How does Washback Work on the EFL Syllabus and Curriculum? A Case Study at the HSC Level in Bangladesh

Maniruzzaman, M.; Hoque, M. Enamul
December 2010
Language in India;Dec2010, Vol. 10 Issue 12, p49
Academic Journal
The way in which public examinations influence teaching and learning is commonly known as "washback" or backwash. The washback effect, or the influence of testing on the syllabus and curriculum, appears in any classroom situation. Washback influences the treatment of syllabus and curriculum, and this influence on teachers' teaching attitudes is quite superficial. The washback influences teachers about what to teach, and how to teach. The purpose of this study was to investigate the washback effects on the syllabus and curriculum at the Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) level in Bangladesh. The study tried to examine the relationship between the curriculum and the textbooks, and the relationship between the curriculum and the HSC public examination. The target population was higher secondary students and teachers. Data were collected through questionnaires. Findings indicate that the public examination associated with educational reform has an influence on teachers' curricular planning and instruction. It is found that the teachers often have a tendency to "teach to the test"; students are willing to focus only on those subjects and skills that are going to appear in the examination. The study also discovers that the students do not cover the syllabus of the HSC due to test pressure. The study explores that the maximum teachers are not aware of the objectives of the English syllabus and curriculum, and they largely depend on the 'hidden syllabus' published by unauthorized external sources. The investigation discloses teachers' lack of knowledge about how to change their teaching methods to align with the curriculum objectives; therefore, the test exerts negative washback on teaching and learning. Finally, on the basis of current understandings of washback, some suggestions and recommendations are put forwarded. However, the results of the study seem to indicate that only if the student studies towards the examination, the intended qualitative learning will hardly occur, especially, in the period of examination preparation.


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