Comparing School Boards – CBSE, ICSE, IB and IGCSE

Battle of the boards

CBSE vs ICSE vs IB vs IGCSE  – which school board is the best for my child?

As the toddlers start taking more confident steps towards learning and finding their way in the world outside preschools, most of us parents worry about choosing the right school for them. However, the decision to pick the best school is also dependent on a major factor – the educational boards.  The wide array of options to available- CBSE, ICSE, Cambridge, and IB; makes choosing a board overwhelming for the parents.

The choice of the board makes a significant difference in the early development of the child and his/her exposure to the kind of education system that we have. In the Indian education system, two of the most recognized boards of education that one gets to opt for are CBSE and ICSE. However, IB and IGCSE are gaining popularity in many schools, especially in the bigger cities. The methodology and approach taken by each board plays a vital role in building up one’s career goals and achievements. So, how do you know which board is best suited for your child?

Battle of the boards

Here is a broad analysis of the boards that we have examined based on their functionalities, offering abilities and other standards. These have been compiled from various sources on the internet and presented to you in an easy to read form.


  • One the most preferred boards in India, it follows the national curriculum along with additional subject matter. The board conducts two examinations — the All India Secondary School Examination, AISSE (Class X) and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination, AISSCE (Class XII).
  • It is recognized by the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) and is also followed in Kendriya Vidyalayas that are run by the Central Government for its employees in transferable jobs.
  • The CBSE syllabus is very structured, highly predictable and controlled. All national entrance examinations are conducted as per this syllabus.
  • CBSE approves both English and Hindi language as the medium of instruction.
  • A large number of schools all over India are affiliated with CBSE. It allows both regular candidates, who study in CBSE schools, as well as private candidates from non-affiliated schools to appear in the exams.
  • CBSE is recognized by the Indian government and has a better footing in the subcontinent than the other boards.
  • It is more traditional in its approach, giving more emphasis on the assimilation of knowledge, especially in the fields of Maths and Sciences. Its curriculum focuses on preparing students for Engineering and Medical entrance examinations, and does not emphasize too much on Languages through its syllabus is good enough for students to develop a strong understanding and good communication skills in English. There is also not a lot of focus on extra-curricular activities, and students are encouraged to concentrate on their studies and examinations.
  • It presents the students with pre-set combinations of subjects, grouped according to different ‘streams’. The subject combinations are thus narrow and pertain to only a particular field, such as Science, Commerce or Humanities. The CBSE syllabus is easier when compared to that of other boards, mainly due to fewer subjects and a more compact structure. Secondary subjects like Environmental Education are not compulsory under the CBSE syllabus. The concepts are also taught less in-depth, with more focus on the application of knowledge.
  • The CBSE evaluates students on the basis of their ability to memorize and recall concepts and learning.
  • Students aiming at pursuing a career in Engineering or Medical should prefer this board, as the syllabi and pattern of Indian entrance examinations in these two domains are aligned to the CBSE curriculum.
  • CBSE schools are also cheaper than the other three boards, thus someone looking for a quality education that doesn’t break the bank, CBSE is the way to go.

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  • ICSE is conducted by CISCE or the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. It is similar to AISSE conducted by CBSE. An offshoot of the Cambridge IGCSE that existed during the British regime was taken over by the Anglo Indian Board and is now governed by the ‘Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations’. ICSE has taken in a lot of structures from the NCERT. At Grade 10, it is as of now is the toughest board examination. ISC (Class XII) is equally difficult to crack owing to its extremely detailed syllabus.
  • ICSE offers only English as the medium of instruction.
  • ICSE does not allow a candidate who has not been studying in an ICSE affiliated school to appear for the exams.
  • Although ICSE is not recognized by the Indian government, the certificates provided are globally valid. CISCE is now recognized by many foreign education systems as equivalent to senior examination or high school. They are recognized by colleges/universities in India.
  • ICSE is more expansive in its approach, and gives equal weightage to all the fields – Humanities, Sciences, Mathematics, and Languages. Their approach emphasizes the importance of all-round development, rather than just a focus on knowledge-gathering and examinations.
  • It follows the same pattern of streams as CBSE but adds more volume and intensity to the subjects. In addition, there are two additional subjects which are compulsory for all students- English and Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW).
  • The CICSE curriculum is designed in such a way that students develop thorough knowledge about various concepts and topics, both at content and application level. Practical and lab work is given a lot of importance which in turn helps students develop excellent analytical skills. CICSE students are expected to study subjects by reading and collecting lots of information on the topics taught in class, analyze the collected information and learn from them, develop the ability to visualize, solve and speak coherently about complex problems.
  • ICSE board has a lot of combinations to offer to students- such as computer science, environmental science and even interior design in a lot of schools.
  • This can be a board of choice for students aiming at pursuing careers in the fields of Humanities and Management, as the CISCE syllabus is more oriented toward these streams and helps in the development of excellent language skills. Students looking for overall grooming and development should also prefer this board over CBSE.


