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Why is teaching at English conversation schools in Japan such a maligned profession by some people?


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Low bar to entry; all you need is a college degree, no formal teaching certificate required. Let's face it, there are a lot of "tourists" that come over as ESL teachers who are essentially on an extended vacation. These "tourists" don't really give a damn about the quality of their lessons and are just exploiting their students. (It doesn't help that a lot of Eikaiwa companies are pretty shady themselves.) That having been said, as a former participant in the industry, I can also tell you that there are a lot of excellent, devoted ESL teachers out there - teaching degree or no - that truly care about their students. People that malign the entire profession are doing these individuals a gross disservice.

21 ( +22 / -1 )

Because it's easy to do but extremely difficult to do well.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

English conversation schools are first and foremost a business and the bottom line is to make a profit not the advancement of the students English ability. As such the motive of these "schools" is to keep the students paying into the system regardless of whether they do well or not. Hiring young teachers with little or no teaching experience keeps costs down and with teacher and staff turnover high due to the large number of lessons and subsequent burnout (the average teacher stays for 1 year) labour costs from year to year remain low. Lessons are too short to achieve anything substantial (often 40 minutes in duration), the materials limiting with a large focus on situational based learning. Combine this with the inexperience of the teaching staff and commercial focus of the schools and you end up with a hit and miss product. Elementary my dear readers !

6 ( +7 / -1 )

It's a vicious circle. Even most of Japan's 'good' universities regard their non-Japanese faculty as part of their contingent workforce.

One particular highly-dedicated university teacher that I knew comes to mind — he was consumed by his job. He inspired his students and even got a top-notch computer-based learning center up and running (back in the day when that was still a rarity).

Still, at a certain point the university decided he had been there long enough, basically on the grounds of "a rolling stone gathers no moss" (yet this didn't apply to the Japanese faculty). Anyway, letting him go visibly sapped the motivation and dedication of other members of the non-Japanese faculty.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Because teachers at state schools can't even teach children to speak English.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

For most of us who run across your typical english teacher they are the resident alcoholic at the dubliners, the hub or some other bar, drinking every night with the other alcoholic english teachers.

Although they have a degree they have spent the last 5 or 10 years boozing and wasting their meagre salary, No real chance of them ever doing anything more or getting off their butts and using their supposed inteligence to better them selves.

It doesnt take alot of smarts to use your native language on a daily basis does it?

Of course this is not all of them but a vast swath of them fit this mold.

However I do know one or two who actually got off their butts and did something smart to better themselves, rare in this day and age i know but it does happen.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Like many it's how I made my start in Japan. Taught for 4 years which was a long time, but passed level 1 of the Japanese language proficiency test in my last year. Set me up for bigger and better things really.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I'm an English teacher and proud of it. Now can someone please tell me what "maligned" means?

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Shortly put, these schools that teaches english language does not set high standard in hiring capable teachers, but amatuer and those who can barely put a lesson together on their own. Most are Teaching Assistant at most, and are not very good.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you pay piss poor salaries, what sort of workers are going to attract?? Obviously the dregs.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

I find for some it's just good old-fashioned snobbery. It doesn't bother me what people choose to do for a living or spend their money on as long as they pay their taxes and I'm suspicious of people who feel the need to sneer. Boozing in the pub isn't so bad, is it? Maybe they are having a better time than those of us putting up with the soul-destroying drudgery of working at a Japanese company ( thankfully, in my case not for much longer ). Some of my beer-bellied, well-paid bosses are never out of the izakaya or hostess bars. In my experience, it is often the mediocre ( the vast majority of us and I'm content to be one of them ) who desperately need to convince themselves and others of their superiority by looking down on others, not those retiring to the Mediterranean after a 15-year working life at Goldman Sachs. The generally average battling middles are always the most insecure, bitchy and by far the most irritating.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Because some people have nothing better to do than malign other people.

"I'm an English teacher and proud of it. Now can someone please tell me what "maligned" means?"

Har! Good one, Jalapeno!

