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An Indonesian man, an Indonesian woman and a Filipina have passed the Japanese state licensing exam that enables them to work as nurses in this country. We congratulate them on their success. They came to Japan under economic partnership agreements that their countries have with Japan. The exam was held in February.

The government, however, must rethink the current licensing system for foreigners who come to Japan to become licensed as nurses and nursing caregivers, as the Japanese-language requirement has set exam hurdles too high for most.

Under the EPA agreements, some 560 Indonesians came to Japan in and after 2008 and some 280 Filipinos did so in and after 2009 to prepare for state exams for nurses or nursing caregivers while receiving training at hospitals and nursing-care facilities.

Last year, 82 of them took the state exam for nurses but none passed. This year, 254 took the exam and three passed, or 1.2 percent of the applicants. All holding nursing licenses from their home countries. By contrast, the success rate for all applicants (including Japanese applicants) was nearly 90 percent.

Nurse trainees have three chances to sit for the state exam during their three-year stay; trainee nursing caregivers get just one chance to take the exam during their four-year stay. If they cannot pass their respective exams during the allotted period, they have to go back home.

It is clear that the Japanese language is the barrier in the exams. Trainees receive Japanese training for the first six months, but after they start working as trainees, they face increasing difficulty in allocating the time necessary to learn Japanese. Host institutions also have difficulty providing them with sufficient support. The government should work out the standards for acquiring the necessary Japanese-language ability and give the necessary financial and other support to trainees and host institutions to help them achieve the goals.

There is the opinion that sufficient Japanese-language ability is a must because failure to understand medical records containing technical kanji terms could lead to serious accidents. If so, the period of stay for trainees should be lengthened to give them the opportunity to strengthen their Japanese-language ability as well as more chances to take the exams. Trainees should not be sent back home disappointed and feeling that they have failed.

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