Comparing AEON, GEOS, Interac And Westgate In Japan

by Roger on December 13, 2007

by Roger | December 13th, 2007  

Nowhere do chain EFL schools about as in Japan, so if you’re considering EFL in Japan you’ve probably heard of or thought about working for AEON, GEOS, Interac, and Westgate (and possibly Nova, but that’s another story).

A word about comparisons: beware of oversimplifying things to make them. Your overall experience will probably depend a lot more on other things – your personality, the set of people there when you go, how the stars align and so forth – than on how these schools stack up here. I might even guess that individual experiences at a single school vary more than experiences at different schools. But if you’re going to do it, you might as well see how they stack up.

Please also be aware that while I did my best to be accurate, I can’t promise perfection. There may be mistakes, or I may have left something out, or things may change. I think comparison in moderation is useful anyway. As always, do not rely on one source only for information on a topic as important as a move overseas

Salary / Housing

AEON: Salary of 270,000 yen plus possible bonuses, teacher pays first 55,000 of rent and the school the rest.
GEOS: Housing found but you pay for it – about 65,000 out of a salary of 250,000 yen/month plus cost of living allowance, if applicable.
Interac: 250, 000 yen/month; assistance with finding a flat but teachers pay all costs.
Westgate: Single or shared housing is included in salary of 260,000 yen/month or more, depending on experience/program.


Schedule

Be aware that you need to firmly establish through the contract exactly how many contact hours are required, how much time you have to spend on site even if you are not teaching, how many schools you teach at, and what extra-curricular activities or events you are obliged to participated in. It’s logical that your commuting time – which you might not even know until you get there – makes a difference too. These things may not be apparent in this simple overview, but they are important.

AEON: “36-hour week”, generally in the afternoons and evenings, Monday – Friday or Tuesday – Saturday. They specify overtime for more than 25 teaching hours, so that may be a practical cap or near-total figure.
GEOS: 29.5 hours in school per week, with two consecutive days off per week.
Interac: 29.5 hours a week between 8am – 5pm, Monday – Friday
Westgate: Up to 7 teaching periods a day, Monday through Friday, requiring one to four lesson plans; be present for a nine-hour block. The Academy program is different.

Nature of Work / Who You Teach
AEON: It’s possible to select kids only, or both, but not adults only.
GEOS: 1/3 of their students are kids; you can opt to teach only kids but not only adults.
Interac: Up to and including high school age, but as an Assistant Language Teacher; also some “development of materials.”
Westgate: Depends on program, from elementary to university students.

Holiday
AEON: Three one-week vacations plus five personal days.
GEOS: Four weeks, some – but not total – flexibility as to when
Interac: “Holiday time allowance” given.
Westgate: Not prominently displayed on website.

Other Benefits
GEOS: After a year, and if you sign on for another year, school splits the price of your CELTA in New Zeland or UK; 24 hours of free Japanese lessons.
Interac: Survival Japanese lessons online.
Westgate: Reimburses up to $1000 of the price of round-trip tickets bought through their agent.

Contract length

AEON: One year
GEOS: One year
Interac: Nine months or one year
Westgate: Three months or more

With the exception of Westgate, which requires either a TEFL certificate, teaching certificate or experience, none require a TEFL certificate. All provide some introductory training. You need a BA and usually need to have grown up in an English-speaking country. Japanese holidays are typically days off, though they might overlap with vacation time, or might need to be “made up”.

The JET program is often seen as by far the best alternative. I could not get specific details from the JET website to include here. This may be in part because it is more considered a government-run cultural exchange-type program than a job per se, and they want applicants who look at it that way as well. The catch is that it is very competitive, and you need to apply by November or December in order to start the following school year in September.

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Alex Case December 16, 2007 at 7:17 pm
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I think the best reason for comparing is actually to put pressure on the schools that are not up to standard, but very worthwhile anyway- looks like it took a fair bit of time!

TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase

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Katie December 16, 2007 at 9:15 pm
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Well, yes, but everything these days is taking longer … In fact much of it I’d already written about in the past posts though.