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Wow now THIS is a can of worms! Let me put it this way - you get what you pay for. Poor pay = poor quality. That also goes for how you treat others. Treat workers like 'numbers in the system' and you'll get indifference. Eikaiwa 'schools' (for lack of a better term) are basically glorified sweat shops. Let's not beat around the bush here - they operate on a legal system that is entirely different from corporate Japan. I could write at least 10 pages on that topic alone, but let's leave it there.

Now, the issue is with the term eikaiwai itself. The elitists out there snicker at the term, considering it to be nothing more than 'conversational English'. Yes, there are those elements - but it's a lot of work. If you're good, you cover all areas of English. You also learn a lot about politics, medical terms & procedures & various other facts & figures.

So, yeah - cut your local eikaiwa teacher some slack!

8 ( +10 / -2 )

A few years ago, when I told an ojisan I teach English, right away he asked me "Where do you work...NOVA? HAHAHAHA"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It is the schools like Nova, and there are plenty of that il still in business, that should be maligned. I am talking about the ones that spend far more on advertising and their sales staff than on teachers.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

It's a noble profession inside the classroom for those who take it seriously. Outside, people mistake you for a missionary with nothing else to live for except praising cute eikaiwa gigglers who have no respect for your free time.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

During a Junior high school team teaching lesson, I was surprised to observe a 30-year veteran who couldn't wait even one second to let a student finish a sentence. That's one of many things I did learn working at nova, which had an excellent teaching system. We encouraged students to have fun and always tried to maximize their speaking time.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It's because so many "English Teachers" here actually think they are REAL teachers, and act like they've somehow earned themselves a respectable position.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

In many cases, the expectation isn't very great. Mamas send their young kids to a kiddie Eikaiwa, so that they can have fun and get used to seeing a gaijin face. Some allows the kids to stay through elementary school, but the vast majority of mamas pull their kids out when the students reach Junior High School because the kids just HAVE to go to Juku every night and "everybody knows that gaijin know nothing about grammar!"

Well, there are gaijin teachers who've jumped on the band wagon and play endless "karuta tori," "jenga" and sing songs to the kids that they can repeat perfectly but without understanding a single word. But there are those of us who really are teachers, who were teachers before we came here and who far more about grammar than a Japanese English teacher. In other words, teachers who not only understand grammar, but know how to teach it, rather than regurgitating grammar "rules" From a text book. There are excellent teachers who work on children's enthusiasm and who know how to divide large classes up into pairs or small groups and get a hell of a lot of real English study done in a fifty minute session.

I've lived in several countries and been a teacher since college and I would say that the Japanese education system is one of the worst in the world. Though why on Earth Japanese people stand for it I just don't know.

On the other hand, it does give wareware gaijin a job!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I don't look down on eikaiwa teachers. I did my stint in the mines, I know how rough it is. Most of us are going to have to hold our noses and take a demeaning, under-paying job at first to get our careers moving forward. I do look down on the industry though- at least the profit-driven giant chain schools whose entire business models often seem curiously opposed to students actually succeeding in their studies (and hence, no longer needing to be students.)

And while I don't think eikaiwa teachers should be looked down upon for failings that ultimately stem from management, they are the visible face of the industry. It's not surprising that some people who've figured out how the game is played would look down on a teacher who chooses to be part of the game.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

The problem with a lot of language schools is that they are black companies that exploit and cheat their foreign staff. That is one thing. Another thing is that a lot of language schools care more about how their foreign teachers look. Blond hair and blue eye beat doctorates. Those are two big reasons language schools are looked down upon. Whether they do a worse job in teaching English than secondary schools and universities is another matter.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

OK, the conditions are poor, but imagine a job that puts you in a small room with beautiful Japanese women every single day.

From sexy university students to gorgeous OLs and even raunchy housewives, if you want to hook up with all kinds of Japanese women, the eikaiwa gig cannot be beaten.

Looking back on some of those adventures, they were incredibly happy days...

1 ( +5 / -4 )

It's true that there are many unqualified, unprofessional English teachers in Japan.

