Q&A Agent association
This month, Ryuki Hayashi, Executive Director and Secretary General of Japanese agency association Jaos, answers our questions.
What has been the main focus in the last year?
We worked with government bodies and embassies. We welcomed three official ‘partner’ members; two American Consulate Generals and the Australian Embassy Tokyo marketing office. We had two AGMs and supported the Alphe Japan Conference. We held the 15th joint annual meeting with FGER Group (Foreign Government Educational Representatives in Japan). We were invited to an advisory consultation for the Liberal Democratic Party on the policy planning for increasing the number of international students.
JAOS was instrumental in the implementation of the Japan Commission for the Regulation of Overseas Study Services (J-Cross) . How has it developed?
Main administration works at J-Cross are supported by Jaos staff. J-Cross now has 23 certified members and three applicants in process. We would like get 10 more certified members this year.
As an agency, what are the benefits of being a member of Jaos?
Because Jaos has a close relationship with government agencies, members can get information on government policy and might get the study abroad programme budgeted by government. Members can also show the Jaos Code of Conduct as a qualified agent.
There is a growing trend for ELT within Asia. How will this affect members?
Some members are still reluctant to send students to language providers in Asia while others like to do it because they have found there is a market for “less expensive” school seekers. Where there is a market, there are agencies, however. Agencies in Japan are afraid of getting less commission from sending students to schools in Asia.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. What are your feelings concerning agent training schemes?
Greg O’Neill, Insight Education Consulting, Thailand
“Because we have been solely focussed on the Australian market we chose only to undertake the Pier EATC programme. However, we are in the process of expanding into other markets and will look at training in specific market-related programmes. Pier EATC, while useful to some extent, did not really cover much that our staff were not already aware of. I think these types of programmes may be useful to new staff and if they were integrated into a licensing process for education agents in the same way that real estate and travel agents are licensed. As study abroad becomes a more prestigious product I think student clients will become more discerning about who they work with. Smaller operators, sole traders etc. will find it harder to function as students and parents will look for greater security through larger agents. Social media now makes it easier for students to check on the reputation of agents. We value training if it leads to tangible outcomes. Sometimes our staff feel more informed of the government agencies who set out to run these training programmes. Ultimately the agency model needs to be more regulated and training or qualifications need to be tied to this.”
Audrey Jones Montali, Indirizzo Inghilterra,
“Although I haven’t taken a training course myself, I do think they are a marvellous idea, especially for those who come into the industry from the travel agency side and those just starting out. I underwent a slow metamorphosis from an EFL teacher into a language travel consultant. I have very little idea of what the syllabus of currently offered courses cover, but if I sent my assistant on a course I would like it to cover writing skills, phone skills, types of courses available and learning psychology and possibly basic computer programmes and accountancy. Consultancy means understanding client needs and how to provide the right advice in an acceptable way.”
Anna Ryzhova, Interlogos,
“Ten or 20 years ago there were no courses offering such a specialisation and there was no institution where one could be taught to become an educational agent. But any growing industry requires a bigger number of specialists, and it goes without saying that the training courses offered for agents are of a high importance. It could save time and money for the agencies hiring new employees; the clients get better advice and the educational providers get proper students who know where and why they go to study. Such courses usually also involve ethic guidelines/code of practice for agents, and nowadays it is vital not just at an individual level, but at the industry level. As for me, I have recently taken the ICEF Agent Training Course, and despite my experience in the field of foreign education for more than 10 years, there was new and interesting information for me.”
Kamonruss Banleusombatkul, Born To Be Consultant,
“I am very interested in agency training as it [shows] you are professional. I joined the ICEF training scheme and passed. The New Zealand Specialist Agent Training scheme has a lot of requirements such as references from higher education educators and some agents, like me, specialise only in language courses so they won’t allow us to do it. I don’t care how much I have to pay for training but I need to improve my skills.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or advisor partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month Lexis English in Australia nominates Nexsis in Japan. Kiyo Ono, Director Junior Programmes at the school explains this decision.
“Nexsis Japan is a key agent for our junior programmes, and has been for more than a decade. The owner of Nexsis, Kenji Motooka, is our most regular visitor, with at least five or six trips to Australia each year. He also welcomes the contribution of our marketing team in visiting his key suppliers in Japan, building relationships throughout the supply chain in a way that ensures repeat business. It’s this level of close mutual support that has built such a successful partnership over the years. Kenji demands high standards of us, but he and his staff also maintain those standards themselves. Lexis has seen remarkable growth in our junior programmes and Kenji has been integral to this. It’s a pleasure to see Nexsis Japan growing with us.”
“We have developed a cohesive relationship with Lexis English who have earned trust and reliance. We believe Lexis continues to provide the kind of quality education junior students require, in order to become global citizens. We are very honoured to receive this nomination.”
Kenji Motooka, Nexsis, Japan