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.
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.
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.
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.
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.