Two of the main educational boards in India that oversee secondary and higher secondary education are the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE). When you are choosing a school for your child, one of the many things that deserve your consideration is the board the school is affiliated to. After all, as the child grows up and gets geared up to take his school-leaving examination, the choice of the board will have a huge impact on his or her academic goals.

While Both CBSE and ICSE are distinguished boards, each has its own philosophy as well as rigor. It is best to undertake a SWOT analysis of each board and see which works best for your individual requirement. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, as every student has different goals and aspirations, making an informed choice can go a long way.

We have distinguished between ICSE and CBSE based on several variables in the article below. It is entirely up to the student’s preferences which board they use to prepare for their exams. There are two distinct approaches to educational practice, learning objectives, and other aspects of both boards. There are differences in the syllabuses for both boards. Please read this article before registering the child with any of the boards.

Overview of CBSE Board

Full-Form:- Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)

Central Board of Secondary Education, or what is popularly referred to as CBSE, is one of the distinguished boards that has its presence both in India and in countries overseas. The board’s primary focus is on the all-round development of children. The board is known for its structured approach and a good mix of theoretical and practical learning.

The CBSE Curriculum is developed by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). The standardized curriculum works extremely well for students studying across the country and allows for hassle free migration. A big advantage of the CBSE curriculum is that its foundational learning comes in very handy to students who prepare for competitive exams such as JEE or NEET after the school leaving exam.

It is a testament to the fact that the board wishes to create students who are able to navigate life with ease that its curriculum, among other things, also lays emphasis on Life Skills.

Overview of ICSE Examinations

Full Form:- Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)

Indian Certificate of Secondary Education or ICSE is an examination conducted by CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations). While the ICSE exams are conducted for grade 10, the grade 11 and 12 curriculum is regulated through the ISC examination.

ICSE syllabus is known for its focus on application based learning and project work. One defining factor of the ICSE curriculum is also its strong focus on English as a language.

ICSE allows for flexibility in subjects. In grade 10, for instance, a student has to choose seven subjects. This choice needs to be made among three groups. From the seven subjects, four are compulsory, and three must be of choice.

The board follows a continuous and comprehensive evaluation approach.

Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)

Differences between CBSE and ICSE

Let us look at some key differences between CBSE and ICSE Boards across some crucial parameters.

Network of Schools

The one big plus point in favor of CBSE is the large network of schools affiliated with the board. On one count the number of schools affiliated to CBSE board in India alone stood at 27000 while the corresponding number for ICSE stood at 2300. For students who are migrating from one part of the country to another, or even internationally, therefore, it is far easier to find a CBSE affiliated school. Additionally, its standardized curriculum makes transitions easy.

Syllabus & Focus

If one were to look at it broadly, CBSE has a greater focus towards science and mathematics while ICSE has a stronger focus towards English and the arts. As a result, students wishing to pursue competitive exams such as JEE & NEET have an advantage if they have been studying the CBSE syllabus.

Examination and Evaluation

CBSE Board believes in a continuous evaluation system. The exams are a mix of objective and subjective questions. There has also been a recent shift towards competency-based questions that take away from rote learning. Overall, the questions are a good mix of theory and application-based questions.

ICSE examination for class 10 and the ISC examination for class 12 are known for their comprehensive and rigorous nature. They test the child’s in-depth understanding as well as the ability to express themselves clearly. The evaluation criteria is stringent and lays emphasis on understanding and expression.

Medium of Instruction

The medium of instruction at CBSE Schools is English and Hindi, whereas at ICSE schools, it is only English.

Preparation for competitive exams

As mentioned earlier, students studying under the CBSE board have an advantage when preparing for competitive exams particularly under the Science stream than their ICSE counterparts. ICSE students would need to put in extra effort to cover those portions of the curriculum that are not included in their syllabus.

Grading System

The CBSE grading system largely works as below:

GradeGrade PointMarks Range
A11091 to 100
A2981 to 90
B1871 to 80
B2761 to 70
C1651 to 60
C2541 to 50
D433 to 40
E1 & E2021 to 32

The ICSE grading system, on the other hand works as below:

1 and 2Very Good
3, 4 and 5Pass with Credit
6 and 7Pass
8 and 9Fail

Overall, if one was to sum up the advantages and disadvantages of both boards, they would be as under:

Advantages of CBSE Board

  • It is a widely recognized board with both national and international presence.
  • Makes migration that much easier.
  • It is known for its strong syllabus that particularly helps students with competitive exams.
  • It allows students to choose subjects and thereby explore interests.
  • Overall, the fee is less than that of ICSE schools.

Disadvantages of CBSE Board

  • It has less focus on languages as compared to ICSE board.
  • It has a greater focus on Science and Mathematics as compared to arts.

Advantages of ICSE Board

  • Offers a comprehensive curriculum that is known for its rigor.
  • It is known for its focus on English and the arts.
  • Encourages analytical thinking.
  • It offers a wide range of subject choices with flexibility for students in making a choice.

Disadvantages of ICSE Board

  • Its network of schools is far less as compared to CBSE.
  • It isn’t known for its focus on competitive exams.
  • It is known for its tough grading.
  • Typically, its fee is far more than CBSE schools.

Which board is better-CBSE or ICSE?

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Both boards are known for their high standards of academic excellence, their recognition across the country and the fact that students of both boards are eligible to sit in competitive exams. Even if the child is planning to pursue higher studies abroad, the boards are well recognized internationally.

The choice of the board clearly needs to be made, keeping the individual goals in mind. Some of the areas to consider in making the choice of board include:

  • Academic Goals.
  • The potential need for migration.
  • Budget, and more.

With careful consideration and planning, parents will be better equipped to make the right decision that works for their ward.

At Pragyanam, a preferred school in Gurgaon, we are affiliated to the CBSE board. A lot of emphasis is given to the holistic development of students at the school. A key differentiating factor of the school is also its life skills-based curriculum, which teaches students essential skills such as critical thinking, coping with stress, coping with emotions, and more, as laid down by the WHO. Our students, therefore are well-equipped to handle the ups and downs of life far better and are well adjusted citizens of society. It is of little surprise then that Pragyanam is a preferred school when it comes to school admission.

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May 2024