Home > Education, Eikawa, Japan, Teaching English > Berlitzers Feeling A Little Bellicose

Berlitzers Feeling A Little Bellicose

And I thought it was just NOVA/GCommunications who gave their teachers a raw deal. I guess not. According to John Spiri’s Zeit Gist article in the Japan Times of Tuesday, May 6th, 2008, teachers at the eikawa school of Berlitz are striking and fighting mad. You can see the full article by clicking on the title – “As parent firm posts record profits, Berlitz teachers strike back.”

A little FYI stuff – Berlitz is run by Benesse Corporation. Berlitz International, Inc. still has its name attached to schools all over the world, but know that the backing behind the behemoth is a Japanese. Another little sidenote – I sent a comment to the Japan Times about this article. See the full text below:

This is in response to the article, “As parent firm posts record profits, Berlitz teachers strike back” by John Spiri. The article outlines what is the trend with eikawas around the country. This has to end. I was a NOVA teacher for 5 years before its collapse. I now work independently as well as at a local university. I can safely say that the fall of NOVA was the best thing for me. I work less and get paid more, and my work is far more fulfilling in that I have time to prepare for classes. I have time to really interact with the students and gauge their performances in a much more pedagogically useful way. I can give hardcore criticism without fear of “losing revenue.” This security makes teaching more worthwhile.

Another perspective that I’ve gained as a result of working in the eikawa industry, and that arose from the fall of NOVA is the essential need for eikawas in the overall English language learning industry. University level students are amazing in an academic setting, but what I have realized is they lack basic conversation skills. They haven’t been taught how to have a simple conversation. This doesn’t just affect the university students I teach, but also my private students. Adults who have been studying English for quite a while still seem to lack the confidence and ability to transform their book English into conversational English. Eikawas can help in this regard.

All that said, teachers need to be treated better. There is real work to be done, and eikawa teachers should be paid accordingly. When companies are making money there is no excuse for not treating the employees better. By better I mean adequate bonuses for hard work, incentives for doing better, programs that will increase teaching skills, etc. Properly investing in the employee base can only help business. A happy employee is a good employee, and a happy and good employee will always be good for business. I think these eikawa companies forget this. Instead they try to cut corners by not telling teachers they have to pay social insurance, etc. They try to cut on-the-book hours so they can bypass the insurance liability; all the while teachers are really working long hours.

If the government isn’t going to forcefully regulate the industry, then who is? If left up to the eikawas nothing would happen and standards would never get better. More power to the unions on this regard.


  1. June 2, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks very much for your support. The strike is growing by the day – we suspect it is already the largest strike in the history of the Japanese Eikaiwa industry (which partly goes to show how badly organised English teachers have been in the past). Moreover, our demands are very reasonable (conservative calculations say it would cost no more than 1.1% of their profit) but Berlitz doesn’t appear to be budging. I guess they don’t care enough about their customers to stop the strikes.

    Everyone is welcome to follow the action at http://www.berlitzuniontokyo.org/

  2. June 3, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Dear Komissar,

    Keep up the good fight. We’ll be checking in to see how things are going.

    As someone who witnessed the NOVA debacle, I understand the state of the eikaiwa industry very well. Although, I believe Japan needs a solid eikaiwa industry to help it with language education, I don’t think the teachers should be taken advantage of.

    Fight the good fight.


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