School Education in India is witnessing a dynamic shift with the introduction of International programmes like IB and IGCSE curricula in Indian schools. It can be argued that the international education is years from catching up to the levels achieved by countries in Western Europe and Americas but it can hardly be denied that it has changed the educational ecosystem of the schools that have opted for it. At any rate, the change is significant enough to spark a series of comparisons between CBSE, ICSE and the international IB and IGCSE education. The questions asked about the international education systems are generally regarding its suitability in the Indian educational context.
Let us see how IB and IGCSE fare in comparison to the CBSE and ICSE boards, which are the leading established school education systems being run by the best of Indian Schools. Some say that the International schools are better versions of our best schools, few believe that the two are entirely different education systems. Answering these questions requires a rather complex analysis of both the international and national educational systems. We have tried to point out the major differences and also the questions that are asked by the parents and school promoters, accustomed to CBSE and ICSE, about the IB and IGCSE.
CBSE has an extensive Science and Mathematics syllabus and conventional teaching methods coupled with laborious self –study produces good results. The arts and humanities are not as intensive as their science counterparts. The revised NCERT books, especially those of social sciences, have been designed to make classes more interactive and chapters have been designed thematically to bring out imaginative faculty in children. The issue remains that the exam centered approach makes the change in teacher’s attitude hard to come by and especially when it is giving fairly ‘good results’. The question which needs to be asked is whether the best scoring CBSE students are as competent as their IB or IGCSE counterparts.
CBSE has also brought out The CBSE international (CBSE I). CBSE I is believed to have a global tilt and a proximity to the international curricula. It is opposed to the theoretical intensity of the CBSE national syllabus and has more space for analytical and practical learning skills. We see on closer inspection that there is indeed a difference between IB, IGCSE, and CBSE I mainly in terms of pedagogy and methodology of education.
Coming to the ICSE, it has a clear advantage over CBSE in areas of arts and humanities syllabi, language acquisition and emphasis of practicals in science. Although we can say that these ICSE schools are better in terms of infrastructure and educational facilities not to mention extracurricular activities but that cannot be taken as a difference as CBSE inherently does not restricts infrastructure development etc. yet on the ground, the situation is that generally, ICSE schools are better in terms of teaching facilities and innovation. Some CBSE schools are exceptions. Now the question is whether IB and IGCSE schools better than ICSE also.
Some of ICSE students have made a transition to IB at class XII level i.e. they have opted for IB Diploma Programme instead of opting for ICSE certificate examination. The experience of these students is very useful in understanding the difference between national and international education system. Now, there are some quite particular reasons for deciding to shift from ICSE to IB. These include the international recognition that comes after subscribing to IB. The IB curriculum is customized to the need of the target students and teachers are much more engaged in framing such curriculum.
The points that come out in favor of international education programme of IB are--
There are certain questions that remain in the minds of the parents and school promoters about IB education in India.
Coming to the IGCSE, run by Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), a department of the University of Cambridge, the IGCSE or the Cambridge board is the other international education programme that is adopted by Indian Schools that makes them a part of the global community of Cambridge Schools. IGCSE has a class X equivalent certificate examination conducting body incorporated within it. The certification provided has international as well as national recognition. The IGCSE students have to take Cambridge A and AS level exams to gain class XII equivalency. The students can also opt for IB Diploma Programme after IGCSE. Cambridge programmes have a designed curriculum and assessment is rigorous which is central to the programme. It has subjects like Development Studies, Indian Studies etc. in the social science curriculum besides languages like Sanskrit and foreign languages. It also has a course titled Global Perspectives besides conventional subjects. The syllabus is comprehensive and is said that it inculcates an affinity to learning and discipline required for higher studies. It is believed to link academics to the global trends and incorporates revisions informed by educational researchers and adds additional courses to the curriculum.
The questions that generally crop up with regard to Cambridge board are—
When compared to the national education boards IGCSE and IB appear to have an advantage as they have an international orientation in addition to the ingredients for subject knowledge building. The emphasis on language acquisition also gives them an edge over CBSE, and to a lesser extent, over ICSE.
School promoters and parents have to scrutinize the curricula comparatively to check the compatibility of the international educational programmes with Indian schools. There are views suggesting that as IB and IGCSE, that have been adopted fairly recently, are in “experimental stages”. However, some see their international school experience and success as enough to consider them reliable. If trends are anything to go by, we can see that the popularity of IB and IGCSE is growing. CBSE and ICSE are well grounded and are undergoing changes themselves, there are new avenues also opening for an interface between the two groups constituted by National and International education systems. With time the distinctions will become more vivid and the choice will become clearer.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.