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Education McDonaldized

Fundamental features of McDonaldization are already applicable to all spheres of industry and commerce as well as to all aspects of cultural and personal life, including the learning sphere. Ritzer (2011), who is the creator of the concept of McDonaldization, compares the educational system to “meat-processing plant” (p. 2). This plant embodies the features of mass and quick education people get nowadays. McDonaldization eliminates any inefficiencies of learning by changing engaging and multifaceted educational process into a repetitive mechanistic activity. Nowadays, education has obligatory inefficiencies, bureaucratized management systems, and intrusive control methods that are resisted in a number of approaches, devised by various scholars and teachers with different levels of efficacy.

According to Geroge Ritzer (2015), McDonaldization denotes penetration of rationality principles of fast food restaurants functioning into different aspects of social life (p. 1). Ritzer (2015) distinguishes four categories of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control (p. 14). Efficiency is a way of spending as little time, effort or money as possible to complete a specific task. For example, a computerized Blackboard system and electronic rating may efficiently distribute material and evaluate students respectively. Besides, the principle of calculability means that quantity is valued more than quality. Using rating systems to assess someone’s achievements or choosing university based on whether it is in the rating of top universities may be examples of calculability. Predictability is used to promote the sense of security one can gain, experiencing the situation that had occurred earlier in life. For instance, the structure of multiple-choice questions and similarity in courses may be recognized by most of students. Finally, control is guaranteed through a precise set of rules, and it also leads to dehumanization because of technology involvement. Every lesson must correspond slavishly to the curriculum, but students’ interests or peculiarities of perception are not taken into account. Moreover, electronic learning diminishes the role of a teacher (Ritzer, 2011, pp. 14-16; Wright, 2014).


Due to the control over teachers, there is intrusion into their teaching methods and unique individual approach to work. It can make them vulnerable and less confident in what they do. Lecturers view this form of control as a challenge to their professional performance and senseless questioning of fields of their job that have been often beyond questioning. It may lead to the decrease in the number of highly qualified teachers (Bryan & Hayes, 2007, p. 51).

Another reason of the low number of professionals, which is a result of McDonaldization, is the attempt of educational institutions to save money by hiring part-time teachers two or three weeks before they start teaching. One of the most serious threats McDonaldization poses is the allocation of funding for universities based on graduation rates. It means universities will accept more students, including those who do not deserve to be enrolled. In its turn, the increase in the number of graduates may result in losing quality of their education, because the implementation of innovations that can enhance the quality is not the main priority (Pratt, 2013).

Bryan and Hayes (2007) suggest that further education must resist McDonaldization by reversing its four main features. Thus, education must become inefficient, incalculable, unpredictable, and uncontrolled. One of the ways of succeeding in this is Hayes’s idea of going away from “the learner-centric support for students” (p. 55). It entails caring humanistic philosophy, which treats every student, and not only those with special needs, as someone who always needs help. Such approach may lead to the damaging culture of victimhood. Moreover, in combination with bureaucratization of McDonaldization, therapeutic treatment may only disrupt educational system. It may result in promoting therapeutic culture, which means using therapeutic language and approaches by lecturers and students. Examples of therapeutic language that must be avoided are the following words: “enabling,” “sharing,” “open,” “non-judgemental,” “listening” (to the learner’s voice), “inclusive,” “safe learning experience” (Bryan & Hayes, 2007, p. 56).

There should be a shift from the personal and empowering way of teaching to concentration on academic or work-related issues. If students believe that they always need support and empathy, they can become more vulnerable, isolated as well as and deprived of self-expression. As a result, it reinforces the idea that support is always desired and needed. As a result, such students who are future workers are controlled much easier, and their actions are more predictable and calculable. Although this form of resistance aims at fighting with core principles of McDonaldization, it cannot be fully realistic, because the majority of the present courses are based on this therapeutic approach as it is mutually convenient for both lecturers and students. It means that changes to all such courses cannot be done profoundly overnight.

Ritzer (2011) distinguishes individual and collective forms of resistance. He concludes that, “the new means of consumption will be created not by self-conscious agents but by consumers who bring about its collapse by their conformity” (Ritzer, 2011, p. 42). To resolve this problem, there should be a way to mobilize “agents against the excesses of the new means of consumption” (Ritzer, 2011, p. 44). An example of such agents that can efficiently resist McDonaldization is feminist educators. Feminist education presents more critical and transformative curriculum materials and teaching methods. Such approach can foster the capacity to act and gain critical and thoughtful insights, which oppose the main notions of education McDonaldization. Nevertheless, this method is not promising, as many students may fear feminist education. Thus, this fright may hinder the process of critical analysis, which can also lead to feelings of isolation and reluctance (Hayes & Wynyard, 2002, p. 175).

Shelley Wright (2014) borrows the principles of the Slow Food movement to explain how the Slow Education movement can resist McDonaldization and change the rigid system of education. She groups the main changes into categories, stating that de-McDonaldized education should be authentic, individualized, and formative. First, authentic education aims at engaging children in real work that is reflected in their community, giving them a specific role in the society other than training children how to become consumers. They learn how to identify vital problems where they live and how to solve these issues. As a result, every person can become an active citizen who is taught how to produce positive change to the community.

Second, homogeneity must be reduced through the individualized approach in education. Such method demands trust, cooperation, and communication between administration, teachers, and students to reveal what the latter really need in their future lives. Due to this method, children will know how to learn and students will be more interested in what they study. It will help children to decide what is close to their heart and specify what does not work and understand why. This approach is rewarding because, ultimately, students will be able to form critical insights and justify opinions.

Third, formative education means refusing from grade assessment system. Contrary to marks, the formative assessment will allow children to reflect on their achievements and the way of learning. It provides less judgment but more feedback. There is communication between a student and a teacher, which is aimed at understanding what works and what needs improvement. Slow Education movement cannot be most promising, because students learn less, and nowadays the pace of life and learning cannot make educational process slower. Nevertheless, this theory is worth considering by many innovators as it values understanding over covering specific material.

To combat McDonaldization of education, Pratt (2013) recommends to return to more traditional forms of teaching. First, smaller classes and seminars should prevail over large classes. Second, only highly professional teachers should be selected to work in an educational institution. Third, essays rather than exams and quizzes should be implemented to check students’ applicability and progress in studying. The latter entails refusal from computerized grading and bigger involvement of teachers in checking and assessing. Such methods are already in practice in many elite educational settings, such as business administration or engineering schools, which still make a significant emphasis on gifted students and qualified teachers.

There should be an emphasis on outside-the-classroom learning based on experiments, projects, and problem solving. Students should avoid acquiring skills in isolation; they need to connect what they learn with their everyday experience. Pratt (2013) highlights the importance of popularizing the benefits of learning communities, in which certain groups of students attend the same courses. It may encourage them to study better as well as become more critical and inquisitive. Moreover, students should communicate with peers from different corners of the world and apply new knowledge in the projects to make change locally (Pratt, 2013). It means that this approach of turning back to the more conventional form of education may be the most realistic and beneficial.

In conclusion, education has been adopting short cuts that are reflected in the main characteristics of McDonaldization. Promoting freedom from McDonaldization within educational establishments differs from de-McDonaldization of society, but it can initiate social movements that will help to decide on the desired forms of values and practices. Among new methods, scholars suggest changing main components of McDonaldization to opposite notions that can change the core principles of McDonaldized education. Moreover, resistance must be performed on both personal and collective levels. In addition, introduction of Slow Education movement as well as turning back to traditional forms of education may be the most promising and effective forms of combating McDonaldization.