It is widely regarded as axiomatic that the requirements of the curriculum come before those of assessment and, as a principle, this would seem to be unexceptionable. Clearly, the school curriculum should not be vitiated by the demands of the assessment system. Clearly too, it is difficult to devise an assessment system before curricular premises are established.
There is continual interacting between curriculum and assessment. The examination system may dictate the curriculum in the school but the examination system may be dictated by curricular developments . . .
The dictum that the curriculum comes first, however, is usually taken to imply criticism of the effect of the examination system on the curriculum.
Certainly, if examination syllabuses are not kept in line with curricular thinking, they will exercise an adverse effect. It may be, moreover, that even when syllabuses and examinations are kept up to date there are aspects or elements of a desirable curriculum that pose difficulties for external assessment and that may consequently be undervalued in teaching.
The position will vary from subject to subject. Any generalisation regarding the adverse educational effect of external syllabuses and examinations requires to be supported by a precise statement on a subject basis of the shortcomings and of the alternatives.