The McDonalization of English Language Teaching: Has it already arrived in Peru?
By Mayra Yaranga
What does theory say?
What is your experience of eating at fast food restaurants such as the ubiquitous McDonald’s? Does it differ from restaurant to restaurant? Does it change depending on the time of day? Fast food restaurants are designed to offer exactly the same customer experience, regardless of any other circumstances. Be it Lima, Beijing, London, New York… everything is the same.
Sociologist George Ritzer, in his book The McDonaldization of Society (1993), warns that society is beginning to show a tendency to becoming “McDonaldized”, which means that many aspects of life are beginning to reflect the principles underpinning the operation of fast food restaurants. Ritzer points four principles: efficiency, calculability, predictability and control. You might wonder what this much has to do with English Language Teaching. A great deal.
How does McDonaldization become evident in ELT?
There has been some research in the field in the last few years (see Littlejohn 2012, Shamsabadi and Ketabi 2014) pointing, for example, at coursebooks. Let us try a small exercise in reflection: look at any two coursebooks you have used in your school/language school. They will probably offer a similar sequence of elements to be taught, perhaps starting with the verb to be, then moving on to the present simple, past simple, and so on (if we only look at grammar). The sequence is predictable and, although well-meant, can we say in all certainty that it is the most effective sequence in which such elements need to be taught? What is the empirical evidence for this? Does it consider the uniqueness of a language classroom and of each and every language learner?
One more aspect we could consider is that of methodology. Frequently, we are told to teach in a certain way, following a certain approach with a number of very specific procedures. This could only remind us of fast food: every employee has to carry out their duties in only one way, without any possibility of adapting it to their context. Many workers are not trained enough and so they continue doing the same task for ever, in exactly the same manner. In ELT, these practices are guidelines which cater for those practitioners with little experience; the risk lies in adhering to these guidelines believing them to be the most effective way of fostering learning. Again, we fail to remember the uniqueness of every teaching situation.
McDonaldization is, unfortunately, spreading in education and ELT is no exception. However, it is teachers themselves who have the giant task and duty to halt and possibly reverse this trend. Not by “becoming radical” and stopping the use of coursebooks, or denouncing the existence of teaching guidelines as if it were a crime, but by reflecting on our everyday activities, our students’ needs and, most importantly, the human dimension of teaching.
What do YOU think? Has this become the trend in our country? If so, in which ways?
A brief overview of McDonaldization: http://www.mcdonaldization.com/whatisit.shtml
Shamsabadi, R. and Ketabi, S. (2014). McDonaldization in Iranian coursebooks: Absence or presence? Retrieved from http://elt.tabrizu.ac.ir/article_3322_373.html
Littlejohn, A. (2012). Language Teaching Materials and the (Very) Big Picture. Retrieved from http://www.andrewlittlejohn.net/website/docs/Littlejohn%20Language%20Teaching%20Materials%20and%20the%20(Very)%20Big%20Picture.pdf
Mayra Yaranga (1985) has completed Doctorate studies in Education at UNIFÉ; she holds a Master’s Degree in Media, Culture and Identity from Roehampton University (London) revalidated by PUCP, a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from UPCH and the Professional Title of Licenciada from IPNM. Currently she works as a pedagogical specialist and member of the research area for Universidad del Pacífico Language Centre. She also coordinates the ESP courses and is Member of the Executive Commission on Cooperation and International Relations at UNIFÉ. She has published papers in the fields of English Language Teaching and Cultural Studies.