There comes a (dreaded) time in every parent’s life, when they hear the words they’ve been waiting for.
“School admissions are open.”
Suddenly there is a frenzied dash of online applications, standing in long queues, revising numbers with your 4-year-olds and praying to all the Gods you know that your little one gets into a good school.
It doesn’t help when there are four school boards to choose from. How do you decide what is best for your child? What are the differences between them? And does it really matter in the long run?
The answer to those questions depends on many factors. Each school board has its pros and cons, which, in turn, depends on your vantage point. Do you want a more traditional education? Do you prefer a government-approved curriculum? Is your child ready to cope with a demanding syllabus? There is no right answer here. But, there is an informed decision to make. So to ease your burden, we have listed what we think are the pros and cons of each board of education in India. Once you understand the differences (and even similarities), you might feel more comfortable in making a choice. Also, remember schools within the same board will also have differences, and it’s best to understand the ideology of every institution before you pick one. Click here to check a detailed list of criteria to select a school for your child.
Four major schools boards in India
#1 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
It is an autonomous school board that is under government control and conducts certificate examinations at the 10th and 12th standard levels. It a very popular board across the country. Schools with the CBSE boards offer a curriculum in Hindi and English.
- Offers standardised examinations throughout the country
- Convenient for parents with transferable jobs as the syllabus is the same throughout the country
- The cumulative syllabus which revises the previous year’s studies
- Sports is part of the curriculum: As of 2019, one sports lesson every day is compulsory (with choice of physical activity)
- CBSE students do better at engineering, and medical entrance exams as the same board create the entrance tests
- Widely recognised abroad, easier for students to apply overseas for the 11th std equivalent or under-graduation courses
- NCERT textbooks are only used, and these may not be updated regularly
- Too much focus on theoretical learning and memorising subjects
- The primary focus is on maths and science only and less on languages or arts
- Grading structure is letters based (A, B, etc.), and not marks based which may not go well with some parents
#2 State Boards
Every state within the country will have its own affiliated board of education. These schools are spread across the state and offer a specialised syllabus that is designed by the state board itself. Certificate examinations are conducted at the 10th and 12th standard levels. Each state board creates the curriculum, and it varies from state to state. Most students in India attend state board schools.
- Many schools have been set up in every state
- Admissions are easier than other boards, as there are more seats available
- Cheaper fees than other boards
- Can choose between schools in the state language or in English medium
- It is compulsory to learn the state language as a separate subject
- Easier to get into state-affiliated colleges, with other boards there is a process of transferring documents.
- The infrastructure may not be at par with private boards (although this varies from school to school)
- The tendency to encourage learning by rote (this also varies from school to school)
- Focus is mainly on written exams
- The syllabus may lack a practical approach and a global perspective.
- Quality of state board education varies from state to state, there is no consistency across India
#3 The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (ICSE/ ISC)
It is a private education board set up in 1956 to emulate the University of Cambridge system of education in India. This board offers a certificate examination at the 10th standard level, which is called ICSE, and at the 12th standard level, ISC.
- CISCE offers a vast, comprehensive syllabus with more subjects and exams than other boards
- Students who passed out of ICSE and ISC boards find state-affiliated graduate college curriculum easy to study
- Huge emphasis on English, both spoken and written
- The same syllabus is found across all schools in India
- Board examinations are theoretical as well as practical
- Equal focus on art, science, and language, as compared to other boards
- Some students can find the extensive syllabus quite taxing
- Rote learning isn’t necessary, but some schools encourage it to for high grades due to the vast, comprehensive coursework
- Admissions can be tough, as seats are limited, especially among the higher-ranked ICSE schools
- There is a high emphasis on competition among students, which can get aggressive
- Long, essay-style exam paper pattern in the higher standards
#4 International boards (IB/IGCSE)
International schools have mushroomed across the country in the past few years, and the boards are fast gaining popularity. Most schools have IGCSE (Cambridge board) till the 10th, following which the IB (International Baccalaureate) is introduced at the 11th and 12th levels, not before that.
- High emphasis on practical understanding and holistic learning
- Explores trans-disciplinary themes, where a concept is taught across subjects*
- Strong focus on sports and arts as part of the curriculum
- No textbooks or exams till grade 5
- Independent thought is encouraged
- Fewer students in each class, so the child gets more of the teacher’s attention
- Classrooms are structured differently, kids face each other and work in groups while the teacher moves around the class
- A child gets a global perspective, a strong emphasis on learning about the world and his role in it
Note: * e.g., the concept of the rainwater cycle will be covered in different ways across multiple subjects like language, art, science, physical training, and maths
- Most expensive of all the boards
- The child will be used in a different manner of learning and may find the transition to other school boards or colleges tough to manage at first
- Fewer seats available for admission so tough to get in
When it comes to choosing a school board, there is no right or wrong board. All boards offer a quality education. But you may prefer one board over the other if it matches your ideology and suits your child’s personality.