However, there are many university English professors who are incredibly well-qualified, motivated specialists in their fields. They have relevant masters degrees and PhDs.

They are familiar with cutting edge pedagogy and the latest trends in applied linguistics and related fields, presenting at international conferences and publishing academic papers in Asian/international journals.

They take their profession very seriously and they are committed to education and bringing the best out of their students, including opening learners' eyes to a huge variety of issues which they don't learn about from their Japanese teachers, from gay rights to critical thinking to globalization. That's why they are actively hunted by Japanese universities.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

However, there are many university English professors who are incredibly well-qualified, motivated specialists in their fields. They have relevant masters degrees and PhDs.

The question was concerning Eikaiwa teachers, not "university English professors." Furthermore, I don't think you necessarily need to have a masters degree or be "familiar with cutting edge pedagogy" to be a good teacher.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Is it really that bad? These people get paid to do this job, but I assume there's not too much enthusiasm as there are basically non-existent career opportunities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It used to be easy to make ¥5000 per hour, but when Interest came in and got control over all the privates and public institutions, they killed the lucrative game.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

choiwaruoyaji: That kind of thing is part of the reason it's such a 'maligned profession.'

0 ( +2 / -2 )

choiwaruoyaji: That kind of thing is part of the reason it's such a 'maligned profession.

I understand what you are saying... but goddammit those eikaiwa days were fun...

I'm just an average charisma man (now a choi waru charisma oyaji) but back in those eikaiwa days beautiful Japanese women were offering themselves up on a plate... regularly.

All I can say is that I did my bit for international relations...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

SunnyDaze; you obviously got downvoted, but what you said is the truth. I used to hang around in the Eikaiwa teacher circles, and honestly, they were mostly a pretty basic bunch, just out for a good time. The ones who were not, and wanted to better themselves got out of it quickly after arriving in Japan and moved into other professions (or realised there was no future in it for them and went elsewhere).

There were (are) three types doing Eikaiwa work...

The new, young people who are here to party in their mid-20s, live it up, get with girls, boys or whatever, and not worry about making a future for themselves in Japan. There is nothing wrong with this lot, and they are usually more of a laugh than the other types, and in a roundabout way actually do a better job (as per the requirements of the job) as they are the most 'genki'. I had no problem with these guys, despite them getting up to some pretty illegal stuff (drugs and general high jinx). All part of being young. Really just a working holiday, travelling thing for sure.

The people who intend to stay in Japan, and are using it as a stepping stone into the country; it used to be that Nova would sort out flights, visa, initial accomodation, a bank account, etc etc., meaning all you had to do was pass the interview and turn up at the airport on time. Simple and good if you wanted to get into Japan the easy way, then work your way into whatever it is you want to be doing here. Again, no problem with these guys. I met these types too (hell, I kind of WAS one of them!), and I admired their ambition and resourcefulness. The ages of these guys varied a bit more than the working holiday travelling crew, but they were mainly young-ish.

And now we get to the 'problem' group... these guys are generally in their late-30s - early 60s, have been in Japan forever, but have not progressed anywhere past the exact same entry level job that anyone in the first 2 categories I described above. They are often in loveless marriages with Japanese women, are perpetually skint, have drinking problems, spend all their time waxing lyrical and putting the world to rights in The Hub, or wherever, but never actually do anything to better themselves, despite being full of the chat about doing so. It is this group that gives Eikaiwa a bad name.
0 ( +2 / -2 )

I do about 30 hours of company English lessons a month along with my regular job (one or two hours a day). Pay depends on the contract (usually 4000 to 7000 yen an hour) but it gives me around 150,000 yen extra on top of my paycheck. No complaints.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

From my own experience at conversation schools, junior high schools, high schools and universities, there are good teachers and there are bad teachers. Some teachers have lots of degrees and certificates and are bad (some worse than others), while others have no degrees or certificates and are quite good (some better than others) and vice-versa. It's a mixed bag, so, at this point in time, it's really up to the students to shop around and to pick and choose. However, I've also seen lots of Japanese teachers teaching English in Japan who also fit this description.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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