"Breaking" news, as my internet access has been sketchy as of late - I apologize for the late of updates; I do have quite a few stories in the works, just not the means to properly research and post them.
NOVA, widely accepted as the worst of the Big Four (AEON, ECC, NOVA, GEOS) in the English teaching community, may be seeing the beginning of the end. This week the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ordered NOVA to suspend part of its business for six months. This was intentionally left vague, but it will have a great effect on the eikaiwa's ability to sign long-term contracts.
How did this happen? The main reason - NOVA's policy on refunds for customers who wanted to cancel their contracts early (mainly due to inflexibility in the class schedule, but I really thought NOVA was good about that). When students wanted to cancel, the company "adjusted" the value of the classes they had already taken. The result? Less money for the customers, more money for the company. Essentially NOVA could change the price of classes already taken at their own discretion.
If we push this to the extreme, here's a good example (this did NOT happen): a student pays 50,000 yen for 5 classes. That's 10,000 yen a class. She takes two classes, then decides she hates NOVA and wants to leave. NOVA decides that the two classes she took were in fact worth 20,000, not 10,000 yen. She gets a 10,000 refund, and is sent on her way, left to ponder what happened to her other 20,000 yen.
Ken Worsley of Trans-Pacific Radio devotes most of his coverage on the NOVA story as a warning to current employees: get out. Get out now. He may be bordering on the extreme, but he's probably not far off; there will be a huge influx of teachers in the event the company can no longer employ them, and it would be best to start settling on other jobs. REMEMBER - YOUR VISA DOES NOT TIE YOU TO NOVA. YOU CAN WORK ANYWHERE YOUR STATUS ALLOWS.
Unfortunately for those of your in the eikaiwa world, NOVA will most likely hold the contract to your place of residence, so you'll have to find a cheap gaijin house or hostel in the interim. More on this later - I'm currently editing my entries about working in a Japanese eikaiwa.