Impact of External Examinations on High School Curricula: Perceptions of Teachers and Students

Hicran B. FIRAT*, and Hüseyin YARATAN
Senior Instructor, Faculty of Education, Eastern Mediterranean University


Problem Statement: The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Exam, Exam for Transition to Higher Education (YGS), and Exams for Placement for Undergraduate Studies (LYS), which are external exams that provide direct admission to higher education institutions abroad, are significant for 17–18-year-old Turkish Cypriot students. The media have expressed discontentment with the low achievement results on the YGS and LYS, which in addition to teacher and student complaints about inconsistency in the alignment of YGS and LYS content with school curricula compelled the need for this study.

Purpose of the Study: This qualitative study was aimed at analyzing teachers’ and students’ perceptions of the impact of the IGCSE, YGS, and LYS particularly on the 12th-grade science, mathematics, and language curricula in terms of curriculum content, implementation, and teachermade assessments.

Method: In this study, a qualitative research approach was used to describe and generalize the impact of external examinations on high school curricula in North Cyprus. Using a stratified, purposive sampling method, the researchers interviewed 86 teachers and 120 students of science, mathematics, and language in public high schools and colleges in North Cyprus during the 2011–2012 academic year. Data were collected using a semi-structured interview technique, and a content analysis technique was used for data analysis.

Findings and Results: Results revealed that all college teachers and students perceived consistency between the content of college curricula and the IGSCE. Almost all public high school teachers and students perceived inconsistency between the YGS content and the content of 12th-grade curricula, but consistency between the contents of the LYS and the 12thgrade curricula. Moreover, the English language teachers in colleges and public high schools perceived inconsistency between the contents of the IGCSE and LYS5 English language exams and of the English language curricula. Additionally, it was found that these external exams had a wash-back effect on teaching and learning. The results also revealed similarity in the forms and contents of teacher-made tests and of the IGSCE and A-level examinations, whereas in public high schools they were partially different from the YGS and LYS.

Conclusion and Recommendations: It was found that teachers and students perceived a high rate of inconsistency between the content of external examinations and the curricula used in high-schools. Therefore, students put pressure on teachers to provide test-oriented teaching. Therefore, a very prevalent wash-back effect was seen in terms of teachers’ content selection, curriculum implementation, and teacher-made tests.

Keywords: External exams, curriculum, teaching and learning, interview, content analysis, wash-back effect.