Difference Between CBSE and ICSE in 2021

There comes a time in every parents life when they have to decide for their kid’s education and what will be the most suited pattern of education for them and their kids.

The two most common and most available boards of education in India are CBSE and ICSE.

India has almost three times the number of schools than China, despite a similar population. Most of the schools follow the CBSE pattern which is also the largest board of education in India.

A close second is the Indian Council of Secondary Education (ICSE) by Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. 

ICSE initially began as an alternative to the American and the British systems but evolved into a comprehensive curriculum laying more emphasis on practice than theoretical knowledge.

CBSE is also a popular choice in about 25 countries have affiliated with the board of education including Malaysia, Japan, UAE, Singapore and Russia. 

But then which ones is more suitable? Lets start with the most basic question every parent asks.

What is the full form of CBSE and full form of ICSE?

Full form for CBSE : Central Board of Secondary Education

Full form for ICSE- Indian Certificate of Secondary Education

Now lets talk about the various differences between CBSE and ICSE boards.

ICSE vs CBSE : Syllabus Difference

This is where the first difference between CBSE and ICSE starts.

CBSE focuses more on traditional way of studies with emphasis on preparing kids for potential entrance exams. This leads to not giving much importance to extra curricular activities as well as sports due to the underlying ideology of focus on core subjects.

Competitive exams which are based on CBSE pattern are IIT JEE (Joint Entrance Examination), NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) gives more weightage to NCERT books which covers the CBSE Board syllabus.

ICSE on the other hand is much broader and is a good mixture of not only science and maths but also emphasis on humanities. There is also a good focus on Sports and extra curricular activities.

The approach is for broader grooming of students and offers several optional subjects as well.

Below are the mandatory subjects for class 10:

MathsHistory, Civics, Geography
Social ScienceSecond language or foreign language

CBSE vs ICSE : Teaching Methodology

CBSE is based on the NCERT study pattern and books, which makes it light to read and understand. The books have clear explanation and has more focus on maths and science.

The curriculum is a little oudated though but gives a good starting point for a student to begin.

ICSE on the other hand has very intensive content focused more on giving in depth knowledge to the child. The amount of content is more and equal attention is given to all subjects.

English is much advanced in ICSE as compared to CBSE and the focus is more on application based learning.

CBSE vs ICSE : Assessments

This is another point of difference between the two boards.

ICSE gives lot of importance to application based learning and the assessments are framed with focus on cognitive learning and broader sense of things. There is lot of lab based assessment as well to give practicality a vital ingredient. The scoring is done in numerical format.

It’s a known fact that CBSE is a lot about rote learning and memorization with less focus on higher mental abilities like critical thinking and creativity. 

Numeric MarksGradesGrade Points
91 – 100A110
81 – 90A29
71 – 80B18
61 – 70B27
51 – 60C16
41 – 50C25
33 – 40D4
21 – 30E13
CBSE VS ICSE – Grading system

Fixed learning takes precedence over understanding and knowledge. That’s the reason why CBSE is suggested for students interested in competitive exams. 

The grading system for CBSE is alphabetical-based where each grade denotes the marks scored.

ICSE vs CBSE : Higher Education

This question heavily weighs on parents decision to chose the board. As one board prepares you better for the upcoming entrance exams then the other.

From an entrance test perspective, as motioned earlier CBSE prepares the students better with more focused approach to the core subjects. The format of answering is also in line with the most of the entrance exams that students will pursue in coming years.

ICSE is more structured for overall student development and is not in line with competitive exams. However, Since the emphasis is laid on English in ICSE, students from this board do have a slight edge over other students in exams like TOEFL , GMAT or GRE.

Admissions in international colleges are again structured in a way which is more in line with CBSE. However, it should be noted that a dedicated preparation is still required to crack admission exams for premium universities and schools abroad and alone board does not determine anything.

ICSE vs CBSE : Complexity

Students in ICSE may end up feeling that the syllabus is too extensive and complex for their liking as an average student in an ICSE board will have to give thirteen subjects/examinations during the sixth grade, as compared to the six subjects that the student have in CBSE.

Under CBSE, the theoretical nature of the course makes it less complex and easy to cope with. There is lot of cramming involved due to this but n real cognitive challenges are dealt with to spark growth.

In spite of the syllabus being application oriented, it does not offer room for effective understanding.

ICSE vs CBSE : Performance

Noe lets compare the results of both CBSE and ICSE and how have they fared for the year 2019 , when things were normal and schools were regular.

The below table quickly summarizes the result which is excellent to say the least for both boards and ICSE taking a slight edge percentages.

ICSE vs CBSE : Performance

Other Aspects to Consider between CBSE and ICSE

Easy to shift from ICSE to CBSE:

Its easier for ICSE students to shift to CBSE because they are used to heavy syllabus and complexity as part of curriculum. However, for CBSE students the switch to ICSE is not easy as in addition to the sudden elaborate syllabus and subjects, the pattern to answer question is also different and takes some adjusting.

An ICSE students who recently finished her 6th standard exams would have written her final exams in 13 subjects – English, History + Civics, Environmental Sciences, Geography, Maths, Hindi, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Kannada and General Knowledge. On the other hand, a CBSE student from one of the common schools, who finished her 7th standard exams wrote six papers in total – English, Hindi, Sanskrit, Science, Social Studies and Maths.

A pattern commonly observed is to start with ICSE for first few years and then in the later years switch to CBSE to ease the load and focus more on the competitive style entrance exam framework for which CBSE is most suited. But individual choices vary based on the career each one wants.

Rat Race In Boards

It has been seen that boards promote unhealthy competition among students where various boards give more marks to students to overtake students of other boards. This also helps students to seek admission in good colleges and thus promote the boards good will and reputation.

In this race, some traditional state boards suffer as they do not award such high marks as CBSE and ICSE. In order to overcome this, some colleges resort to reserving seats for students passing from the state board of that state.

This reservation policy divides the country and the students from backward states which do not have good colleges, do not get admission in good colleges of other states.

Board Is Not Everything

Education is real sense is not dependent upon boards be it CBSE, ICSE or any other international board. The choice of school and its teaching staff and their interest in imparting education to kids is also a vital factor to consider.

As a parent consider other factors like a schools past performance, due diligence and interest taken by teachers towards driving students to perform well, additional measures taken to give better exposure to students and career guidance when the time comes. These aspects are equally important to consider in addition to the board.

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