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Nov 9, 2010

CBSE or ICSE? Which is best for your child?

When it's time of admissions, it's always a tiring process deciding between CBSE and ICSE. I had been searching all websites for suitable answers and found out most of them to be similar. So I decided to put up what I found out from the web and from personal experience.I am not putting up IGCSE, since those looking for International Education are sure to be looking at it.

I had been through ICSE first, then CBSE, State Board, but I had no perception of syllabus then. Except I found State Board to be very easy to handle.

The web info and my takes on it:

CBSE is the Central Board of Secondary education, ICSE and ISC exams are conducted by CISCE (Council for Indian School Certificate Examination).ICSE exams are for 10th and ISC exams are for 12th.

Orientation (seen on websites): CBSE is more oriented towards Science and Maths, whereas ICSE is inclined towards literature.

Next point is, if the first point  is true then future engineering grads should do CBSE and MBA grads should look into ICSE.

Scoring: It's easier to score in CBSE than ICSE ( but I don't think this hold valid)When results are out, you can see top scorers of CBSE hovering around 90 to 95%, but ICSE toppers are hovering more than 95%.

Switchover(also from net): In higher classes, it is easier to switch over from ICSE to CBSE, but difficult to switch over from CBSE to ICSE.

Syllabus Structure: Note this point: CBSE has a syllabus structured from class 1 onwards. Whereas in CISCE syllabus has been framed only from Class 9 and 10 for ICSE and class 11 and 12 for ISC exams.

So schools opting for ICSE can follow any syllabus for other classes.

This gives schools freedom in choosing the curriculum. One negative point is, when parents have to change schools they may find discordination between syllabus of schools.Hence your child might or might not have learnt some concepts in one school.

Books: For CBSE, the council brings out NCERT books within prescribed format from class 1 onwards. Schools are free to use other text-books though.

For ICSE, schools can select their textbooks, only literature books are recommended by the council.

I have found that many ICSE schools are following books which have been written according to CBSE syllabus, so this becomes easier for them when they go to the next class, Example: Maths part 1 is for class 1, the same publisher will be having maths part-2 for class 2 and so on. So this becomes easier for ICSE schools.

Medium of study: CBSE schools have both Hindi and English medium schools. ICSE has only English medium schools.

Pass mark: CBSE: 33% in each subject.
CISCE: 35% in ICSE in each subject and 40% in ISC in each subject

Candidature: In CBSE both regular and private students can take up exams.(National Open schools also follow CBSE syllabus). In ICSE, only regular students are allowed.

Evaluation of syllabus: The NCERT has been regularly involved with the syllabus change over the years for CBSE. In the near future they want to establish a syllabus of international calibre like the IGCSE, so that it can be taken up worldwide.In the case of ICSE, the syllabus had not been updated regularly.

Subjects: In case of CBSE, subjects are less. Example: English, Second language, Science, Social, Maths

In the 10th Board exams, ICSE has seven papers: English, Social Studies (Geography, History and Civics), Second Language, Environmental Education, plus three optional papers; most students take Mathematics and Science (comprising Physics, Chemistry and Biology) as two of the electives with the third elective being could be Computer Science, or Economics, or Physical Education, etc; there are many options available.

Board exams: CBSE has done away with board exams for 10th. They are optional. In the case of ICSE, students have to sit for board exams.

Third language: In CBSE, third language starts only from 5th class onwards. In ICSE, since there is no stipulation, some schools start third language in first standard itself. This becomes another problem when searching for a school.

Split of subjects: Schools with CBSE have single paper exams, like English, Hindi etc. Whereas in ICSE, the subjects are split up like English paper-1, English paper-2. Maybe that's the reason why people tend to feel ICSE is more literature inclined.

So this means a student in CBSE will study 200 pages(let's say English) and will write an exam for 100 marks. But a student in ICSE will study 200 pages and write 2 exams for 100 marks each(English paper- Literature, English paper-Grammar).

So in my opinion, there is more scope for scoring marks in CBSE than in ICSE. Though the number of papers a student takes up increases in ICSE, he/she is examined thoroughly.

Environmental Science: In CBSE it's not a exam paper by itself, whereas in ICSE, it a board exam paper.

Change of syllabus: Many CBSE schools start with CBSE and tend to end with CBSE till 12th. But in most International Schools(not truly), they tend to have ICSE syllabus till 8th and IGCSE syllabus from 9th onwards. Its easy for students to gravitate towards their personal choice of subjects in IGCSE.

Important thing to note is since ICSE does not have a syllabus till 9th, these schools are not actually teaching the ICSE syllabus until they have 9th grade onwards.

