CBSE vs ICSE vs IGCSE vs IB vs State Curriculum

Today, children have more choices in education in picking a curriculum. However it can be a little confusing as to which curriculum is right for your child, as there is no ‘one size fits all’. Picking a curriculum would depend on many factors :what aspirations you and your child have- If going abroad for college education is a goal; If you have a job that requires you to relocate constantly- locally or globally ; If your child has  more varied  interests like art and music, rather than simple basics; And of course the affordability factor. The following are some of the salient points of each curriculum.

1. CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Education)


  • Widely available schools under this curriculum
  • Standardized textbooks (NCERT textbooks)
  • The curriculum standard is in-line with most college entrance exams
  • Allows private candidates and those from non-affiliated schools to appear for the exams
  • Larger focus on maths and science and less on language
  • Favoured by those who constantly relocate within India and seek a standardized curriculum
  • Favoured by those who want to go into the traditional routes of Engineering/medical


  • Lesser number of subjects compared to ICSE
  • More theoretical approach
  • Focus is mainly on maths and science
  • You pick a stream, instead of individual subjects in 11th and 12th  such as Science, Commerce, Arts  etc

Click here for an in-depth understanding of CBSE

2. ICSE (Indian Certificate for Secondary Education)


  • Can follow any textbook of their choice
  • Does not permit candidates from a non-affiliated school to appear for the exam
  • Equal focus on Language, Art and Science
  • Offers a larger variety of subjects to choose from
  • Favoured by those who are interested in more applied knowledge rather than rote learning


  • Greater focus on practical learning than CBSE , but not as much as IB or IGCSE
  • Curriculum considered to be tougher and more vast than CBSE
  • More number of subjects compared to CBSE

3. IB (International Baccalaureate)


  • The international Baccalaureate curriculum is popular worldwide
  • It has 3 sections, the PYP (Primary years program- KG to 5th std), MYP (Middle years program –Std 6-10) and the DYP(Diploma years program, Std 11 and 12)
  • IB has no prescribed textbooks and a lot of freedom in learning
  • Focus of curriculum is on Analytical skills, language, arts and humanities
  • The focus is more on applied knowledge instead of rote learning
  • The DP core consists of Extended essay , creative/action/service  project and theory of knowledge
  • At the DYP Level, students can pick a subject each from 6 groups and the DP core
  • Usually favoured by those who want to send their children abroad for undergraduation or students of parents who will be relocating globally


  • A new entrant in the Indian educational scene
  • Not aligned to local entrance exam content
  • More expensive than CBSE and ICSE schools
  • Difficult to find private tutors for extra coaching
  • Private students cannot take the exams

A good night’s sleep is absolutely essential for your kid to perform well in any curriculum and here are a few bedtime books that will ensure that.

4. IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)


  • International curriculum for Class 9 and 10
  • It’s the precursor to the IB curriculum in many international schools for 11 and 12
  • Larger choice of subjects
  • Assessments include written and oral exams
  • Application oriented curriculum
  • There are core subjects which everyone has to pick and then 5 groups of subjects from which one has to be picked ( Maths group, Language group etc )
  • Ideal for students whose parents tend to relocate globally or students who plan to pursue undergraduation abroad.


  • Difficult to find private tutors who coach in this curriculum
  • More expensive than CBSE and ICSE schools



  • Unique to every state in India
  • Considered easier than all other boards
  • An inclusive curriculum that tries to accommodate all students of all capabilities
  • Easy to score high in the public exams
  • A student who has other interests like sports that take up a lot of time may choose this syllabus to keep the work load easy
  • Favoured by students who choose this curriculum for scoring high and simultaneously focusing on extra classes to appear for entrance exams like IIT JEE.


  • The syllabus might not be comprehensive enough when compared with other curriculum. This might prove a damper in entrance exams in the 12th standard.
  • Traditionally has been more of rote learning
  • State language is usually mandatory, though this varies from state to state

It has been said that the more choices humans have, the more unhappy they are 🙂  The latest in the list of dilemmas that parents have , is the choice of curriculum and school and very few are 100% satisfied with their choice. But all we need to do is take a look at the success stories around us. Whom do we consider most successful? The one who went to the fanciest school and scored the highest marks? Or the one who has the best overall attitude towards life – Something for all of us to ponder 🙂


Navina Anand is a blogger, fitness trainer and a yoga enthusiast. Born and raised in Chennai, she currently lives in Bangalore with her husband and two kids. Navina has an MBA in Finance from India and a Masters in Education from the US. She has worked for companies like Ford and Nestle India and has also taught high school in the US. Always up for new adventures, she believes that change is possible at any time and therefore is always constantly evaluating her parenting style and enjoys blogging about her parenting experiences on Zenparent.

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