Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-8243
The grim chart of Bankrupt language schools that accompanied the April 23, 2010 story “English schools need to hit the books” ought to have included the granddaddy of them all English school self-immolations. I am referring to the 1994 bankruptcy of Bilingual Language Institute, headed by President Hiroko Minami. The crash of Bilingual is the template of all conversation school crashes since then, a perfect model of bad business, hubris and executive robbery. Thankfully, I never worked for Bilingual, but I know people who did who are still in economic limbo because of it. Like NOVA in 2007, in the full knowledge of their economic situation these schools continue taking students’ money right up to the day before they closed their doors, all the while lying to the foreign teachers and Japanese staff alike about the imminent payment of months’ worth of unpaid wages, and spinning webs of lies of new investors in the wings. That’s the Japanese way in these matters.
As a foreigner who has worked for Japanese companies for many years I know from first hand experience that the company expects loyalty from the employees, but when the dirt hits the fan we receive no loyalty from the company in return. In addition, I also know from personal experience that when you are down, people really do start kicking you.
I think the small neighborhood language school, not the large national chains is the best model for these kinds of businesses. They are small operations that don’t over-extend themselves. They are close to their clientele and staff and receive more loyalty and better service from each respectively. Finally, if and when they do close down their small size mitigates residual damage.