winbe english school is an english conversation school in japan. it is not a company, but a division
of tact ltd, a company that specialises in education (cram schools), printing and key making, and more recently vitamin supplements.
the president of tact is masao matsuda. the head office is in chiba, around thirty minutes from tokyo, in a modern
business district that also houses the makuhari messe, home of the tokyo motor show, tokyo game show and numerous concerts.
of all the divisions of tact, winbe has access to the least resources and has the lowest profile within the company. the head
of winbe, matsuo kotaro, is the latest in a long line of leaders who have been promoted then swiftly executed. he was brought
in from an outside company because to tact employees the head of winbe is known to sit in the "suicide seat". both matsuda
and matsuo are known for acts of violence committed against employees.
winbe hires teachers in japan, mostly through gaijinpot.com, a site that specialises in recruiting.
in emergencies ads are placed in the japan times. the recruiting position has passed through many hands and as such the selection
process is highly unpredictable. currently applicants can expect a short, impersonal interview and to be judged largely by
the university they attended. the schools are scattered across the country, from hokkaido to kyushu, and teachers usually
teach alone. schools are typically situated away from the station and the apartment is nearby the school. salary starts at
250,000 yen, but can be negotiated up to 300,000 yen or beyond. winbe offers no benefits such as health insurance, unemployment
insurance, pension or work security as are standard for japanese employees. this is one example of the racism rife at winbe.
school visits to winbe are rare, though the cram school will be visited frequently. this is because of a belief that the cram
school supervisors are also supervising winbe, despite the supervisors' claims to the contrary.
schools are either branch schools or franchises. each section is administrated by a different department
at head office. branch schools have a high turnover of managers due to the high pressure of increasing sales and
the few tools allocated to achieve this. this has lead to suicide in one case. all branch schools have the cram school as
its main business and this is where the manager will focus all his efforts. some branch schools also have a floor manager
to look after winbe. this is a part time position paying about 800 yen an hour, and there is a high turnover in this position
as well. floor managers have absolute power over the winbe teacher. branch schools have a larger budget supplied directly
from tact that will be used for unlimited coffee for students, extravagent events, and often special bonuses paid to favourite
franchise schools are run by their owners, usually middle aged men with little experience running a
business or speaking english. the owner will oversee the teacher's classes (in some cases the owner might be the teacher and
the foreign teacher an assistant instructor), decide on their quality and report to head office. while most owners are present
at the school many will be busy with the cram school or absent for long periods of time. in these absences the winbe
teacher will answer the phone and conduct sales. until the cram school opens in the late afternoon, or when there is no cram
school, the teacher will be alone with the owner in the school. these are often the times that female teachers fall victim
to sexual harassment and even one alleged rape. franchise schools usually have a small budget and this will be reflected in
the lack of resources, events and advertising. some franchise owners spend their final savings on the franchise and have no
money to spend on the school. teachers have been known to take pay cuts or forgo their bonuses.
in the case of problems at the school the teacher will have no voice in the proceedings. this one way
system was tested in the branch schools and has now become standard practice throughout all schools. the problem will usually
not be communicated to the teacher until a decision has already been made to terminate his employment. a visit from head office
is usually a precursor to this. teachers will be offered the following options: resign, move to a school selected by head
office (probably in a difficult to fill school), or become a cover teacher. cover teachers are walking ghosts. they are waiting
out their contracts and teaching in cases where teachers are sick or head office has failed to recruit on time. cover teachers
will find themselves living in the apartment the previous teacher may not have cleaned, and keeping the futon warm for the
next teacher. this may continue for weeks or months depending on whether head office can recruit or not. often these schools
are in remote areas. recently there has been a strong trend towards illegal firing. regardless of the situation, winbe will
choose to rid themselves of the teacher rather than attempt to fix the problem.
winbe is currently crippled by poor management, low budget advertising, and severe demotivation of both
teachers and managers. the business model winbe was based on called for schools in a central location, cultivated
sales results, low advertising and high teacher motivation through bonuses and promotion. instead, winbe has chosen remote
locations and unfortunately, the money saved on rent is not funneled into advertising to balance lack of visibility. sales
training for managers and owners is virtually non existent. the potential students that do contact winbe are often bewildered
by conflicting statements and a manager determined to sell them a cram school package instead. recruiting students is quickly
becoming the teacher's responsibility. winbe teachers often find themselves alone at stations trying to hand out fliers
to suspicious locals. owners and managers seem to assume that the teacher will bring the students with him. no students
means no bonuses, an angry owner, and a steady descent into demotivation. until winbe changes its business practices,
it will remain forever in the red