India’s best schools: Choosing the right examination board
Updated on Oct 22, 2016 - 3:32 p.m. IST by Abhay Anand

Every year 12-13 lakhs students apply for JEE, 6-7 lakhs apply for MBBS and BDS programmes, roughly 15-20 lakhs apply for Humanities and other programmes across universities and nearly 3 lakhs go abroad for pursuing higher education. Nearly 85-90% students passing out of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools and Council of Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE), popularly known as ICSE schools, stay back in the country. A majority of students passing out of International Baccalaureate (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) go abroad for higher studies. A look at the data of aspirants getting into the IIT and NIT systems shows that 55-60% of these students are from CBSE.


Role of various boards  

CBSE and ICSE, the two national boards, share the maximum number of schools across India. CBSE has brought in various changes in its curriculum in the past decade and now it focuses more on application-based learning. In the CBSE curriculum, once a particular concept is taught, students are tested using various methods. This helps students learn how to apply the concepts in various contexts. The first choice of students coming out of CBSE schools is either Engineering or Medicine. Since it is the CBSE that conducts all-India entrance exams like JEE and NEET such students are well equipped to crack them.


Savita Arora, Principal of Delhi’s Bharti Public School says, “Most competitive examinations have syllabi that match the CBSE curriculum, whereas ICSE pays additional focus on English.”

“I would personally put CBSE at a higher pedestal as it follows a central curriculum and is more child-centric, besides being more focused on all-round development of the child. The Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation method takes all aspects of a child’s education into account and not academics alone. This brings out the qualities that are often hidden and children are graded on them,” she added.


Schools affiliated to ICSE Board focus equally on languages, art and science and there are more choices and freedom for students to decide the subjects.

Savita AroraSavita Arora


Bharti Public School, Delhi


Most competitive examinations have syllabi that match the CBSE curriculum, whereas ICSE pays additional focus on English. There are a lot of schools with IB as their curriculum, and this is especially helpful if you want your child to apply to foreign countries for his or her college education. However, IB schools are generally ‘international’ schools that usually leave a huge hole in the pocket of a normal middle class parent.

Some of the teachers also feel that CBSE students have an edge over others when it comes to taking the UPSC and other administrative service examinations. However, in entrance exams abroad like SAT and TOEFL, students from the ICSE syllabus are better placed than those from CBSE as they lay more emphasis on English language and literature.


International boards gain traction

International boards like IB and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) have gained prevalence in high-end schools in India. These boards focus on all-round development of students with an inquiring, caring and knowledgeable mind-set. Presently very few students stay back in India to complete their higher education as only a few colleges in the country accept these scores. Another issue is that by the time IB results are announced application process in most of the colleges get over and so a student has to wait for year to get into an Indian college.   


Wing Commander Kishenlal Ganesh (Retd), CEO of Jain International Residential School (JIRS), Bangalore says, “International curriculum like IG Cambridge-UK and IB are much advanced courses encouraging children’s creativity, exploration and research. CBSE is more knowledge-based and is excellent preparation for Indian Universities as all competition exams are based on CBSE syllabus.”


“In JIRS, 30 percent of students opt for engineering/medical/Biochemistry both in India and the US, UK and other parts of the world. At least 70 percent of students explore top universities in India and abroad for Business Management, Economics, Law and various other courses,” he added.


Howard Oldcorn, Principal, Hebron School, Ooty says, “Most of the parents want their children to go to international universities. So, following an international curriculum makes more sense for us. The choice depends very much on the academic performance and their interest.

Howard OldcornHoward Oldcorn

Hebron School, Ooty


Most of the parents want their children to go to international universities. The choice depends very much on the academic performance and their interest; we also have tutors who meet each student and advise them on what possible university or country they should go to.

State boards

A report published by the NCERT this year after a study conducted across 7,216 schools, affiliated to 33 state boards and two national boards found that the children studying in state boards are doing good in sciences and social science subjects but lagging in English and Math.

The state boards have some good schools that prepare children for state-level engineering and medical entrance tests. A large number of students from state boards also opt for higher education at state universities located nearby.


Way forward

The purpose of a board and its curriculum is to prepare an individual who is not only successful in career but also in life by providing him a holistic environment With changing time boards have adopted new techniques so that their children are better than others. A related issue is the quality of teaching and remuneration of teachers. In the US, school teachers are paid well and the system sees to it that they keep on upgrading themselves as they are the ones who shape future generations.   


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