Japan EFL Giant NOVA Shuts Its Doors

Nova has long been known in EFL as perhaps the best example of McEmployment. In my mind at least, that title just means that potential teachers interview at home, go through Nova’s own training, and are placed at one of any number of Nova outlets throughout Japan. The chain takes care of living arrangements, plane tickets, and pretty much everything.

Or it was supposed to.

Reports of problems surfaced around June, when Nova got in trouble for not refunding student fees when, basically, it should have. The latest and most stunning news – if you are a little outside the Japan circle as I am – is that Nova has declared bankruptcy and closed all of its schools. According to the Education Guardian, this leaves somewhere around 4,000 foreign teachers teachers (1,000 of them Brits, in case you were wondering about the breakdown by foreign nationality) and 2,000 local staff without their October pay. About 400,000 Nova students will need to find new English schools to attend.

I don’t know how it works in Japan, but having worked for a company that declared bankruptcy in the US (a bookstore, during a year off college), I can confirm that bankruptcy is not a pretty picture. In the US, I believe, paying employees is up there on the list of debts to address, but it’s not necessarily first and it’s not necessarily fast. In my case, any accrued benefits, such as holiday time, went away. My situation further included the joy of – if I did not want to quit immediately and be unemployed – letting all the customers who came in with gift certificates know that the store was not accepting them, nor was it doing any returns, regardless of its “30 days with the receipt” policy.

While I don’t imagine that Nova’s EFL team are themselves dealing with angry students, it must be quite a mess to be abroad in a country with living expenses like those in Japan and find yourself unemployed at short notice. Granted, news of Nova’s demise has been around for a while, but this latest turn of events must be at least unpleasant, if not hard to believe, if it happens to you.

Certainly new schools and jobs will spring up, but whether it will be fast enough to offer a smooth transition for those who have now lost their jobs remains to be seen.

Thanks to a small group of more timely bloggers for orienting me to a variety of news about Nova: EFL Geek, This Guy Is Teaching Abroad, TESall.com, and TEFLtastic.