The Dodgy Private Schools

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Eikaiwa is Japanese for a private English language school. I’ve been told by several long-term expats in Japan that the eikaiwa business here boomed around the 1980s ~ 1990s.
For someone such as myself who is still somewhat new to the eikaiwa industry, I find it fascinating to think that it could have been even more popular before than what it is right now. Currently there are more English teaching jobs available in Japan than there are (qualified) teachers to accept those positions.

I had taught English before coming to Japan, my previous experience being mostly from China. After a year teaching in China, where I felt like a white monkey shrieking obscurities could have easily done my job, I thought teaching in Japan would be a breeze, a wonderfully comfortable experience in a professional environment.
Everything in Japan seemed so highly regulated with abundance of rules and the grip of bureaucracy being firm on everything, the thought didn’t even cross my mind that I might struggle with dodgy companies.

Well, I was wrong. Dead wrong.

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I did not have a clue that there would be so many notorious companies in Japan to look out for. The sense of security Japan had created for me was all false. I soon discovered as I interviewed with many companies that many indeed are not professional at all, they merely hold on to the image of professionalism to lure in the unaware prey.

I have been interviewed by people working for eikaiwas who barely speak English and are only interested in knowing how soon I can travel to their school to begin work. I have talked to eikaiwa owners who told me that “we’ll talk about that when you get here” when I inquired about the payment for a full-time position in their company. I was interviewed by a Western recruiter and after our first, brief interview he immediately sent me an email asking whether I could fly across the country the following day to start their training program – surely I could make such an important decision in a minute.

These are only a few examples of what have happened to me personally and if they do not sound very dubious perhaps you might be more impressed with the following.

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I was hired to work in a company which was American owned. I found out later that during their 24 years in business only one teacher had ever finished their 12 month contract. Rest had disappeared (ran away without telling a soul), some had actually resigned and a very small percentage had been dismissed. Then there was a suicide. A colleague of mine decided to take her own life. Some might argue that her job had nothing to do with it… However I was present when her last email was read – one which clearly revealed how deeply distressed she was due to pressure at work. This experience shocked me to my core.

After the suicide incident in this particular establishment I lasted five months working for a stark raving madman who was starting to bring my own mental health to crumbles. The sheer unprofessional behavior of the management was incredible, so much so that I had a hard time convincing myself that such a thing could happen in such a civilized country as Japan.

After my traumatizing experience I was obsessed to share my story with other expats I met. I soon found out that the horrors of the eikaiwa business in Japan are plentiful and more common than the good experiences. Abusive managers, unpaid salaries, unbearable working conditions – the list was dark and depressive.

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For a while it felt like there were no decent eikaiwas in Japan and no matter what I did I would end up working for an incompetent egomaniac as a slave in a joyless, soul depriving factory.
Luckily I can say with my hand on my heart that there are indeed good eikaiwas around Japan. Though they are hard to find.

Here are a few simple “do’s and don’ts” on how to find decent employment in the eikaiwa industry.

 Do check

  • Have at least a Bachelor’s Degree, most preferably accompanied with a teaching certificate such as a TEFL or CELTA.
  • Preferably be located in Japan when applying for jobs as many companies prefer to see candidates face-to-face after an initial Skype interview.
  • Be wary if a company seems to be in a hurry to hire you and are rushing you to make a quick decision about accepting a position.
  • Always research the school online: either use Google or visit a website such as www.glassdoor.com.

 

Don’t

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  • Never consider job offers from agencies without either talking to a representative from a school or visiting the facilities first.
  • Do not consider positions that come with an apartment unless you are aware that having your home tied to your work could be a massive disadvantage down the road.
  • Never sign a contract if you are not sure of all of its contents. It is surprising how many eikaiwas include flamboyantly unfair clauses in their contracts.
  • Do not accept a position if you have a strange feeling about it. Trust your instinct.
  • Don’t get desperate. It will not help.

 

All in all the eikaiwa industry is a spiderweb of dangers and confusion to newcomers but if you pay attention and tread carefully, it is possible to find an employer who will offer you a chance to stay in Japan and actually enjoy the experience.

And lastly to all those seeking employment in Japan: stay positive and keep trying, it will be worth it.

 

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Seemingly happy campers with my previous eikaiwa crew and students.

20 thoughts on “The Dodgy Private Schools

  1. I’ve mostly stuck with the big ones so far so have avoid the worst of the problems but even they have some tricky things. I definitely agree with not getting an apartment tied to you company. Not only does it make it more difficult to change jobs but even the big companies tend to use this to skim a little of your wages back. Most areas in Japan have decent Ur apartments. They’re easier to get in some places than other but if you can get one it makes life easier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh absolutely: I currently work for a big company and don’t think I’ll change easily. So far I’ve been treated very well and I have a sense of security working for a big company.
      My old employer definitely over charged rent when I lived in a small town tucked away in a prefecture… I now realize how much money eikaiwas can make out of teachers! Really shameful.
      Ur apartments, I haven’t heard of those?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s a government backed housing company present in most big city’s and a lot of smaller ones too. It specifically provides housing for foreigners and other on low income. It’s one of the only major institutions in Japan that doesn’t discriminate in any way. No key money. No guarantors. Plus if you need to move it’s fairly easy with very little notice. There are also tons of discounts available. I pay 62k for a large 2dk in a good area by a mall. It’s a bit far from the station about 15 mind walk but otherwise it’s great.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I had no clue! How did you find out about them? No one has ever mentioned it to me. That sounds like a great deal, especially not having to have a guarantor or paying ridiculous key money!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I think I read about them in a blog first but also tons of teachers in Nagoya live in them. They have an official website but be careful when searching as there are some real estate agents that try to act as a go between by doing the paperwork for you. This is a great service that you get for free as they get paid through UR but be careful they are really getting you the best deal.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Great, Google did help 🙂 Unfortunately they do seem a lot more expensive than other apartments through regular real-estate agencies, at least here in Hiroshima. But I will definitely keep that in mind, it might be useful one day.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! The particular company I was talking about has been taking advantage of unaware foreigners wanting to teach in Japan for over two decades now. I have reported them everywhere I possibly can but the problem is there are so many of eikaiwas like this..
      Thanks for the recommendation, I will look that book up!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I believe honesty is very important. I could just shut up about it and try to forget but I genuinely think if I can help even one person from getting into a similar, desperate situation that I was in, then it will be worth my time and effort. I have written similar posts elsewhere hoping that people would read them and be more aware.
      Thank you for commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I worked for an eikaiwa about 11 years ago (my goodness, that’s a long time ago) and I had fine experience. Though I could have been too young and naive to know any better. I don’t have a lot of English teacher friends right now, so I haven’t heard too many horror stories. Korea, on the other hand… Anyway, thanks for posting.

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  3. This is horrifying. I’m sorry you experienced this. I’ve never worked at an eikaiwa and I don’t ever intend to. One of my friends told me she was repeatedly sexually harassed and propositioned by her (all) male coworkers at the eikaiwa where she worked. Another of my friends had a great experience working at one, so I suppose it is the luck of the draw.

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    1. There ARE good eikaiwas that treat their employees well – unfortunately the majority of them are more or less dodgy.
      Thank you, I am now doing much better now and really appreciate my current company.

      Liked by 1 person

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