Sometimes having too many choices available makes the decision all the more difficult. No matter how much research we put in to decide, we always end up with only a near perfect feeling.

With the beginning of admissions’ season across cities in India, parents face dilemma as which board would fit best for their young ones. If I were to take few examples of the most successful people from India, namely Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Chetan Bhagat, Kiran Majumdar Shaw and the likes. Do we know what boards did they study from? I guess no, then the most important question is that, is it actually so important to ponder on the choice of boards?Well, I guess, we are back to where we started, choices spoil us and confuse us. While we look at the various boards, it’s important that we keep an open mind towards all of them and not with a pre-conceived conclusion.Indian schools offer both Indian and International Syllabi namely:

1. CBSE: Central Board of Secondary Education

2. CISCE: Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)

3. IB: International Baccalaureate4. IGCSE: International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Cambridge University

In this article, I will like to draw out some key highlights and differences amongst each of these boards in the simplest manner for ease of understanding.

Let’s begin by comparing the two Indian boards. 

Till class X, ICSE wins hands down compared to CBSE. The rigorous ICSE syllabus makes the students meticulous. The strong emphasis on English language, grammar, vocabulary, and conversation skills helps in enhancing ones personality. Also, the ICSE syllabus has greater number of subjects than CBSE syllabus. ICSE has around 10-14 subjects, all being 100 marks, which makes it more comprehensive and rigorous.

For Class XI and XII, If you are not opting for Science stream, then I think the above mentioned logic stays valid, as there is negligible difference in the course structure of Commerce and Arts streams, and English remains the forte of ICSE and ISC board. Students who are interested in careers in the lines of management and humanities will find the curriculum followed under ICSE to be more interesting and challenging. Due to the emphasis laid on English in ICSE, students from this board may hold a slight edge over other students in exams like TOEFL.For those, who are opting for Science, the general perception is that CBSE syllabus helps in clearing competitive examinations. But the point to be noted is that the syllabus for both the boards is 99% same. There are some extra topics in Mathematics and Physics, which can easily be covered during your JEE and PMT preparations.The CBSE syllabus is easier when compared to that of other boards, mainly due to fewer subjects and a more compact structure. Secondary subjects like Environmental Education are not compulsory under the CBSE syllabus. The subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology fall under the general umbrella of Science, and History, Geography and Civics fall under the spectrum of Social Sciences.I personally feel, ISC is more practical in its approach and CBSE syllabus are approached in a theoretical manner, and true emphasis is not laid on real-life concepts behind the science.

Now coming to the more crucial and confusing choicesthe International Boards;

IB Board: The IB is managed by an independent cross-countries entity based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is an internationally accepted board which offers three programmes:

i. PYP: The Primary Years Programme (Kindergarten to Class 5). 

ii. MYP: The Middle Years Programme (Class 6 to Class 10). 

iii. DP: The Diploma Programme (Class 11 to Class 12).

As per my opinion completing IB diploma is very challenging academically as the amount of work is more. IB is well suited for the highly motivated students. The IB Diploma students have to choose one subject from each of 5 groups (best language, second language(s), social sciences, experimental sciences and mathematics). Besides, they have to choose an arts subject from group 6 or a second subject from groups 1-5. IB requires extended essay in 4000 words, TOK (Theory Of Knowledge), 150 hrs of CAS (Creative Action and Service) apart from the comprehensive tests and project work, 1500 – 2500 word research report, fieldwork report, paper presentation for all the subjects. Unless one is motivated and focussed, it will be very difficult to complete IB.

IGCSE Board: It is the most famously recognized International curriculum for Class 9 and 10. It is equivalent to the class 10 examination of CBSE or ICSE, followed by A level for class 12. Although a person qualified from IGCSE is eligible to sit in any other board for higher education (like the class 12-CBSE, ISC, IB Diploma, the Cambridge CIE-A Level or the Advanced Placement Diploma (US), it is known to act as a precursor to the IB curriculum. IGCSE is started by the University of Cambridge, with the purpose of preparing students for boards like the IB board.This board particularly is based on the concept of developing application skills in students. The assessment is not based on mere conventional examinations; they consists of a variety of assessment tools including oral and listening tests with an eight-point grading scale from A+ to G. Compared to the Core curriculum, the extended is more challenging.Though IGCSE and IB both share the same motive of making the students more open-minded and develop their leadership skills with application of real life situations. IB is slightly costlier than IGCSE. Also, it’s not as popular as IGCSE.

Till Class X, one can follow either of the programmes. But you have to decide whether to move to IB or CIE A level (for class 12) based on your child’s ability and also the school’s experience in providing these programmes. 

Acceptance: For university acceptance, the IB and IGCSE both are widely respected and accepted across all universities in India and abroad.

Some myth busters;
1. IB and IGCSE boards are only for students planning to study abroad: Totally untrue, all universities in India have accepted students from both these boards

2. International boards are much simpler and do not have the rigor: Untrue, the international boards do not focus on rote learning and hence the rigor is not on cramming and reproducing. Rather these boards focus on concept building and interdisciplinary learning.

For more information, keep looking at this space.