Choice Of Curriculum

In ancient times, India had the Gurukula system of education in which anyone who wished to study went to a teacher's (Guru) house and requested to be taught. If accepted as a student by the guru, he would then stay at the guru's place and help in all activities at home. This not only created a strong tie between the teacher and the student, but also taught the student everything about running a house. The guru taught everything the child wanted to learn, from Sanskrit to the holy scriptures and from Mathematics to Metaphysics. The student stayed as long as she wished or until the guru felt that he had taught everything he could teach. All learning was closely linked to nature and to life, and not confined to memorizing some information.

The modern school system was brought to India, including the English language, originally by Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay in the 1830s. The curriculum was confined to “modern” subjects such as science and mathematics, and subjects like metaphysics and philosophy were considered unnecessary. Teaching was confined to classrooms and the link with nature was broken, as also the close relationship between the teacher and the student.

The Fabindia School in Rajasthan
The central and most state boards uniformly follow the "10+2+3" pattern of education. In this pattern, study of 12 years is done in schools or in colleges, and then 3 years of undergraduate education for a bachelor's degree. The first 10 years is further subdivided into 5 years of primary education, 3 years of upper primary, followed by 2 years of high school. 

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is the apex body for curriculum related matters for school education in India. The NCERT provides support and technical assistance to a number of schools in India and oversees many aspects of enforcement of education policies. Other curriculum bodies governing school education system are:
  • The state government boards, in which the majority of Indian children are enrolled.
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). CBSE conducts two examinations, namely, the All India Secondary School Examination, AISSE (Class/Grade 10) and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination, AISSCE (Class/Grade 12).
  • The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). CISCE conducts three examinations, namely, the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE - Class/ Grade 10); The Indian School Certificate (ISC - Class/ Grade 12) and the Certificate in Vocational Education (CVE - Class/Grade 12).
  • The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) conducts two examinations, namely, Secondary Examination and Senior Secondary Examination (All India) and also some courses in Vocational Education.
  • International schools affiliated to the International Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International Examinations.
  • Islamic Madrasah schools, whose boards are controlled by local state governments, or autonomous, or affiliated with Darul Uloom Deoband.
  • Autonomous schools like Woodstock School, The Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education Puducherry, Auroville, Patha Bhavan and Ananda Marga Gurukula.
In addition, NUEPA (National University of Educational Planning and Administration) and NCTE (National Council for Teacher Education) are responsible for the management of the education system and teacher accreditation.
School Boards Compete for Better Academics
Several city schools are switching from Secondary School Certificate (SSC) to Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), to International Baccalaureate Programme and/or the Cambridge International Examinations, citing “excessive meddling” by the state’s education department as the reason. Meanwhile, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is offering new subjects and courses for its students and also promising ‘no bag and no homework’ to primary students. ICSE, too, has been making similar announcements over the last few years. As reported by TNN (Times News Network), would like to share some observations and views of heads of schools.

Most academicians believe the SSC board syllabus is ‘textbook oriented,’ while ICSE has a “wider outlook for all-round development of students,” Nandita Jhaveri, Vice-Principal of New Era High School says the ICSE curriculum has more practical application than both, CBSE and SSC. Educationist Kavita Anand adds schools affiliated to ICSE have the liberty to choose from the large variety of books and authors available in the market for their students, whereas CBSE and SSC schools have to stick to books issued by the board. Some years back the Times of India carried this news and the TTN news service caught up with educationist all over the country to solicit their views.

Quality / Relevance of text books:
SSC text books have remained unchanged over several years, whereas ICSE books are more relevant to contemporary times, say school principals. CBSE updates text books every year as part of its ‘frontline curriculum,’ : 10 per cent of irrelevant or outdated material is replaced with more pertinent matter, says Vrinda Malse, Principal Naval Public School.

Exams and evaluation:
“In ICSE, students are evaluated in a variety of ways across the year. For instance, 20 marks are allotted for project work,” says Jhaveri. SSC still encourages rote learning and the test papers are essentially based on textbooks. Thus, qualitative evaluation of children as done by ICSE and to some extent by CBSE, is not possible with SSC, says Ramakant Pandey, Principal of Bansidhar Agarwal School. ICSE also scores on popularity charts among educationists, as it encourages students to do research and “get into the habit of finding out and not just learning”.

Extra Curricular Activities:
CBSE has a well-networked state and national-level sports activity set, according to Malse. While SSC schools can not recruit teachers for such activities, ICSE gives a free hand to schools to recruit trained teachers.

School Affiliation
CBSECentral Board of Secondary Education
SSCState Secondary Board
CISCECouncil for Indian School Certificate Examination
IBInternational Baccalaureate
IGCSEInternational General Certificate Examination, U.K.
(X)Class 10
(XII)Class 12
(A)A Level, equivalent to Class 12
A comparative study of CISCE and CBSE 
MediumEnglishEnglish or Hindi
Pass Mark35% in ICSE in each subject.
40% in ISC in each subject
33% in each subject
BooksAllows schools to select textbooks except for languages and other resource materialDefines Scope of SyllabusNCERT books
CandidatesOnly Regular candidates are permitted to take the examination.  Private candidates not permitted.Regular and Private candidates permitted.
Course of StudyEducation aimed at enabling students to acquire comprehensive knowledge leading to enhance performance in competitive examinations.Examination based Curriculum
AssessmentHas an effective evaluation which adapts to external changes (Flexible)Has a traditional exam pattern (Rigid)
Please note: This is a very abbreviated and objective comparison. There are 16 subjects offered by the two boards. Parents, while selecting schools should be aware of the Board Examinations, their scope, limitations and their differences. Further information can be had from the respective offices.

