“S---- G---. It’s a company, yes, but it’s an independent school.”
Through the course of the groggy debate that ensued, it became established that Nova, one of the preeminent ESL-chains in Japan, has been doing belly flops. Her friend Peggy-Lynn mentioned it in a phone call, and the tale inspired Mom to march upstairs and disrupt my reverie.
“Well, I think you should still research it, William.”
“No, because Nova is a group of closet-size ESL schools that are set up all over Japan. Mine, again, is a real school.” But the tales were so outlandish that I felt compelled to look up the plight of Nova anyway.
And boy, they’re screwed.
As you can imagine, I’m pleased as punch that I never worked for them. Or, for that matter, AEON, a similar outfit, who I interviewed with in early 2006. Indeed, I didn’t get very far in the interview process, but were it not for my pride and the other opportunities that have since presented themselves, I might have tried again, with them or with Nova. (But naturally, I was left to guess what they might be looking for.) I was not exactly impressed with the whole process, and it felt like an ESL-version of a Radio Shack recruitment session – you know the kind.
I also had the opportunity to pass on what modicum I did know to Catherine, who demonstrated her talents effectively and got all the way to being offered a contract. She declined, deciding to stick with her music instructor for at least another year and get that extra bit of polish. Her decision and my fate are looking better and better all the time.
And I’d be a fool to suggest that this won’t impact me at all; for starters, there are now thousands of ESL-teaching foreigners in Japan who are out of work. I’m glad I already have my job, but the whole thing does make me wonder if the ESL economy may be starting to falter.
I say, terrific! Maybe people are starting to realize (as they already have in Europe), that you don’t need to have foreigners to teach English. The expertise is easily found locally, and that is probably much cheaper than recruiting and accommodating foreigners. And as an added bonus, they don’t have to deal with the foreigners’ home dialects, nor the odd Christopher Paul Neil.
This whole gravy train could be coming to a halt, and I couldn’t be happier. The inevitable disappearance of this “default” opportunity open to any university graduate who can shower and smile will force prospective students to choose more carefully before embarking on an academic program. I chose to major (and later Honours) in English because I wanted to write, and I figured that in the meantime there would be these sorts of generic opportunities available to people who simply had degrees. It was a monumentally ill-advised (or, to be more accurate, non-advised) decision, but I have survived in spite of it, and may even do well because of it (we’ll see).
And ESL won’t go away, and there will still be a desire for foreigners, though the steady stream might well shrink to a trickle. Standards of education and experience for new hires will increase dramatically. Accountability, by employers and employees both, will increase as well. Prospective ESL teachers will also learn to demand certain securities, such as return airfare in advance (not at the end of a contract, as AEON offers) and guaranteed rent subsidies. In my example, should my school go down the crapper, I’m at least protected from going broke because my return airfare has already been paid and booked in my name.
And I fly on New Year’s Day.