What are some Issues Surrounding the Phenomenon of Japanese Students Sleeping in Class and has this Pattern Changed over Time?


  • Greg Ellis Sonoda Women's University and Canterbury University (New Zealand)
  • Susan Ellis Canterbury University (New Zealand)


sleeping in class, motivation, silence in the classroom, cultural issues


Despite all the talk about educational reform in Japanese educational institutions, it would seem there is little hope for real reform, without changing the basic system. Educators cannot do much while the whole system is exam and job-oriented.

Students’ sleeping in the classroom in high school and university is endemic in Japan and is widely perceived as a serious problem for many educators. Is sleeping in class a result of this system failure and is this behavior inevitable?

The issue of sleeping in class is certainly a concern for second language teaching and learning. The complex blend of why the students are sleeping in class, why it is allowed, and in some instances encouraged is considered in this research. The specific focus is whether this pattern of sleeping in class has changed over time. Qualitative techniques were used in this research with 33 mixed age participants interviewed in individual and focus group settings. The results from this study clearly show the importance of the teachers’ role in ensuring students stay awake in class, and how the teacher’s attitude and approach to teaching and learning have a major impact on student behavior.  It can be firmly concluded from research that teachers’ skills in the classroom are positively related to students’ achievement (e.g. Brophy & Good, 1986; Galton et al., 1999; Hirsch, 2000).

Interview results indicate there is little or no difference in students’ sleeping in class pattern’ over the last 35 – 40 years. Students at university and high school continue to sleep in class and often with the teachers’ permission.

Author Biographies

Greg Ellis, Sonoda Women's University and Canterbury University (New Zealand)

I am currently on exchange in Japan where I am professor in English studies at Sonoda Women's University. When I return to Canterbury University I will continue as a lecturer in the school of Initial Teacher Education where I teach Mathematics.

Susan Ellis, Canterbury University (New Zealand)

Susan works for Education Plus atCanterbury University in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is currently on leavein Osaka, Japan where she is continuing her research and study. Sue has a longhistory of successful classroom teaching and has been working for several yearsnow initiating government policy and classroom practice to teachers as part ofher role at advisory services for teachers,in the Canterbury region of NewZealand.


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How to Cite

Ellis, G., & Ellis, S. (2014). What are some Issues Surrounding the Phenomenon of Japanese Students Sleeping in Class and has this Pattern Changed over Time?. Asian Journal of Education and E-Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from https://ajouronline.com/index.php/AJEEL/article/view/880