid decline. The market is already saturated with schools charging astronomical fees, but they don't have any room to expand and the student base is actually getting smaller. Its not such a bad thing for an independent operator who can undercut the prices of the big schools, but for teachers just starting out it will be a problem because all of the big schools will have to start closing branches and hiring fewer teachers just to avoid going bankrupt. I think NOVA lost something like 3 billion yen last year alone.
I beg to differ. English is still a requirement at schools and will probably be so for a long time to come. Also, one must have at least a basic grasp of the language if they want to be considered for employment with many large firms as I believe basic English is still a part of their employment tests.

So, although the population may have peaked, there will always be a need for English teachers as long as English remains mandatory in schools. Also, the Japanese mental block to learning the spoken language will never go away unless there is a major cultural shift in their thinking and attitude towards learning foreign languages and, that in itself, will still require many English teachers for a long time to come.

NOVA, among others, probably lost such a large sum because of their charging outrageous fees and putting classrooms at every major train station in the nation. They spread themselves too thin too fast in order to make a quick buck and took advantage of their own people who have difficulty learning a foreign language. Therefore, they were forced to hire, as Mike Cash would say, anyone with a pulse. These were short term teachers who couldn't give a damn and were only there for the money giving them a high turnover rate of teachers. Who wants to continue to attend a class where the teacher is always different? Especially if the students really liked a particular teacher.

Couple this with the fact that many large schools work their teachers into the ground and require them to be there, even when they are not teaching, about 6 hrs per day. The Japanese probably wised up and opted for the smaller schools instead where the teaching was more on a personal level and not as expensive. It's no wonder they are losing astronomical amounts of money and I, for one, am glad to see it happen.

And as far as independents like Iron Chef or myself goes, it's not so much about undercutting the big name schools, it's about charging a fair price for the services rendered and being able to make a decent living. Also, being independent, one does not have as much overhead as the big schools, especially if you are working out of your home or have just one place to teach from. I'm sure there were many big named schools in places where hardly anyone enrolled and this helped to cut into their bottom line as they still had to pay their teachers the basic monthly salary along with their rent and such. I'll bet there are independents thriving in areas where there is an ECC or NOVA losing money.

Therefore, senseiman, if you want to return to that lifestyle that you enjoyed I see no reason not too as I believe you will be employed well into retirement age.
 

Elizabeth

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I agree with your views on hiring, though I would add that it seems to be luck of the draw. If you get an interview at a time in the year when they happen to really need teachers, they'll probably take just about anybody who qualifies.
Assuming a work visa takes around 6-8 weeks to process, I would imagine those peak months would be about that far in advance of the beginning of the new school year ? Sometime late summer and early Spring ? :?
 

