CBSE vs ICSE: A Debate Rages

Lucknow: CBSE and ICSE are considered among the top board exams in the country for class 10 students. Both are highly appreciated and recognized domestically and internationally. That being said, there are many differences between both the exams, and these differences play a vital role in helping students make the right choice while preparing for their 12th board exams and college admissions thereafter.

ICSE stands for Indian Certificate of Secondary Education. It was created to provide an examination in the general education curriculum in line with the requirements of the New Education Policy of 1986 for English medium schools.

CBSE stands for Central Board of Secondary Education. It is a national level Indian education board for private and public schools regulated and operated by the Union Government of India.

ICSE is not a board; Rather it is an examination conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), a national level board for school education in India. They conduct two examinations in India – Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) and Indian School Certificate Examination (ISCE) for classes 10 and 12 respectively. The board was established in 1958. More than 2,300 schools in India and abroad are affiliated with CISCE. This board, being privately organized, is recognized as a ‘Non-Government Board of School Education’.

The Central Board of Secondary Education or CBSE is a national level education board for private and public schools in India. It is managed and controlled by the Government of India. The board gives affiliation to about 26,054 schools in India and 240 schools abroad. CBSE is one of the most popular education boards in India and CBSE affiliated schools strictly follow the NCERT curriculum.

Advantages of CBSE:

Popular competitive exams like JEE and NEET are based on CBSE board syllabus and follow NCERT text books. CBSE board syllabus is considered much easier than ICSE syllabus. The CBSE curriculum has a more concise structure and fewer subjects.

Secondary subjects are not compulsory in CBSE board. Subjects like chemistry, physics and biology are classified under science while subjects like history, civics and geography are integrated under social science.

There are almost 10 times more CBSE schools than ICSE schools. Therefore, if students have to move from one city to another, CBSE provides them with more options. CBSE curriculum focuses more on subjects like mathematics and science.

 Disadvantages of CBSE:

CBSE promotes practical subjects but practical knowledge is not given focus. Unlike ICSE, English language has not been the primary focus of the CBSE board.

Most of the subjects in CBSE are handled in a theory-based manner and relatively less importance is given to real-life concepts.

Despite being application-based, the CBSE curriculum places less emphasis on in-depth understanding.

Benefits of ICSE:

The curriculum adopted by ICSE is broad and exhaustive and covers all areas with equal importance.

Students who want to pursue a career in the field of humanities and management will find the curriculum adopted by ICSE more challenging and interesting at the same time.

The certification given by the Indian Board of Secondary Education (ICSE Board) is recognized worldwide, especially by schools and universities abroad, unlike CBSE.

ICSE puts a lot of emphasis on English, as a result of which students from this board get a slight edge over other students from other boards while taking exams like TOEFL and IELTS.

ICSE students do well in scholarship exams. They demonstrate academic excellence which is based in English and is in line with world education standards. Under ICSE, students perform well in literature and language-based careers.

Internal assessments are at the core of the child development policy of ICSE. And hence the practical exam results are given importance in the overall marks of the student. Students also have immense flexibility in terms of selection of specific subjects.

Disadvantages of ICSE:

ICSE subjects are broader than the lower classes themselves, and hence students may find the subjects difficult and burdensome.

Even though the curriculum is comprehensive, which can be useful for higher education, ICSE assessment or testing is much more stringent which may affect the overall marks.

Nature of the syllabus – CBSE board syllabus is designed for students preparing for major competitive examinations like JEE or NEET. The CBSE curriculum is strong in providing theoretical knowledge whereas the ICSE curriculum provides a strong foundation of practical knowledge.

Level of Difficulty – Most of the students, who have tasted both the boards, would argue that the CBSE syllabus is simple, well structured, concise and precise. ICSE, on the other hand, covers all the subjects in depth and follows a very practical approach to learning while giving high importance to internal assessment. And hence it is very difficult for the students.

English Language Skills – CBSE has no specific preference for English language while ICSE requires more English language skills.

Competitive exam performance – Students under ICSE have a very strong foundation in the English language and hence they are generally more competitive in language-based competitive exams and foreign tests like TOEFL, IELTS and SAT. Whereas CBSE students are more competitive in exams like JEE and NEET.

Board Recognition – Marks obtained in CBSE Board are widely accepted in almost all universities in India and abroad. But foreign schools and universities give more priority to ICSE certification.

Level of explanation – ICSE syllabus is known for more extensive subject explanations which is beneficial for some students but disadvantageous for others. The CBSE syllabus on the other hand is generally more precise and accurate.

Transferability – Transferability is the ease with which students under a particular board can transfer to another school of their choice, if they need to move in the middle of their education. The greater the number of schools affiliated with a particular board, the easier it will be to get a transfer. Since CBSE has more than 26,000 affiliated schools in India, while ICSE has around 2400 schools, it will be very easy for CBSE students to get a transfer. CBSE schools are found in virtually every corner of the country making it easy for these students to find schools affiliated with the board.

Grading System – CBSE follows the alphabet-based grading system. Whereas ICSE uses a marks-based system represented in the form of marks. The numbers give students a better idea of how much they have scored.

Regular vs Private candidates – Students who have not enrolled under CBSE-affiliated schools or non-regular candidates can appear for the examinations conducted by the CBSE board. But to appear for the ICSE examination, an ICSE student has to be enrolled in an ICSE affiliated school.

Medium of instructions – CBSE gives instructions in English and Hindi, but ICSE follows English only.

English Language Skills – ICSE students are known to have a high level of English language proficiency. Compared to ICSE, CBSE students generally have moderate level of skills in dealing with the English language.


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