Yesterday's Have Your Say column in the Japan Times carried a reply to Richard Smart's article on eikaiwa being on the ropes. The author of the letter suggests that the media have not been reporting on the problems with the G.communication takeover of GEOS.
I have to disagree with this. From a strictly business point of view, the bankruptcy and take over of GEOS has been quite smooth, but the media haven't ignored the hard luck stories of teachers and students. When GEOS filed for bankruptcy, these were the first things they reported because it's the low-hanging fruit of the story.
But that's not the other side of the GEOS story the author has in mind. He wants the world to know about how bad G.communication is on the inside:
I had been employed with Geos for more than 10 years when they declared bankruptcy in April. I had given the required four months' notice and was due to leave the company in May, but had offered to extend my employment to help the school as they were having trouble finding teachers.
As I was on a very old-style contract, I was due a leaving allowance of ¥1 million — which I lost — in addition to April's salary. I have also had to fight to be allowed to stay in my apartment until the end of the month, despite the fact I had paid May's rent directly to the landlord.
In the school where I used to teach, the instructor who replaced me left after only a few days' teaching, and the other teacher is due to work until only the end of May. However, the students are not being told about this when they sign and agree to continue their lessons, losing the right to a refund if they cancel their contracts. Students who do not want to continue under these conditions are being told that they will not be able to obtain a refund.
Giving GEOS more than the 10 best years of your life, losing out on over 1 million yen, and fighting to stay in your apartment is a tough shit sandwich to have to bite into, but I have news for this person: take a number and get in line, pal. Your story isn't new. As has been documented here countless times, this is standard operating procedure for eikaiwa.
Where to begin? Crappy working conditions, low pay, illegal contracts, no benefits, pressure sales tactics, and outright fraud have all been reported in the Japanese and English press for years. I'd say it's a well-known fact. The author of the letter has been in eikaiwa for over 10 years and is worried about G.communication? It's time to clue in. Did he miss the way they handled the collapse of Nova when they offered all teachers a job only to break that promise on Christmas Eve?
Instead of complaining about the shady practices of G.communication, it's time to start practicing risk avoidance. Big changes are happening in eikaiwa right now and teaching English isn't the easy or stable gig it once was. The important lesson here is that the kind of loyalty shown by the author is wasted on eikaiwa. Always look after yourself first. Schools may sell a sweet-smelling line of bullshit about being a cultural ambassador or being a professional at all times, but you'd have to willfully ignore the fact that your school is small and dumpy, cut corners on expenses where ever it can, demands you help sell contracts and teaching materials, and probably lacks a manager for long stretches of time to believe any of it.
All you owe your school is an honest day's work. Signing a dodgy contract just to keep a roof over your head and money in a your wallet is a bad strategy for thriving in a foreign country. Don't fall into this trap. Building up substantial savings on an eikaiwa salary isn't easy, but you need cash on hand if you want to avoid the situation the author finds himself in. I wonder how many teachers are one missed or delayed paycheck away from living in a park?