Indonesia nurses struggle to pass Japanese exams

by Rudy Madanir

Kyodo News

BANDUNG, Indonesia — Since August 2008, only two of the 570 foreigners who have managed to pass Japan’s rigorous national examinations to become certified nurses have been Indonesians.

But that doesn’t stop many hopeful Indonesians from struggling to master Japanese and fulfill their dream of working abroad for better pay.

Last week, in West Java’s capital city Bandung, once dubbed “Paris Van Java” for its art-deco Dutch colonial buildings, 115 nurse and caregiver candidates selected from about 500 applicants began their first day of Japanese-language training.

Two other candidates were allowed to skip the training because they had already mastered the language to an adequate degree and had previously worked in Japan.

The candidates will be trained at the Indonesian University of Education for two months by 13 native Japanese speakers assisted by 20 Indonesian Japanese teachers.

Upon completion of their study in Bandung, another four months of training will be held from Aug. 7 for nurse candidates in Toyota, Aichi Prefecture, and for caregiver candidates in Yokohama.

This new twist in policy is expected to give the candidates more time to adapt to Japanese culture and society before working.

Last year, the training regimen was divided into four months in Indonesia and two months in Japan, carried out only by native Japanese speakers.

According to Hideaki Otani, spokesman for the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship, the number of health care candidates this year — 39 nurses and 78 caregivers — is down drastically compared with the 362 in 2009 and 208 in 2008. This is a reflection of the economic slump in Japan, he said.

Asked how they felt about their prospects for the tough exam, many candidates expressed optimism.

“I will do my best. I will struggle so hard and keep learning until I finally pass the examination,” said Siska Aditya, 27, who worked for 2 1/2 years as a nurse in Jakarta.

Nurse candidate Mulyati Purnama, 25, said she believes everyone has to be optimistic because all they want is to become professional and dedicated health care workers.

“So we are not supposed to (be) afraid of the tough test. All we have to do is to keep trying,” Purnama said.