A post on the Japan Times website raises an issue that is quite common in the world of TEFL, not just in Japan. Is it better to work for a smaller, perhaps family-run, language school, or a larger educational institution? The surprising thing is that the wages are generally on the same level where ever you teach, at least in Japan (“full-time teachers can expect to earn between 240,000 yen and 280,000 yen”, says The Japan Times). So the real matter comes down to job satisfaction, which takes in issues such as job security, teaching support, location, holiday entitlement etc.
Check the contract
The National Union of General Workers receives as many as 600 complaints a year pertaining to language schools in Japan, although the article does note that the complaints are almost equally divided between larger and smaller institutions. However, it has been noted that some of the larger schools – such as ECC, GEOS and Aeon – create contracts with teachers that protect the company almost to the detriment of the teacher. With smaller businesses, it’s probable that the contract won’t be as convoluted, but the financial certainty of the employer isn’t as secure. In either case, a teacher can do no better than to be fully aware of what the contract contains for him or her, and to find out what protection the law offers.
Having spoken to a few teachers about this matter, it seems that there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of employer. You can expect a warmer atmosphere in a smaller company, and perhaps also more responsibility. A larger employer offers greater freedom in some ways, and certainly more security – although last year’s collapse of NOVA calls this into doubt somewhat. The article points out, quite rightly, that there are still many employers who offer virtually problem-free contracts, and although you should take caution when signing a contract to teach English as a foreign language, if your employer is reputable, then there isn’t too much to worry about. Above all, have fun teaching English where ever you are!
Have you been teaching English for one of the major companies? Or do you have experience of a family-run school? Tell us about it!