This board or that? How do I decide?

This board or that? How do I decide?

CBSE: Winds of change

The Central Board of Secondary Education was set up ‘to affiliate institutions for the purpose of examination and to raise the academic standards of the country’. It prepares the syllabus for students from Lower Kindergarten (LKG) to Class 12, for schools affiliated with it and conducts two India-wide board examinations: the All India Secondary School Examination for Class 10 and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination for Class 12, which is a school-leaving examination. CBSE is considered a premier board in India as it incorporates modern learning techniques in its syllabi. Close to 5,119 schools are affiliated to the board in the country. The medium for education prescribed by CBSE is either English or Hindi. 

The foremost reasons to choose the CBSE would be:

*The CBSE syllabus is presented in a very scientific manner, is divided into units with the number of periods required to cover it in the year and the weightage of marks it will carry in the examination. Thereby making planning and preparation easy.

*The syllabus lays stress on Math and Science. Objective questions help prepare students for national level competitive examinations. 

*The CBSE also conducts the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE) which is a common entrance examination on an all-India basis for admission into engineering and architecture/planning programmes in the country. Similarly pre-medical and pre-dental tests AIPMT (PMT/PDT) are conducted for medical and dental colleges after the 10+2 exams. Besides, most Indian competitive exams are based on the CBSE syllabus, thus giving an advantage to children from CBSE schools.

*Since CBSE follows the same curriculum throughout the country, and is adopted by all the Kendriya Vidyalayas, central schools and other private CBSE schools all over India, it becomes an obvious choice for parents in transferable jobs.

 Earlier it was believed that CBSE was not recognised outside India. However this is not so anymore. Now, the UCAS recognises CBSE at par with ISC. The All India Senior School Certificate Examination for Class 12 is widely recognised internationally for direct admissions to university undergraduate courses.

The advantage that CBSE has over ICSE, in a predominantly Hindi speaking country like ours, is its lack of stress on English literature. Since English is more functional and application based in CBSE, it meets the basic needs of the student who wants to focus on Science or Math. It does not lay undue stress to master the nuances and subtleties of literature.

CBSE has ceded to the winds of change and has shown responsiveness to the needs of a dynamically changing pedagogical scenario. It is now becoming more than just an examination body. The process of reviewing and upgrading the syllabus makes it more relevant to the times and life of students. The new system of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation requires the syllabi to be done and reviewed on an on-going basis, thereby trying to ensure that the student is evaluated throughout the year, not just on the day of the exam. Another welcome addition is rewarding non-scholastic activities too. Notwithstanding the debates the ‘grades instead of marks’ may have garnered, students still get a pretty good idea of where they stand. 

The CBSE course would ideally be beneficial for a student pursuing any of the science streams, but for a student who wants to pursue management or humanities, ICSE might be a better option. CBSE is said to be more intensive rather than extensive as, “it just introduces the topics on a superficial level in Math and Science in Class 9 and 10, without going in-depth” as said by Suchita Das, senior teacher, Laurels International School (ICSE).

On the other hand, there are scores of teachers and principals who swear by the CBSE Board and believe it has played a crucial role in India Inc achieving what it has.

(The writer is Mentor, Indus World School/  Career Launcher)

ICSE: Freedom to innovate and be creative

The colonial rule in India brought in western thought and sensibility. With the intention of spreading their faith in the colonies, the colonisers might have felt a need for a certain level of education among the natives. What is interesting to note is that many colonisers considered it their duty to make the people of the land ‘cultured and civilised’. And of course an ‘English education’ was yet another means of establishing their dominance and strengthening their hold over the country. Thus we have the Cambridge School Certificate Examination being introduced in India. It continued to be a symbol of honour and prestige right unto Independence.

After independence, it functioned as the Indian Council which was to administer the University of Cambridge, Local Examinations Syndicate’s Examination in India and, to advise the Syndicate on the best way to adapt its examination to the needs of the country. It was only in 1973, the Council was listed in the Delhi School Education Act 1973, as a body conducting ‘public’ examinations.

