Choosing the SchoolBoard: CBSE,ICSE,State Board,IGCSE,IB

Today, parents have many school boards to choose for their child, CBSE,ICSE,State Board,IGCSE,IB .  Parents feel that they have to select the school properly as education is the ticket to a better life for most of us. What are the school boards available in India?  Explore IB and IGCSE in detail. Compare the various boards, Talk about the documentary 2 million minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career. Does Board matter?

School Boards in India

India is structured with three domestic education boards – CBSE, CISCE (ICSE, ISC) & State Boards and two international education boards – IGCSE & IB. Indian Schools offer both Indian and International Syllabi. Each board is unique from the point of view of their functionality, curriculum, abilities and standards. 

2 Million Minutes is a series of documentary films produced in 2008-2009 exploring how students in the United States, India, and the People’s Republic of China spend the nominal 2,000,000 minutes of their high school years. You can read about 2 million minutes here .

  • CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education)
    • A Board which follows universal pattern is the first choice for parents with transferable jobs.
    • CBSE affiliates all Kendriya Vidyalayas, all Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas, private schools, and most of the schools approved by central government of India and  25 Countries including India, Malaysia, Dubai etc
    • CBSE conducts two main examinations – All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE) in Grade-X and All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE) in Grade – XII.
    • Students aiming at pursuing a career in Engineering or Medical prefer this board, as the syllabi and pattern of Indian entrance examinations in these two domains are aligned to the CBSE curriculum
  • CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations)
    • a non-government, private board conducts 2 exams, ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) for Grade X and ISC (Indian School Certificate) for Grade XII
    • board of choice for students aiming at pursuing careers in the fields of Humanities and Management, as the CISCE syllabus is more oriented toward these streams and helps in the development of excellent language skills.
    • Students looking for overall grooming and development prefer this board over CBSE.
  • State Board (State Government Recognized Board)
    • Every State Government imparts Primary, Secondary and Higher Secondary Education in its respective state.
    • Examination Pattern, SSC: Secondary School Certificate, 10 Board Exams, HSC: Higher School Certificate, 12 Board Exams
    • Usually, teach in or include the state language as part of their curriculum
    • Easily available Textbook, Teachers.
    • Low Fees.
    • Preferred by Children inclined towards sports or like activities since the workload is relatively light
  • IB (International Baccalaureate) : 
    • This board aids in the development of analytical, logical reasoning, language skills which can offer a slight advantage to students for exams such as the SAT and the GRE.
    • There is a strong emphasis on extra-curricular activities and social action, thus giving an edge to students for foreign universities.
    • One can also go for this board if one seeks global skill-development, flexibility and an innovative approach to education.
  • Cambridge and IGCSE 
    • Primary and secondary students may give Key Stage exams by Cambridge. But the main exams are the IGCSE, the AS Level and the A Level
    • The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a globally recognised qualification, taken at the Class 10 level, similar to the Class 10 examinations of the CBSE and ICSE or the middle year’s Programme of the IB.
    • Students aiming to go abroad for education can consider this board.
    • There are over 70 subjects available at Cambridge IGCSE, including 30 languages, and schools can offer them in any combination
    • Typical “core” curricula for IGCSE candidates include a First Language, Second Language, Mathematics and one or more subjects in the Sciences. IGCSE candidates can choose a number of additional courses ranging from Social Sciences to Creative Arts.
    • It is also widely accepted across Indian universities, and aligns with the local dates for entrances and admissions,
    • Those wanting to study an international curriculum with wide acceptability can opt for it.

Comparison of boards in India: ICSE, ISC, IB, IGCSE

No one system is better than the other. Instead, parents should look at all the possible options and make the best decision depending on their situation. It’s not just the board that defines the future of your child. In fact, in Tamil Nadu, most children attend CBSE board till their 10th grade and then shift to the local state board because of the lenient marking system, which helps in getting into a good university

  • Normally, the ICSE / ISC syllabus is considered more challenging for students as compared to CBSE. ICSE focuses on a detailed study of each subject with an edge over English.
  • CBSE board is followed in 9000+ schools in India and abroad. Thereby making it easier to find schools when you move to a new place
  • Choosing between CBSE, SSC, IB and ICSE for competitive exams for doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects doesn’t really matter as 99.99% of children who want to become doctors or engineers take outside coaching.
  • The international curriculum is limited to the niche section of the society.
    • Those who go abroad for studying will study such a curriculum. It’s much more flexible in terms of offering courses. The number of subjects is more and better options are available. So one can do a combination of Maths, Chemistry and English in higher classes.
    • can be very expensive, with annual fees as high as Rs 10,00,000.
    • Found only in metropolitan cities and Tier-1 cities of India.
    • Difficult for students to shift boards if a need arises.
    • Tuitions, Books not easily available.

