Home > Focus on Japan 2007 > Nova Files for Bankruptcy

Nova Files for Bankruptcy

October 28th, 2007

I was pretty busy editing together the opening video for my college’s Arts Day Festival, so I didn’t catch the news right away: with something like ¥44 billion (about $385 million) of debt, Nova has filed for bankruptcy. It’s stock has plummeted to 12 yen per share, and trading on it has been suspended; the stock is set to be delisted from JASDAQ. Saruhashi failed to show up to an emergency board meeting and was dismissed. The branches are all closed and all employees are effectively out of work.

From Japan Probe:

Nova schools across Japan have closed their doors, and it is not clear when or if they will re-open in the future. Nova’s official website has been taken down and replaced with a notice in Japanese that announces the bankruptcy and includes a Q&A telling students that they cannot get refunds now because all Nova’s assets are now under protection of the courts. Teacher and staff wages have also been delayed indefinitely.

Japan Probe is also the source of this rather black-humoresque depiction of the Nova Bunny:


What is decidedly not funny is the fact that about 4,000 foreign English teachers unlucky enough to have gotten on board with Nova are now up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Some are receiving help from their embassies, but most are getting little more than advice and offers to help contact family members. Qantas is offering the most tangible help, giving Aussie Nova teachers reduced prices on airfares home–but flights are filling up fast, if not already filled.

Of course, few can hope to get another job; the teacher market is likely now ridiculously flooded and way too competitive; it has to be a buyer’s market out there.

Imagine it: you’re not getting paid for the work you’ve done for the past month and a half or so; your landlord is evicting you because Nova pays the rent; there is no job to be found, or if there is, the pay and conditions are likely to be rock-bottom; and you may not even be able to book a flight home very easily. A British couple working for Nova reported to the BBC:

One Nova teacher, Alan Entwistle, 22, originally from the Wirral, told the BBC News website how he and his girlfriend Amy Jenkins were hit by the company’s collapse.

He said: “Neither of us have been paid for October and we’ve been told we’ve got to leave our apartment at the end of the month.

”We’ve ended up pawning some of our clothes. Now we are dependent on Amy’s savings. It’s a heartbreaking situation to be in.“

I am guessing that the rather bombastic union officials are going to be of very little help to the teachers now.

This is kind of like the Hindenburg of the English-teaching community in Japan, and is likely to have a negative impact on the profession for some time. Not a proud time.

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  1. ykw
    October 28th, 2007 at 03:31 | #1

    What impact does this have on your school? On you personally?

    Are their students going to knock on your door?

    What percentage of the total market was Nova? Your school?

  2. ykw
    October 28th, 2007 at 03:33 | #2

    Can you send a memo asap to all nova kids that says something like, “automatic asap enrolement in our school if you were at Nova … need to run $ through your credit card to qualify” ?

  3. Luis
    October 28th, 2007 at 08:39 | #3

    As I mentioned in the previous post I did on Nova, it probably won’t have any impact on us at all. We’re two completely different schools. NOVA is a conversation school where people spend an hour here or there learning English for a wide variety of reasons and purposes. I work at a college, where people in the academic program are studying content courses for the purpose of achieving a college degree. We do have a pre-academic language course, but it is intensive–about 5 hours a day of classes, five days a week. Very different from the low-level, free-form schedule of Nova. Different audience, so to speak.

  4. Tim Kane
    October 29th, 2007 at 08:32 | #4

    Well, if they are willing to cross the straits to Korea, they can easily find jobs. In the short term they can look at these sites:





    It’s a big leap from Japan culturally, but geographically, not as much, and if you’re a person who needs a job teach English to foreigners… well here’s a place to look for those who need a job and aren’t committed to Japan.

  5. rico
    October 29th, 2007 at 22:30 | #5

    Nova was badly run, some say the management was really like some cult. Also, i sometimes doubt the quality and sincerity of the teachers, some were professional, but many of the guys just wanted to score with the Japanese chicks. Others, seem to be just entertainers rather than teachers similar to the dudes in this vid

  6. Luis
    October 30th, 2007 at 08:10 | #6

    Tim: Interesting! I bet a lot of them won’t even think of that. But how are the pay and conditions? Enough to get by on and save some?

  7. November 1st, 2007 at 15:52 | #7

    So these kids take a job on the other side of the globe and have not enough savings to live 1-2 months without income or fly back home, just in case? They may have taught something to someone , but surely there’s a lesson for a 22 year-old to take away.

    Anyway, real reason I am writing is to promote Japan Bird Festival in Abiko to you: http://www.birdfesta.net/

  8. November 4th, 2007 at 09:00 | #8

    Dumb question… can’t some of these folks connect somehow with the students and teach them directly? I’m sure they’d be breaking all kinds of visa rules and such, but you’d think that a simple web site could be set up to connect the students of Nova (surely they had *some* customers?) with the teachers.

    It might make the teachers a bit of money. After all, nobody would be taking a profit or overhead cut out of the deal.

  9. Luis
    November 4th, 2007 at 10:37 | #9

    That probably would not work. One thing to keep in mind is that most of these students had already paid for their lessons in advance, and might not be too hot on paying for them again. Second, there would be no way for the teachers to contact the students. Their only means of reaching them short of advertising in the want ads or something had been the school. And the school, currently in receivership, would not likely give away one of it’s most valuable remaining assets, that being its customer base. Teachers would have only the most tenuous contact with their students outside the school–unless some were prescient enough before the bankruptcy to slip their personal contact info to students and tell them to get in touch should the school close. A risky proposition, of course, but in the two months prior to bankruptcy, school closure was not that hard to predict.

  10. gaijin
    January 9th, 2008 at 09:18 | #10

    I don’t have much sympatthy for
    Nova and the so called teachers. Many of them are not teachers at all. The reason why Japanese still cannot speak English is due to poor teaching methods. If you are going to live and work in the U.S., why would you learn English from a person with an Australian accent? Most of these “teachers” cannot make it in their own country so
    they come to Japan.

  11. Jeremy
    February 22nd, 2008 at 20:45 | #11

    I worked for NOVA for a year and thought the company treated its teachers well. There was a lot made of the NOVA working conditions…but I once told a supervisor “I like NOVA” and I meant it. How else would I have been able to live in a foreign country for a year? Of course, I do feel bad that things ended up the way they have for all parties involved. I am not too sure about the statements made on teacher credentials. I thought at the time that the majority of the problem stemmed from speaking Japanese 98% of the time and having an hour of English a week. How much is that going to accomplish? The students who did come a lot did progress and made obvious advances in their English ability. The classes were streamlined to provide the students the same amount of information per lesson so that all of the students would be able to take the same thing out of the lessons. In this way it did not matter who the teacher was. Or whether the person could teach or not. The book did the teaching. The teacher was just a voice and that was the point. I was once accused by an Australian teacher for being the cause of the bastardization of the Queen’s English. It was quite a year. NOVA took care of me while I was in Japan. I am sad the company went bankrupt. Again my apologies to all who have suffered as a result of the bankruptcy.

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