  • The IB curriculum is even more arduous and demanding than the other two Indian boards, as the students are assessed all year round, on a variety of criteria. Quizzes, essays, portfolios, and assignments are used to evaluate students, and there is a heavy focus on internal assessment, keeping the students on their feet throughout the year.
  • It offers in-depth knowledge and experience in subjects of the students’ chooice. The students are provided with 6 different subject groups, where they are required to choose one from each, thus providing a lot of flexibility. Additionally, there are three compulsory subjects that form the DP core: Creativity Action Service (CAS), Extended Essay (EE) and Theory Of Knowledge (TOK).
  • IB doesn’t delineate any fixed textbooks and offers students more flexibility in this regard by offering recommended readings. Emphasizes understanding, skill-development, knowledge and its application.
  • This board aids in the development of analytical, logical reasoning, language skills which can offer a slight advantage to students for exams such as the SAT and the GRE. Moreover, it is also advantageous in profile building, as there is a strong emphasis on extracurricular activities and social action, thus giving an edge to students for foreign universities. One can also go for this board if one seeks global skill-development, flexibility and an innovative approach to education.


  • The IGCSE Programme, administered by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), is firmly established and recognized worldwide. The IGCSE curriculum is designed to facilitate student centric learning. The varied subject choice helps in the holistic development of the child. The teachers work as facilitators so that students learn to take responsibility of their own learning. The idea of learning is to develop a mind which is analytical, creative and inquisitive.
  • The curriculum prepares  for higher-level courses such as the  AS and A level, International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, and the North American APT (Advanced Placement Test)
  • Has worldwide recognition and is equivalent to the Certificate of Secondary Education from Indian education boards, General Certificate of Secondary Education, and O Levels
  • The curriculum evolves and brings in local economies and cultures within a global context, hence ensuring that students gain a wider perspective while recognizing and valuing their own environment. They have also introduced a new subject as India Studies.
  • The curriculum develops a balance, inquisitive mind which makes the process of learning fun and interesting. It ensures a broad-based education, while encouraging a degree of choice.
  • In most subjects there is a choice between core and extended curricula, making IGCSE suitable for a wide range of abilities.
  • The students are offered a choice amongst 70 different subject options. There are no fixed groups or subject combinations, and students are free to choose any subjects of their liking. There are certain compulsory subjects such as Global Perspective, Research etc., and A-levels to be completed, depending on the type of diploma the student opts for.
  • It is considered a very tough and demanding curriculum (developed by the University of Cambridge). It emphasizes the development of the knowledge base of students rather than their marks. Assessments are designed such as to evaluate students’ oral and problem-solving skills too, in addition to the written examinations.
  • This board holds wide international recognition, and those graduating with this diploma hold a good footing when applying to international universities. Thus, students aiming to go abroad for education can consider this board. It is also widely accepted across Indian universities and aligns with the local dates for entrances and admissions, thus those wanting to study an international curriculum with wide acceptability can opt for it.

State Board:

  • Each state in India has its own education board for determining the standard of education and examinations for the schools in that state. It gives preference to the regional language, culture, state level topics and concepts of local relevance.
  • Mode of instruction followed in state board schools is usually regional languages and English.
  • Each state has its own grading system for schools.
  • State Boards rarely update their syllabus and curriculum.

Each state has its own state board, and the administrative authorities are over the educational ministry of that respective state. The educational structure, paper pattern and even the syllabus is not the same. It varies from one state to another. Because of differences at the base level, it is practically impossible to compare the results of two different state boards. It becomes difficult especially during admission to any centralized institution. Many times, their syllabus is not in line with the expected standards. But if a student wishes to pursue higher studies in the colleges of that particular state itself, then this proves to be a big advantage for him/her. It is mainly because of the fact that the students are already well-acquainted with the educational system of the state.


All these boards share an equal amount of pros and cons, and choosing the right board will entirely depend on the kind of future you envision for your children. The quality of education provided under these boards is excellent, so assess your children’s strengths and gauge the right board for them. But keep in mind that more than the board of education involved; the quality of education should be your primary concern. Also, schools should nurture student’s talents and give them the perfect environment to thrive in all areas, be it academics or extracurricular activities.

You should also consider other practical aspects such as distance from home, encouraging and kind staff, good friends, healthy environment and safety. This is why it is more crucial to choose a good school, irrespective of the board they follow. No matter how good a school or a board is, what really matters at the end of the day is your child’s happiness. If they are unhappy with their school, then it will be reflected in their academic performance. For this reason alone, it is important that students go to schools they enjoy studying in as opposed to putting them in boards that are considered to be the best.

We hope that you now have enough information to make an effective and informed decision for your child’s education. If you still have any doubts, drop us a mail at

Click here to see a list of Schools in Bangalore and Hyderabad

 NOTE: Information in this blog has been compiled from various sources on the internet




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