The following two images highlight the comparison between the various boards. ref: Sqoolz and mindler.

Compare Boards CBSE ICSE IB IGCSE
Compare Boards CBSE ICSE IB IGCSE
CBSE vs ICSE vs IB vs IGCSE
CBSE vs ICSE vs IB vs IGCSE

Cambridge & IGCSE

  • At the primary level (ages 5–11), the focus is on English, maths and science
  • At secondary level (ages 11–14) concepts are expanded in these basic subjects
  • Students move to the IGCSE curriculum where subjects are divided into 5 groups: languages, humanities, sciences, maths and creative, technical & vocational. Languages include foreign languages which may be tested as first or second languages
  • After this, students move on to the AS level (a one year course) or their A Level (2-year course). AS Level may be extended to A Level. Students are offered 55 subjects and may study them in any combination. These are equal to Grade 11 and 12 in India. But some countries abroad consider an AS level equal to high school qualification
  • Primary and secondary students may give Key Stage exams by Cambridge. But the main exams are the IGCSE, the AS Level and the A Level

The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a globally recognised qualification, taken at the Class 10 level, similar to the Class 10 examinations of the CBSE and ICSE or the middle year’s Programme of the IB.

There are five Subject Groups in IGCSE with several subjects to choose from, in each group:

Group 1: Languages (First Language, Second Language, Foreign Language, etc)
Group 2: Humanities and Social Sciences (Geography, English Literature, History, etc)
Group 3: Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc)
Group 4: Mathematics (Mathematics, Additional Mathematics, etc)
Group 5: Creative, Technical & Vocational (Accounting, Business Studies, Computer Studies, Music, etc)

To take account of differing abilities, there is a choice between Core and Extended papers in some IGCSE subjects. This allows teachers to decide on the most appropriate level of papers for their students.This gives students of all ability levels the freedom to choose subjects that are right for them and, thereby, the opportunity to score good grades.

The core curriculum is an overview of the subject and is suitable for students who are expected to achieve grades C to G.

The extended curriculum is, sort of, a specialisation in that subject. It is more challenging and designed for students who are expected to achieve grades A* to E.

For each subject, the certificate merely indicates the grades scored, and not pass or fail.

The IGCSE exams are conducted in the months of January, May and October every year, the exam papers are sent to the United Kingdom to be marked and the results come out in May, August and January respectively. There is an exam fee of £80 for every exam written, this cost may vary depending on the country in which the test was taken in.

The IGCSE is graded on an 8-point scale from A* to G with a 9th grade “U” signifying “Ungraded”.  In the case of Further Mathematics, an extra A^ grade was added for students that can demonstrate sustained performance in higher-level maths skills such as reasoning, proof and problem-solving.

The Cambridge examination board offers an ICE (International Certificate of Education) group qualification for candidates who achieve 7 subject passes A*-C across the groups.

The ICE is awarded in three grades: Distinction, Merit and Pass. It requires 2 passes in Languages, and one pass in every other group whilst the seventh subject be in any group to be qualified for an award.

In addition, to award top candidates with the uppermost achievement, Cambridge awards “Outstanding Achievement Awards” in the categories of “top in country”, and “top in world” for each subject

  • IGCSE assessment is conducted by two UK assessment bodies: Edexcel (also known as London Examinations) and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).The assessment is aimed at a wide ability range of students, with an eight-point grading scale, from A+ to G, with A+ being the highest.
  • The IGCSE is graded on an 8-point scale from A* to G with a 9th grade “U” signifying “Ungraded”.
  • There are over 70 subjects available at Cambridge IGCSE, including 30 languages, and schools can offer them in any combination
  • Typical “core” curricula for IGCSE candidates include a First Language, Second Language, Mathematics and one or more subjects in the Sciences. IGCSE candidates can choose a number of additional courses ranging from Social Sciences to Creative Arts.
  • International schools around the world normally allow students to study anywhere from 5 to 14 IGCSE subjects. Like the situation in the English Baccalaureate, 5 core subject passes at C or above is the minimum required.

IB or International Baccalaureate

The IB programme was founded in 1968 by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), a non-profit educational organisation based in Geneva, Switzerland. Despite having its headquarters in Switzerland, the IBO is an international organisation, not associated with any particular country and free of national political educational agendas.

It is an internationally-recognised school system made up of three educational programmes given below. IB examinations test students’ knowledge, not their memory and speed. There are no examinations until the Middle Years Programme (Class 10). The focus of the IB pedagogy is on ‘how to learn’ rather than ‘what to learn’. There are no prescribed textbooks; students can choose their own books.

