It’s been 6 months since I came home from Japan. It’s probably safe now to announce the semi-obvious: yes, I worked for NOVA. I didn’t have a pleasant time. This wasn’t because of the students, I might add. I had a great time getting to know them and befriending them, and I still keep in contact with a group of them.
No, what gave me the irrits was the extremely corporate nature of NOVA. And yes, it’s a corporation, with an aim to make profit. But there is such a thing as ethical profiteering, as well as corporate social behaviour. NOVA is an example of why the stock exchange is evil. Before I even arrived in Japan, the share price for NOVA had been dropping. Then in May this year, it was announced that NOVA was expecting a net loss of 3 billion yen (about US$30,000,000) due to expanding the number of branches to the point where each school was fighting not to lose students to another NOVA branch. All this resulted in NOVA trying to save money and make money any way it could, just to make the shareholders happy.
It was simply stupid business management. NOVA had a number of “satellite” schools that were staffed by teachers and admin from the main school in the area. These satellite schools would have a very small number of students, be open only a few days a week and would cost more in rent and overheads than the income received from the students.
Did you ever hear that story about how McDonalds refuses to close any stores? At best, they will relocate them, but never close them down, because it looks “bad” to the general public. Well, NOVA seemed to have much the same policy, despite the obvious losses they were incurring.
The large number of schools meant that they were always understaffed, and would basically hire any monkey who had scrapped through a year of college. The teachers were often disgruntled, due to some of the illegal activities and bizarre policies that NOVA perpetuated, as well as the constant overtime pushed onto them, whatever personal gripes they had with Japan and finally the stress that radiated off the Japanese staff.
My gods, I felt sorry for the Japanese staff. They would sometimes receive the treatment that some students received and get heckled by some teachers. They were under a huge amount of stress to get the numbers of sales up, keep the teachers well informed and the student customers happy. I wouldn’t have wanted to trade places with them for the world.
At one point, NOVA announced it was cutting back on all expenses in branches except paper, cleaning products and light fixtures. It went one step further at my school, where the Japanese staff were desperate to get some savings on the books – they stopped providing plastic garbage bags for the bin lining. The teachers were asked to fork up 1000 yen of their own money, per month, to cover the things like garbage bags, pens, paper and whiteboard markers that NOVA would no longer supply.
We told them to go stuff themselves.
One of the Japanese staff ended up paying for it all out of her own pocket.
NOVA did not give a shit about it’s stakeholders: the staff, teachers and students – the people who actually made it operate and turn a dollar. Instead, NOVA milked them all dry to appease the shareholder. Even to the point of illegal activities that are now being fought by the General Workers Union.
Another well-known example is NOVA accomodation. Oh gods. If it wasn’t for the Accomodation section, I would’ve perhaps worked there for longer. Lies, lack of answers, refusal to answer calls, rudeness, avoiding all the issues that tenants may bring up. THEN overcharging them. If you ever choose to work for NOVA, fine. But don’t live in their apartments. It will save you untold amounts of stress and frustration.
I completely understand that NOVA exists only to make a profit, not to provide gaijin with a cheap holiday. But anyone with basic business knowledge can tell you that their methods of operation were on the extremely dodgy side. If you want students to buy more tickets, then make sure that they can use the ones they already have, at the times that they want. What’s that? Don’t have enough teachers to fill the demand of lessons? They all seem to be quitting? Well, maybe you should try and keep your teachers happy with their jobs, by giving them the basic tools and training that they need. Don’t throw them in the deep end. Don’t make life difficult for them back in their apartments. And don’t tell them that they lack company spirit and threaten them with degrading their reports when instead you could be listening to their gripes and trying to fix them.
I’m convinced that the shareholder-over-stockholder nature of NOVA was what caused the awful behaviour I witnessed in some teachers. I met a large number of assholes whilst working for NOVA. But I did also meet the loveliest people. Teachers and students. There are good guys in NOVA and you don’t always have to look hard for them. I’d say that they’re better people than me, because they have more patience and will take being raped anally repeatedly without any lubricant.
When I announed to the students that I was leaving Japan and heading home, they threw me a great farewell party. I was given gifts and told that I was the favourite teacher of many students in the branch.
Damn, that made me feel vindicated. For the last 10 months, NOVA had been telling me that I wasn’t doing enough and had to put up, shut up and get on with it. Keep complaining and they’ll have to downgrade my “company spirit” mark, as if I were still in freaking high school. But I was a good teacher. I knew I was a damn good teacher. That’s why all the people I keep in touch with from Japan are my old students, and none of my old work colleagues.
So, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, it’s time to say that I will no longer be writing for the Teach section of 3yen. There’s not a lot for me to write now that I’m home, and most of what I could write would be secondhand anyway. I’ll still be around on other sections of the site, so please keep reading. There’ll be a new blogger here before long, with all the latest news, gossip and advice for teaching in Japan, so stay tuned.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I hope I was entertaining and informative for you.