Aussie Nova teachers to be helped by consulates

Australia is offering consular assistance to its nationals who are working in Japan for struggling, scandal-hit language school chain Nova Corp., Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said Friday.

“We’ll provide them with consular assistance if they need it,” he said. “If they get into real personal difficulties, we’ll obviously help them out.”

Some 1,300 Australians work for Nova and face the real possibility of losing their jobs while living in a very expensive country, he said.

While Nova has not gone completely bust yet, Downer said he fears the company would “fall over.”

Nova has been operating on shaky ground since June, when the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ordered it to suspend part of its operations for lying to customers in advertisements about its services.

Since then, Nova has been hit with decreasing student enrollments and canceled contracts.

Some 4,000 foreign teachers are currently registered with Nova in Japan, with many coming from Australia and New Zealand.

Several foreign Nova workers have complained to media in Australia and New Zealand that they have not been paid recently.

Downer said he believes Nova’s operating difficulties were due to poor management and would not have broader implications for Japan’s English-language teaching market.

“I think there is growing demand for English-language teaching in Japan. So I think we needn’t be pessimistic about it in a broader sense. We just need to think about the 1,300 Australians who are suddenly finding themselves out on the street there in Japan,” he said.

Australia Asia Centre for Education Exchange, an Australian company coordinating international education exchange programs, has stopped dispatching teachers to Nova.

The body said on its Web site that following the abrupt closure of some Nova schools and Nova’s delayed payments to instructors, it ended its recruitment relationship with the Japanese company Oct. 1.