I ended up editing out my own conclusion that it seems like six of one, a half dozen of the other, but Alex, you are THE Japan source. With Nova out of the running, do you – or does an anonymous poster named Chester who has your same IP address – have any reliable insight into more pros and cons of these schools?

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Alex Case December 16, 2007 at 11:08 pm
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Chester?? How bizarre- not me! Same school computer or internet cafe computer??

Anyhows, much as I hate to recommend Dave’s ESL Au Lait to anyone, it’s still probably the best way to get lots (maybe too much) information on these fellas. Haven’t worked for any of them, but you seem to be about right and saying they are much of a muchness. Westgate seems to get more varied reactions than the others, maybe because it is different because you are in universities but not in a language school, but it isn’t as different as people expect because it’s basically teaching monkeywork.

TEFLtastic blog- http://www.tefl.net/alexcase

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Katie December 17, 2007 at 1:17 am
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Oh, no, that was my poor attempt to lure you into some anonymous mud-slinging using an alias. Looks like you are cleverer than that though!

I think I read some threads at Dave’s Japan forum when researching some of the earlier posts, but, like with this comparison, kind of came away with the feeling that there’s no clear winner or loser.

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Alex Case December 17, 2007 at 9:26 am
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Reckon that’s about right. What’s more, the person who is most likely to enjoy and get more out of one of those Eikaiwa language schools is not likely to find that another one suits him or her any more or any less (with the possible exception of Westgate)- in fact, the actual area and school he or she gets placed in and the people around are likely to have more impact than the name of the chain. Unlike what some people expect, man management in Japan tends to have quite a lot of flexibility and doesn’t generally run by the book, for better or worse.

BTW, I wonder how Westgate compares to the others in terms of numbers of teachers employed from abroad every year.

TEFLtastic blog- “All the truth that’s fit to teach”

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Alex Case December 27, 2007 at 8:31 am
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Tried to get some more info on Westgate from the Dave’s crew

Ha! When will I ever learn??

TEFLtastic blog

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Katie December 28, 2007 at 1:08 am
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Well your reply made me take a spin over there but I don’t see any major drama. I’ll investigate more or ruffle some feathers myself!

I did get a comment on the initial post I made about Westgate about an experience of feeling taken advantage of. It’s hard to know how representative comments like those are.

You made a good point about the experience depending more on what co-workers an so on the person ends up with. I will see if I can dig anything up on the numbers.

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John B December 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm
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A very BAD experience with Interac.

Hi. I went through several hoops in the interview process with Interac, a North American recruitment firm that hires teachers to work in Japan. I passed their written and telephone portion of the interview back in late October. At that point, they scheduled me for a New York interview for this coming Saturday, Dec 20. Today is 3 days before and 2 things happened. First, they called me asking me to come on Sunday instead. I politely (at least I thought) told them I had a prior commitment I could not get away from. Second, I received a rejection letter stating that they do not have a position for me.

Any reasonable educator or professional would consider this manner of doing business untrustworthy and unprofessional. I am very happy that we have severed ties before entrusting them to be working for them in a foreign country.

When I took the CELTA class in NYC, we were told to let the office know when we come across a company that gives a negative experience. I certainly do not recommend any other CELTA graduates apply for a job through this recruiter.

Please understand that I have had 8 years of school administrative (as well as teaching) experience where part of my responsibility included hiring teachers and recommending employment sites for students. To that end, I do not make these judgment calls lightly.

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John B December 20, 2008 at 4:05 pm
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After I highlighted this commentary directly with the manager of Interac, I heard directly back from him. He stated that he runs his recruitment company out of Utah and that he had hired 3rd party recruiters to interview for him in New York/New Jersey. He told me that he overbooked the interviews and that the 3rd party recruiters were trying to add an extra day. He even mentioned words to the effect of only 1 out of 10 applicants ending up getting a position and that it was so overbooked that they got overwhelmed.

Now this gets interesting. This manager also said that the recruiters said I wasn’t returning calls fast enough for them. That totally is not true. I did receive 2 calls from them in the same day (1 on my home phone, 1 on my cell phone) and I called them as soon as I was done teaching for the day. They must think that all job applicants are sitting home all day next to a phone when in fact I need my teaching time to be totally devoted to the students. I did call back and e-mailed the people the same day. A reasonable person would see this as a transparent way of their “looking for a reason” to see fewer applicants.

