Nova- The End?

People in Japan have probably noticed that a rather large English School, NOVA is having some pretty major troubles and is quite probably about to shut down. The news in Japan run some clips of protesting teachers (including one in a cute pink bunny outfit), going to talk to the METI trade and industry office here to complain about being owed about two months salary (this including the ‘month in hand’) and promised pay-dates coming and going without any more money in the bank. Some (cold-hearted) viewers will probably be saying that they should ‘gambatte’ (keep working hard), but the story of English Schools here is that they do sometimes go bust and then it can be next to impossible to recover lost wages.

Some simple background to this is that Nova got heavily penalised for refusing to refund students’ unused lesson tickets at the price they paid for them. Students got together and took the matter to court and even after receiving court orders, Nova kept up the practice- eventually METI got involved and ordered them to stop accepting long-term contracts. This, aside from cutting off a major revenue stream, severely damaged their reputation (and perhaps for many potential students, that of Eikaiwa in general) and spelling a downwards slide that, with no-one fixing things, is only gathering in momentum.
  

Small wander that at this point many teachers are resigning or calling in sick
each day (‘toppatsu’) and finding other jobs, ones that pay- if they
can, with this sudden deluge of native speakers on the market. I myself once worked for Nova, I actually came over with them! I was pretty shocked to find myself teaching in a plexiglas cubicle all day, with ‘trainers’ occasionally keeping an eye on proceedings from theirs. A plus was that I made lots of new friends to go on weekly trips with, sing karaoke together and have various arriving and leaving parties with. So long as you could fit in, the social life was great. the problem was the seemingly endless ‘lessons’, which were treated like a menial job where you do the same thing endlessly (common in teaching here in Japan) and the smell of dishonesty all around you, with students being lied to and a sense that promotions were being given to people who sucked up to the company big-wigs rather than necessarily those that deserved them. But, looking back, there were some good people above me, who sincerely did what they could for the teachers. The biggest problem is probably the lack of free time, combined with the pressure to not only always appear cheerful, but also to try to show perfect manners- not to lean in your chair, for instance, or to be careful never to use any French words in case someone couldn’t understand them. You were supposed to be best friends with your students and yet always remember they were customers, as they could (and often did) complain.The list of complaints I got was pretty much hilarious, as almost none of it related to teaching- the job I was being paid (yes, back them they paid you!) to do.

I sincerely hope Nova teachers and staff get all the back wages that they worked so hard for, if not from Nova, then from the government that gave them the visas and Nova the license to hire so many people, probably not knowing who they were dealing with. Most of all, I hope that those that want to stay on in this wonderful (if sometimes difficult) country find a new and better job with which to make this possible. There are plenty out there, it is just a question of finding one right for you and in this respect – if you don’t succeed be like King Arthur’s spider building a web- try, try, try again!

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