senseiman

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I beg to differ. English is still a requirement at schools and will probably be so for a long time to come. Also, one must have at least a basic grasp of the language if they want to be considered for employment with many large firms as I believe basic English is still a part of their employment tests.
So, although the population may have peaked, there will always be a need for English teachers as long as English remains mandatory in schools. Also, the Japanese mental block to learning the spoken language will never go away unless there is a major cultural shift in their thinking and attitude towards learning foreign languages and, that in itself, will still require many English teachers for a long time to come.
Oh yes, I agree with you that there will always be a requirement for English teachers. But you can expect the number of English teaching positions to decline over the long term with the number of students. So if there are fewer students there will obviously be fewer spots for teachers. I think that might be a problem for teachers because the number of people looking for teaching jobs doesn't seem to be going down and may even be increasing, so it seems like it is becoming more and more of an "employer's market".
Pachipro said:
NOVA, among others, probably lost such a large sum because of their charging outrageous fees and putting classrooms at every major train station in the nation. They spread themselves too thin too fast in order to make a quick buck and took advantage of their own people who have difficulty learning a foreign language. Therefore, they were forced to hire, as Mike Cash would say, anyone with a pulse. These were short term teachers who couldn't give a damn and were only there for the money giving them a high turnover rate of teachers. Who wants to continue to attend a class where the teacher is always different? Especially if the students really liked a particular teacher.
Couple this with the fact that many large schools work their teachers into the ground and require them to be there, even when they are not teaching, about 6 hrs per day. The Japanese probably wised up and opted for the smaller schools instead where the teaching was more on a personal level and not as expensive. It's no wonder they are losing astronomical amounts of money and I, for one, am glad to see it happen.
I certainly have no sympathy for the big schools that are loosing money because of their short-sighted business plans that have blown up in their faces. I wouldn't say that I would be glad to see one of them go under though, not all of the teachers who work for them fit the stereotypical "anyone with a pulse" mold, there are a fair number who take their job seriously. I would also add that if, hypothetically, NOVA were to go under, could you imagine the impact that would have on the teaching market? To be sure, a lot of the teachers would just go back to their home countries, but I imagine that a large number, maybe more than half, would stay and try to find more work, which would flood the market with desperate teachers.
I mean, I've already seen wages drop dramatically in the 7 years since I went to Japan. The latest "up and coming" big school, GABA, offers teachers only 1400 yen per lesson and absolutely no benefits. In the 1990s that would have been unthinkable, but they don't seem to be having much trouble finding people today at those slave wages.
Pachipro said:
And as far as independents like Iron Chef or myself goes, it's not so much about undercutting the big name schools, it's about charging a fair price for the services rendered and being able to make a decent living. Also, being independent, one does not have as much overhead as the big schools, especially if you are working out of your home or have just one place to teach from. I'm sure there were many big named schools in places where hardly anyone enrolled and this helped to cut into their bottom line as they still had to pay their teachers the basic monthly salary along with their rent and such. I'll bet there are independents thriving in areas where there is an ECC or NOVA losing money.
Yes I know, like I said I used to be an independent operator myself and I agree 100% that it is about charging a fair price for service which allows you to earn a decent living. That was always one of the things about the Eikaiwa market that I couldn't understand. How did the big schools get away with charging 8,000 to 9,000 yen per hour per private lesson when any teacher, with very low start up costs, could simply offer the exact same service, only charge a fraction of that amount and still make a decent living? So when I left AEON my wife (who is also an English teacher) and I set out to offer a better quality lesson for much lower cost than the big schools. The results were amazing. With only about 100,000 yen we were able to fully equip a classroom in our home with high quality furnishings, purchase a top quality stereo and a build a sizeable library of EFL textbooks. Right there we were already ahead of what we had seen at AEON, where students sat in uncomfortable furniture and used horrendously poor quality in-house publications.
We were able to establish a curriculum based on the "Get Real" and "New Interchange" series of textbooks, both of which are absolutely top-rate. We also were able to offer TOEIC and TOEFL classes using the Longman texts. Right there we were offering the same range of lessons as offered at the big schools, only using much higher-quality textbooks.
Then when setting our price we were able to seriously undercut the big schools. Of course, as you mention undercutting the big schools wasn't the main priority in establishing a price, but I think it was a big selling point for students. We weren't in it to get rich so we just charged 3,000 yen per hour long private lesson. That worked out quite well, as it was close to 1/3 the price the students would pay for a 50 minute lesson at AEON. That is actually a lower price than many other teachers charge per private, but by offering them out of our house we saved so much time and effort that we could do 4 or 5 of them back to back and make quite a decent daily wage in a relatively short time. WIthin a couple months from starting we had a very busy schedule, though we both round it out by doing lessons during the slow times (weekday afternoons mostly) at other schools.
Plus of course the quality of the lessons was much higher because we dealt with the same students each week and had much greater flexibility to concentrate on what they wanted to learn rather than being stuck to the set format which the big schools enforce on teachers.
Pachipro said:
Therefore, senseiman, if you want to return to that lifestyle that you enjoyed I see no reason not too as I believe you will be employed well into retirement age.
Yes, I know I could have enjoyed that life for a long time but I kind of felt that it was time to move on and try something new. At the moment I am half-way through Law school, having paid for it entirely with savings from our English teaching, which is pretty good considering most of my classmates are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt. I kind of lucked out there though because I sent a lot of my savings back to Canada when the exchange rate was favorable. Last year when we exchanged the last of our yen into dollars we got absolutely slammed with the weak yen.
 

Pachipro

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senseiman said:
Yes, I know I could have enjoyed that life for a long time but I kind of felt that it was time to move on and try something new. At the moment I am half-way through Law school, having paid for it entirely with savings from our English teaching, which is pretty good considering most of my classmates are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Well congratulations to you and I wish you the best of luck in your new endeavor. The fact that you are staying out of debt to do it when the costs are extremely high for that type of training says alot about you and the decent profit one can make teaching English in Japan if one enjoys doing so and takes it seriously enough.
 
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