Please accept this as true. I have over 12 years of teaching experience with additional responsibilities including teacher training, serving on the hiring panel committee, redeveloping lesson plans, and supervising local teachers when teaching in the Study Abroad program in Switzerland. Besides English, Human Resource Mgmt. & Career Development are 2 classes I taught a number of times throughout my teaching career. So in total, I absolutely agree that interviewers should monitor applicants’ pre-interview actions (I practice as I teach “or preach” this). However, the recruiters’ actions are out of line and unprofessional. This coming Saturday’s interview that they canceled out on me was set up for me almost 2 months ago and was only arranged because I had passed their standard written and phone interviews back in October. As my experience and initial interview screen results show, I am more than qualified for the position they were seeking to fulfill.

When applicants are given appointments, many either rearrange their work, travel, and/or personal schedules. Some even bear hotel expenses. By condoning actions like those listed above, the schools and their recruiters are turning away more than qualified applicants mid-stream who could otherwise be providing the school with a mutually beneficial relationship and a profitable one for the recruiter. I just don’t want to see myself or any other graduate from CELTA end up with a company that could do worse things when entrusting them in a foreign country.

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Dave R February 19, 2009 at 12:13 am
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After I had applied with Interac, I received a phone call asking me when i was free to interview. They had several set dates. After choosing one of those dates, the contact informed me it will be a great opportunity, and if I have any questions I should ask them now. I told him that I had read online that there was a way of getting taxes paid to the Japanese government back after the contract was over, and I was wondering if it was true. He said it is not true, but that I shouldn’t worry, because I do not have to pay any taxes to the US government since I would be living and working overseas. That is when I told him that as a matter of fact, the United States is the only country that requires its citizens to pay federal income tax even if you are living and working overseas. I got a rejection email that same night. What kind of company is this giving false information to applicants? The guy could have said he didn’t know, or he will get back to me, rather than giving false information, and then rejecting an applicant after confirming an interview, after being proven wrong about a serious matter. I definitely would not have applied to Interact if I had known their unreliable information and unprofessional recruitment style

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Mike February 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm
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Dave R,

If you live outside the USA for more than 365 days, you meet the Residency requirement and do not have to pay tax on the money you earn while living and working abroad.

I taught English in Japan and never had to pay US tax.

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Jake February 25, 2009 at 9:48 am
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ERROR it should be:

Nature of Work / Who You Teach
AEON: It’s possible to select adults only, or kids and adults, but not kids only. (kids only is through Amity)

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ATR-100 March 6, 2009 at 2:24 am
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@ John B: Given the economic situation now, I can see some recruiting venues being packed, particularly a major city like NYC. I do not think that there was any type of conspiracy to “see fewer applicants” at all, since the whole idea of recruiting is to see as many applicants as possible, isn’t it? A second thought: with your training & experience, perhaps they wanted you to come to an interview on a less-full date, to give you more time and a better chance at being successful? This happened to me as well, they asked me to come in on a lighter day because I had a lot more time teaching than their average applicant.

@DaveR: You are confusing two things: U.S. taxes and Japanese taxes. For the U.S., you can exempt your foreign income with Form 2555.

http://taxes.about.com/od/taxhelp/a/ForeignIncome.htm

All you have to do is file an extension to cover 330 days outside of the U.S., and then file your 1040 with Form 2555, and exempt $91K of your non-U.S. income. In that sense, you are not taxed on overseas income (not generally within the English-teaching profession.)

Your second point was “Japanese” taxes, which, you cannot claim after your contract ended. In this case, the person on the phone did not give you false information. In fact, if you find a way to get “Japanese” taxes back, please post it here, since I want to get mine!

I do not know what you read online, but you may want to consider how much faith you put in online resources?

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ozoda April 16, 2009 at 10:49 am
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I have a question about interac. Is everyone applicable for this programm Thank u beforehead

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