A study on washback effects of high stake tests has always been very interesting. A meta-synthesis study done by Au (2007) involving 49 research studies on high stake testing and curricular control indicates that high stake tests have predominant effects on curriculum implementation. They tend to narrow down curricular contents into fragmented bits and pieces of knowledge to be learned for the sake of the tests themselves. Therefore, teachers are compelled to use more lecture-based teacher-centered pedagogies.

The National Exam implemented in Indonesia in the last ten years has invited controversies among different parties due to its status as a high-stake exam. People against it argue that (1) using the results of the National Exam as a basis for making decisions about student graduations is not fair because the schools throughout Indonesia are still very heterogeneous , (2) as a high-stake testing, the National Exam may have negative effects on the implementation of the curriculum, and (3) as a highstake testing involving all schools throughout Indonesia at the same time, requiring a very complex management, the integrity of the stake-holders may be ignored.

People in favor of it argue that (1) without implementing the National Exam, students will not be motivated to study seriously, (2) the results of the National Exam can be used to compare the competencies of all students in Indonesia, and (3) leaving to school personnel to make the decisions about the student graduation will lead to letting all students graduate regardless of whether they have achieved the required competencies to graduate.

This paper is trying to examine the implementation of the National Exam and its effects on different aspects of education in Indonesia, especially when policies of the Ministry of Education and Culture have changed from time to time.