The reasons you think students come to your school may not be the same as why they actually do. It is likely, as previously stated, that the drive is not economic, but rather social, cultural or artistic.

Very little data is available on the private language school market here in Japan. The below is from a survey by Lesley Ito for the JALT at School Owners Special Interest Group Newsletter in April 2017. With a small sample of only 62 families, it shows the main goal for initially sending their children to an English school given as follows:

to become bilingual/other: 4.9%
to learn good pronunciation: 12.9%
to do well in English at school: 9.7%
for future job prospects: 17.7%
to enjoy English: 24.2%
to be able to communicate with foreign people: 30.6%

According to this survey, not many parents are sending their children to schools in Japan for economic or academic reasons. The majority, 54.8%, appears to want their children to enjoy using English with foreigners. When the question was changed to ask why they continue at the school, this proportion rose to 72.5%.

This may, of course, change. It is also crucial to note the respondents to this survey had already enrolled their children in schools owned by JALT SO SIG members, many of whom are foreigners, and may not be wholly representative.

A potentially large future influence on the English learning market is likely to be testing. It’s important to realise that this testing will be for getting into schools and universities, not for getting jobs.

Anecdotal evidence from a TOEIC test preparation school in Osaka shows the number of students dropping by approximately 50% over the last two years. This could of course be due to increased local competition, but this is a very specialist TOEIC school, where all teachers must take the TOEIC test twice a year and get a score of over 950. The owner of the school feels that while competition plays a part, the current job market is a bigger influence. Many of the students to date had come to improve their career or promotion prospects.

Statistics from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare for February 2019 show a new job offers to applicant ratio of 2.5, women in the workforce at 63% and over 65s at 24.4% – all record highs, with some still rising. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate is at 2.3%, a record low, near full employment, and job hopping is more common than ever.

It’s a job-seeker’s or job-changer’s market. Who needs a higher TOEIC score?

This will be augmented by the soon-to-be-arriving 400,000 immigrant workers.

This represents a new market in Japanese language and culture education, rather than English, of almost half a million people.

If testing becomes more important due to the recent changes in Japan for the university entrance tests, where will this new market go?

Many international publishers find it incredibly difficult to get their IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC test preparation materials marketed and sold successfully in Japan. The Japanese market is very peculiar. A large proportion of Japanese test preparation textbooks are actually imported from Korea, translated and localised to Japan.

Japanese students like to have the answers to questions explained to them in a particularly Japanese way, in Japanese, usually by a Japanese teacher of English.

This indicates the potential new market for test preparation will be better served by native Japanese speaking teachers who are proficient in English, and have proved this by passing tests.

I wonder how many foreign-owned schools or native-English-speaking teachers in Japan have these resources?

Next: What business are you in? Part 4, looks at some more statistics.