IB is not easy. It is expensive and difficult

  • Students who want to excel in critical thinking
  • Students who can cope with difficult coursework
International Board recognized by most of the Universities of the world. Students can apply to Foreign Universities wherein CBSE and ICSE board is not recognized. Recognized by UNESCO, Council of Europe, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)
  • PYP: The Primary Years Programme (Kindergarten to Class 5): Language, Social Studies, Mathematics, Science and Technology, Arts, Personal, Social and Physical education
  • MYP: The Middle Years Programme (Class 6 to Class 10) :
    • 1st Language
    • 2nd Language
    • Humanities (History and Geography)
    • Sciences (Biology, Chemistry & Physics)
    • Mathematics (Number, Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, and Discrete Mathematics)
    • Arts (Visual Arts and Performing Arts)
    • Physical Education
    • Technology (Computers)
  • DP: The Diploma Programme (Class 11 to Class 12) :  DP students choose one subject from each of the following six ‘Subject Groups’: The subjects available in each group differ from school to school. Additionally, of the 6 subjects you choose, 3 must be at a Higher Level (HL), and 3 at a Standard Level (SL).
    • Group 1: First Language (English)
    • Group 2: Second Language (French, Hindi, etc).
    • Group 3: Individuals and Societies (History, Economics, Business and Management, etc).
    • Group 4: Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Environmental Systems).
    • Group 5: Mathematics and Computer Science.
    • Group 6: Electives (either Visual Arts or a second subject from Groups 3, 4 or 5).
    • In addition, all DP students must
      • study a two-year course called Theory of Knowledge (TOK): Theory of Knowledge is an essay of 1,200-1,600 words written on a given title (from a choice of ten), followed by a ten-minute presentation of the essay by the DP student in class.
      • Produce an Extended Essay (EE). Extended Essay is an original independent research leading a DP student to produce a comprehensible written piece of 3,500-4,000 words in any chosen subject and title.
      • engage in Creativity, Action, and Service (CAS): Under Creative, Action and Service, each DP student must complete at least 150 hours spread out over one-and-a-half years, engaging in some form of Creativity, participating in sport or other physical Action, and doing social Service.
  • PYP relies on internal assessment depending on the school.
  • When it comes to MYP, each subject group uses 4 markers to grade a student’s ability in the subject. The scores of the 4 markers are added up and changed to a grade out of 7.
  • DP is based on a points system, with 45 being the highest point one can get

2 million minutes

Two million minutes is the amount of time one lives in any four year period. 2 Million Minutes is a series of documentary films, produced in 2008, exploring how students in the United States, India, and the People’s Republic of China spend the nominal 2,000,000 minutes of their high school years

Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the 8th grade, the clock starts ticking. From that very moment, the child has approximately –

...Two Million Minutes until high school graduation…Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation…Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career…Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult

How a student spends their Two Million Minutes – in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off — will affect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.

Chapter 1: 2 Million Minutes: A Global Examination
Chapter 1 describes the different emphasis students, parents, and teachers put on socialization, academic rigor, and discipline in the three countries. This chapter of the film compares high school students from three countries, India, China and the United States. The film seems to focus on stereotypes of the study habits and social behaviors of students from these different countries. For example, the story looks at how American students natural proclivity to extra-curricular activities like student government and sports teams versus Chinese and Indian students’ dedication to additional prep work and hobbies like playing instruments.

Chapter 2: 2 Million Minutes: In India
Chapter 2 describes the Indian K-12 education system. Filmed one year after Chapter 1, it rejoins the two American students and the two Indian students for a discussion. The film also features an interview with the principal of St. Paul’s English school, Sundari Rao.

Chapter 3: 2 Million Minutes: In China
Chapter 3 describes the Chinese K-12 education system. Filmed one year after Chapter 1, it rejoins the two American students and the two Chinese students for a discussion. The film also features an interview with the headmaster of Xiwai International school, Dr. Lin.

Chapter 4: 2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution
Chapter 4 advocates some solutions for the United States to become competitive in education.

Does Board matter?

I have studied in ICSE, ISC in school, went to BITS(Pilani) where I met people from different boards, my children studied in CBSE. I am seeing my friend’s children studying in IB and IGCSE. The International curriculum especially IB is difficult.  And then there is a question of School fees which is galloping. In a city like Bangalore, one needs to pay Rs 1 lakh per year in a good school. A parent faces a dilemma of whether to put in an expensive school or save for higher education. What I have realised is that if you want to send your child outside of India then International curriculum makes sense but if you want them to be in India for graduation then CBSE, ICSE/ISC are good.  If a child is good in academics, he/she will do good anywhere. More than the board is important what is being taught and what is being learned. As Harivansh Rai Bachchan, father of actor Amitabh Bachchan said राह पकड़ तू एक चला चल, पा जाएगा मधुशाला। So does board matter?

1 Comment

  1. Very informative, detailed and elaborate article on the School boards in India. Thank you for sharing.

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