Teaching English in Japan largely falls into three categories: Public School/University, Private, or Eikaiwa. Eikaiwa refers to a company or privately owned school that teaches conversational English. Throughout Japan, there are countless Eikaiwa employing countless foreigners to teach English.
Eikaiwa have piqued my interest lately – they are synonymous with English instruction here and you can’t ignore their market presence.
Advertisements are everywhere – whether it’s a poster on the subway from one of the ‘big four’ schools, or a flyer left in your letterbox by a local family-run Eikaiwa.
‘The big four’ are AEON, GEOS, ECC and NOVA (now defunct… kind of). There’s something suspicious about all of them…if only because they all use acronyms for company names. Besides that, you’d have to be living under a rock to not come across some complaints about their teaching practices/employment contracts/working conditions etc.
Some thoughts on Eikaiwa
A bit of research on the net found some interesting quotes about eikaiwa.
“The marketing strategies and visual promotions of a range of eikaiwa rely on inculcating and actualizing akogare (desire) by engaging with a heterodoxical yet highly heteronormative array of gender stratifying and rectifying ideologies. Key to these strategies are couplings between Japan and the other, represented and embodied by professional/romantic/sexual pairings between western eikaiwa instructors and female Japanese students.” Eikaiwa Wonderland
At first, I thought the above quote was over-thought, but a quick glance at some typical marketing materials bears out the truth of the statement.
Money in English
“Foreign language instruction in Japan represents a 670 billion yen industry, of which the five largest chains (Nova, Geos, ECC, Aeon, and Berlitz) account for 25%.” Statemaster
There’s no doubt about it, teaching in Japan is big business. Rumours are currently abounding the worrying financial situation of some of the larger Eikaiwa, however.
Eikaiwa have been around for a long time, and they’re probably here to stay. There’s no doubt that things will change in the English instruction scene next year when the enforced enrolment in the national health insurance scheme takes effect. Watch this space.