Also students in ICSE or CBSE may change-over to State Board schools for higher classes for scoring more marks. But lots of things come into question there also.

I hope this has given some starting point for you to decide on the syllabus.You can decide which is best for your child. Each parent has his or her own set of opinions, so I feel the best syllabus to select is according to each individual's expectations.

Do send in your experiences and views.


  1. Piyush said...

    This, what you have shared is of great help... Thanks buddy

  2. Hi Piyush and Murthi
    Thanks for your inputs. Keep your comments coming in.

  3. There are many good schools in Bangalore and new ones emerging everyday, so it is impossible for everyone to know which one are good. But i find correct information about schools in Bangalore which gives contact information, map-based location of the school and much more

  4. if any body knows abt capitol school in jp nagar pls mail me at ukalva@yahoo.com. Please.........its very urgent and important to me

  5. Hi,

    Very informative! Thanks.

    We are returning to Bangalore after 5 academic years in US. Planning to join our kids in VII and V grades in CBSE. Wondering how kids can take "Special English" as II language instead of Hindi.

    Any inputs?


  6. Hi Uma,
    Schools offering "Special English" might be few or none. You might want to scout for one.

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for putting this info together! just what I looking for..! When you said ICSE has Social studies, does it mean CBSE does not have social studies? Even state board has social studies right?

  8. Hi Suchitra,
    All boards have Social Studies, but the difference is in ICSE you have to write Geography and History as separate exam papers. In CBSE you have a single paper.In ICSE Science is also split whereas CBSE has single papers.Language is split into first paper ,second paper. In CBSE it is a single paper.

  9. Thanks Rita for elaborating!

  10. The article is great and very useful. Thanks for sharing

  11. Very helpful article.

  12. Thanks a lot. This gives a great insight for someone who only knows state boards :). Thanks.

  13. Thanks for this article. Before reading this article I was selected bliendly ICSE. Now I confused which to select. Hopefully I will end up with good.
    Thanks Again.

  14. Great article i think ICSE syllabus is vast and in-depth as compared to CBSE syllabus. It focuses more on languages. Besides, technical subjects like Maths,though taught well, are less emphasized upon as against CBSE syllabus.
    school admission

  15. Thanks..It was good insight. I studied in ICSE and was always stressed with the projects and assignments that we were asked to do. My kid goes to CBSE school now, and guess its a little too early to comment, but I feel ICSE makes parents feel good that their children learn lots, while CBSE makes kids more comfortable ! So the deciding factor is who needs to be happier :-)

    1. Now can you tell me which out of ICSE and CBSE is best?

  16. Thanks... It has lot of information specially for people new to Bangalore.

  17. Thanks a lot for this blog ... Its a great help. I really appreciate ur work. Thank u so much.

  18. Thanks Maria for ur comments. These and other viewers comments have kept this blog going on.

  19. There are many top CBSE schools in Bangalore for the parents to take up admissions for their kids.

  20. I wish to join my kid for 1st std CBSE at kendriya vidyalay in bangalore. Wondering howmuch importance is given to sports in KV's. I am interested to put him in school where much importance is given to sports in bangalore.Let me know which schools give priority for sports.

  21. Thanks. Got to know lot of information. But now in a confusion which one to select. Since we both are working, we can not spend much time on our child home work, project etc. but we wanted to give a strong foundation in all the way.

  22. This is a valuable information and very clear. Thank you

  23. Thanks a lot for provinding essential information on ICSE schools and their syllabus.

  24. I Feel ICSE schools provide a wide vista of subjects and activities to choose from & hence, it provides children the perfect environment to nurture their skills & competencies which are different from one child to another.My nephews have been studying at Inventure Academy since 3 years and we can see great progress in them. Their performance has not just improved academically but also in activities. No wonder Inventure Academy is one of the best in the city

  25. Thanks for great info which is helpful to parents while choosing curriculum..My son is studying at Inventure Academy International School for the last 3 years and I'm extremely happy about my decision of choosing Inventure over other schools. One thing which really stands out at Inventure is that the environment is very friendly and nurturing. Students, faculty and the management are very comfortable with each other. The curriculum exposes a child to multitude of experiences, as opposed to being solely focused on book learning

  26. Thanka a lot about the information. I would like to know more about the IB curriculum. I came across this school - Sharanya Narayani International School and they are offering IB curriculum. I really like the school it has a very good campus and provision for sports and co curricular activity. But I would like to know more about the curriculum from parents who have sent their children to IB schools

  27. Karnataka govt is targeting specific school for their benefit. Karnataka govt is asking crores of rupees for approvals and clearance. There are playing with future of our children education and life.

  28. how about open school concept for children pursuing sports at a national level...do they offer icse/cbse


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