CBSE vs ICSE – Education sytem in India

CBSC vs ICSE, education system in india

CBSE vs ICSE , which is better?

This is an oft-asked question. November – December is that time of the year when new admissions are registered and  forms handed out by schools to parents for admitting their wards to Kindergarten, pre-primary and primary levels.  Parents face a dilemma when it comes to choosing the proper school curriculum for their kids – CBSE, ICSE, IB, IGCSE or State Board syllabus. Selecting a particular school syllabus has an impact on academic future of your child. Also, you can check if admitting your ward to a school with a particular syllabus and then later changing the syllabus by admission to another school will have any problems. This article examines each of these school curricula in detail so that you can select what is right for your kid.

CBSE board

CBSE stands for Central Board of Secondary Education. It is a board for both private and public schools under the Central  Government of India. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) decides the curriculum. CBSE conducts  two  board examinations i.e.  the All India Secondary School Examination – Class 10 and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination -Class 12. CBSE pattern is more oriented towards Maths and Science and prepares the students for several national level competitive exams like IIT, CAT, IIM etc. in the future. CBSE schools offer several extra curricular activities. There are many CBSE schools, all over India. Some schools like Ryan International allow internal transfer of students in case of relocation to another city.

The age criteria for children being admitted to pre-primary , primary and secondary sections varies with different CBSE schools. For instance, APEEJAY, Nerul has made the minimum age for admissions to nursery class , to be 3 years and 6 months as on June 1st(Source:Apeejay, Nerul). And at Sister Nivedita school, Hyderabad the minimum age criteria for nursery is 2 years and 3 months as on June 1st. (Source:

Hindi is taught from Jr.Kg as against ICSE schools where pupils are taught Hindi from Std.I onwards. Multiplication tables are taught from Std.I in CBSE schools, whereas in ICSE schools, multiplication tables are taught from Std.II onwards. Again, it varies with different schools.

CBSE syllabus is focused and not very vast. It has a single English paper, science paper, and social studies paper. A student following the ICSE syllabus on the other hand  has to appear for two papers in English, three papers (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) in science,  and two papers for the social sciences (History and Geography).

It is said that CBSE syllabus is slightly tough right from the beginning i.e. from pre-primary onwards. The students get automatically groomed to solve tough problems. In ICSE schools, however, the syllabus is very easy in the initial pre-primary and primary years. The syllabus gets tough all of a sudden from std. VI onwards.

ICSE board

ICSE stands for Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. It is governed by the ICSE council established by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate. Two examinations i.e. one for  Std. X called ICSE(Indian Certificate for Secondary Education) and for Std. XII called the Indian School Certificate (ISC), are conducted by the council.

ICSE syllabus is vast and in-depth as compared to CBSE syllabus. It focuses more on languages. Besides, technical subjects like Maths,though taught well, are less emphasized upon as against CBSE syllabus. However, ICSE is recognized by several foreign universities. For instance, a student aiming for higher studies in UK can directly skip bridge courses and A-level tests, if he has  cleared the ISCE exam.

Students have to be four years and above for admission to Jr Kg. In std X, the student must be 16 years of age at the time of appearing for the ICSE examination. But again, different schools have set different age criteria.

SSC Board

SSC stands for Secondary School Certificate. This is a public examination conducted by the State Boards of different states in India. Learning the local language of the state is compulsory. This syllabus is not ideal for kids whose parents relocate often, on account of transfers. The content is limited and comparatively easier to the syllabus offered by other boards.  Additional coaching is required when these students have to appear for competitive examinations. State board schools have a lower fee structure as compared to other boards. However, the quality of education differs from school to school. Many state board schools have set an unparalleled standard in the field of education, for example – Holy Cross Convent School, Kalyan and Father Agnels, Vashi. More emphasis is laid on sports and extra curricular activities.

 IB Board

IB programme stands for  International Baccalaureate programme. This was founded by the International Baccalaureate Organization, IBO – an NGO based in Switzerland. The syllabus is on par with international standards, resulting in a more application based practical and interactive teaching methodology. It focuses on all round development of the child. This curriculum is suited for those who keep relocating to different parts of the world. The syllabus offers a variety of subjects. There is no stress for the students. No examinations are conducted till standard X. Kids can get admission to any IB school across different countries.


IGCSE stands for the International General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is a two year programme encompassing Std.IX and Std.X. Students from other boards can join the IGCSE programme in Std IX.IGCSE examination is conducted by Edexcel, UK and Cambridge International Examinations(CIE), UK. After passing IGCSE, a student is thoroughly prepared for any international pre-university programme,  Cambridge Pre-U, AS Level and A Level study, IB Diploma programme and other exams of similar nature. It is recognized by many institutions and employers across the globe. IGCSE guarantees an all round development of the child and offers a wide range of subjects to choose from. An application oriented teaching methodology is followed. IGCSE certificate is conferred for each subject paper a student attempts. Compulsory subjects include a First Language paper, Second Language paper, Maths and Science.  A student can opt for additional subjects like Creative Arts  and Social Sciences. Recently, many schools in India have started offering IGCSE curriculum.

Schools offering IB and IGCSE programmed are some of the most expensive schools around. The only problem with these  systems is when the child takes up further studies after Std.X, in India. Here, UG and PG programmes involve learning facts by rote. Of course there are projects and practicals, but the ability to memorize often rules the roost in Indian academics. Besides, not many teachers in India are trained for this kind of teaching methodology. Here students from CBSE boards have an added advantage since most of the entrance examinations conducted in India are based on CBSE syllabus. Also, IB and IGCSE schools are few and far between. In case of relocation to another city, the student may have a tough time getting admission to other boards.

All said and done, schools and boards do make a difference to a child’s future. But the rest depends on the student, his parents, surroundings and upbringing.  A person who is determined and intelligent can be educated in any situation, even under a street light.


Check out this link to find schools offering CBSE, ICSE, IB, IGCSE and SSC in India. This site offers a wonderful listing of schools filtered by the different boards of education.