The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination conducts three examinations, namely, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE - Year 10); The Indian School Certificate (ISC - Year 12) and the Certificate in Vocational Education (CVE - Year 12). The subject choices and syllabi prescribed for these examinations are varied and aimed at nurturing the unique gifts of individual pupils.

The ICSE (Class 10) curriculum has been designed to provide an examination in a course of general education, in accordance with the recommendations of the new education policy 1986; The ISC (class 12) is a two-year course of study beyond the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (Year 10) examination or its equivalent. Moreover the Certificate of Vocational Educational (CVE - 12) has been created as an examination to prepare candidates for particular occupations, in accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) through the Joint Council of Vocational Education (JCVE).

While going through The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE) site, one is definitely struck by the points listed under the heading of ‘Ethos of the Council’ which include trust and fair play and values to form the bedrock of education. This surely speaks of the board having its head and heart in the right place.

As one of the mentors, who has taught in both CBSE and ICSE schools mentioned that ICSE gives much more freedom to innovate and be creative. The syllabus according to her is expansive and does not hold back the school and the student from experimenting with new ideas.

The advantages of an ICSE school would be:

*The fundamentals of a subject are taught better in ICSE/ISC syllabus. Especially in Science and Math, what ICSE students learn in class 8 is taught in higher classes in CBSE. Since the topics are repeated in detail in the upcoming classes, the fundamentals become even stronger.

*ICSE provides a good overall development as the focus is not limited to a few subjects. The stress on languages and humanities helps them hone their communication skills and build awareness of their surroundings.

*In ICSE projects on various subjects are an integral part. Hence it gives scope for a lot of practical work.

*An ICSE/ISC syllabus is better if one wants to pursue management studies as the syllabus is more management-based than CBSE. As it is said that the ICSE English is the toughest as well as the best as it has two papers in English. Hence it is not advisable for those who either don’t have a good foundation in English or the interest.

*Since the ICSE offers a choice of subjects in class 8 itself, it reduces the stress on those children who want to pursue a subject which may be anathema to them. The student can drop Math or Science in favour of a subject from the humanities.

*The ICSE course offers the opportunity to hone one’s writing ability, as essay writing, of different styles, long subject answers vis-a vis objective questions are an integral part of its curriculum. It also offers a choice in the papers which one finds lacking in the CBSE.

*A great advantage of ICSE lies with those parents who wish to send their children abroad for higher studies. The syllabus is compatible with that offered in other commonwealth countries. So with the ICSE, it is easier to relocate to other countries in the middle of a school year. It also offers the option of a third language, like French, German, Spanish, etc. depending on what the school offers.

*In keeping with its progressive approach, it was the first to incorporate subjects like Environmental Education and SUPW (Socially Useful Productive Work) as a part of its syllabus. It also offers unconventional subjects like agriculture, home science, fashion designing and others.

 There are many conflicting views on whether the level of Math and Science are lower in ICSE as compared to CBSE. Some teachers feel that CBSE has a lower level in class 10 which shoots up all of a sudden in class 11. On the other hand, generally people carry this opinion that ICSE scores high on languages but low on Math and Science. Since most competitive exams are based on the CBSE syllabus, ISC students might begin with a handicap. Nevertheless they have been known to perform equally well at any of these exams.

In spite of its national aspirations, ICSE schools are found more in number in the metros. Their presence is markedly limited in other cities.

The National Admissions and Accreditation agency in the United Kingdom - UCAS (Universities and College Admission Services) has recognised the ISC at par with the Higher School qualification of the University of Scotland. Hence those completing the ISC no longer require obtaining ‘A’ level qualifications or completing bridging courses, if they wish to pursue higher studies in Universities in the UK and Universities in the Commonwealth. Indian School Certificate (ISC) qualification is the only qualification from India that has been granted this special recognition.

Write to us

Given a choice, which school board would you prefer for your child? And why? Write to us at, in not more than 250 words, to reach us by April 28. We will publish some of the best responses we get, in a subsequent issue of DHEducation.

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