The choice of a school curriculum, further adds to the agony of choosing a school by parents for their children. Beyond just plain simple economics and the way the Boards compete to market themselves, the parents and guardians are often influenced by peer pressure and by the fancy of the children themselves. At secondary level, the choice of a school probably looms large in a child’s mind too. He or she may have firm opinions, perhaps based on where friends are going. Discuss it together. Try to get your child thinking in terms of his or her own needs which may be quite different from someone else’s. Talk to your child’s teachers. They will have much to contribute and will be able to make certain recommendations. However, they cannot make the decision for your child. Begin by considering these simple questions:
  1. What are your child’s academic abilities?
  2. What is he or she interested in?
  3. What are the things he or she is particularly good at?
  4. What are the things he or she struggles with?
Schools for me are real temples, only when we look up to this great place with due regard and purity will we ever develop as a nation. Wish I could visit a school every day and be with children as they really make life more meaningful for all of us. As the best of our growing years are spent in a school, the choice of the school curriculum is even more important than the physical infrastructure and the geographic affinity. We pay for the services and the facilities, the schools curriculum are standard and duly prescribed. The learning environment thus matters even more, the schools that work to deliver the curriculum with a 'child first' philosophy are more successful and capture the imagination of many parents.

Often parents are confused between CBSE and ICSE. Which board to choose? What are the differences between the CBSE and ICSE? Which board will be better for the development of the student? These and lot many questions are there to haunt us parents. You will find here the most comprehensive set of answers to these questions.

1. Spread or Prevalence:
CBSE board is more popular of the two (CBSE vs ICSE (CISE)) by a huge margin. It is followed in 9000+ schools in India and abroad. Thereby making it easier to find schools when you move to a new place

2. Schools outside India:
Well, here CBSE takes the cake over ICSE (CISCE). CBSE schools, titled CBSE Videsh can be found in Middle east, South Africa and even in some European countries. So you can move countries without significant disruption of education for your kid.

3. Recognition by colleges in India:
Both the boards, i.e. CBSE and CISCE (ICSE) are recognized by most universities and colleges across India. So marks for class-12th will be recognized. Phew! That is one less thing to worry about. However, some colleges have started the process of “calibration” of marks. This means they put an adjustment factor for marks obtained in one board to make it comparable to the other. This “calibration” factor often varies from year to year and usually favours the board from which most number of applicants arrive, which in this case is the CBSE

4. Course content:
Both CBSE and ICSE (CISCE) have slightly different focus in terms of course content. CBSE content is very Science and Maths focused with lots of attention paid to application of knowledge. CISCE (ICSE) on the other hand is more balanced with equal focus on language, arts and science. This one is a personal preference. While I would want a more balanced curriculum for my child, it is up to you on what you prefer.

5. Teaching methodology:
Both CBSE and ICSE (CISCE) prescribe a certain teaching approach and both have underwent significant change over the past 10 year. Generally the focus has increased on learning through experience and experimentation rather than through one-way teaching. This is for the better! Ultimately the quality of instruction depends upon the school and less on the board. There is not much to choose here.

6. Freedom and flexibility:
CISCE (ICSE) takes the cake here over CBSE. There are a lot more subjects to choose from in class-12. Also, there is an option to take vocational course based on interest rather than pure academic courses for class-12. CBSE has been improving over the years in terms of combination of subjects etc offered but still ICSE has a lead.

The focus should be on effective learning which happens if the learning is ACTIVE and if it is ENJOYABLE for the student. Active learning i.e. learning by doing (vs passive listing or watching) helps a child retain up to 45 times more. Further, if they enjoy the learning process or outcome, then their interest and understanding increases manifold. Schools and teachers have to make special efforts to achieve these twin objectives of learning - Active & Enjoyable!

"Young people are looking for clear leadership at national and international level from the adults in society, but see a woeful lack of intelligent, decisive and ethical leadership in practice. We should teach boys and girls the theoretical foundations of in fluential leadership, and how to make the calculated and informed decisions that are required to make a positive difference in the world," said Peter McLaughlin, Headmaster, The Doon School. This is what most of the established curriculum have not been able to achieve. The curriculum needs to be supplemented with experiential and even experimental learning at all levels, education is to be filled with dynamism that helps us meet the aspirations of the young people.

Today we have schools that follow international curriculum and market themselves as offering quality education at a premium price. What is most important here is the teachers they employ, the choice of the board / curriculum does not necessarily make a school better or even good as per the expensive marketing campaigns, what matters most is the quality of teachers and the training they have in rolling out the boards/ curriculum. Ensure you have the best mentoring for your child and the choice of the curriculum though still limited will not be the key differentiator. Please list your priorities and make learning most enjoyable of the child.

The author of the article Sandeep Dutt takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on for comments if any.
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4. School Boards Compete For Better Academics - Times Of India

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