Comparing CBSE and State Boards

The education sector in India is expanding and so is the choice of the students and their parents. The choice which is much deliberated upon is the one between the education boards. There are many options to choose from which are mainly, national boards (CBSE and CISCE), state boards that include all states of India and international boards (IGCSE and IB). We have tried to assist the students, parents and school promoters in making their choice with regard to the board subscription in our previous blog posts namely CBSE vs ICSE , IB vs IGCSE. In this article we are comparing CBSE with the State boards.



CBSE and various state boards are both school certificate examination conducting education boards. They typically devise a curriculum run by both government and private schools and award school certificates after conducting certificate examinations in class X and XII which are known as ‘board exams’.

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) prescribes curriculum and textbooks designed by the National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT). The state boards have a curriculum designed for the schools by State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT). The curricula of both CBSE and the state boards have commonalities and differences which we have discussed later in this post.

The schools affiliated to CBSE include the major well-known school societys such as the Navodayas, Sainik Schools and Central Schools etc. these are important institutions and are well resourced. Each of them has been designed to fulfill a special purpose. The Navoday Vidyalas are established with a vision to provide quality education to the rural underprivileged, Central Schools fulfill the need of the central government employees for uninterrupted education for their children and the Sainik Schools are preparatory institutions for armed forces. CBSE caters to their curricular and extracurricular demands. There are also a substantial number of private schools affiliated to CBSE.

State Boards are instituted by every individual state in the Indian Union. Education is both state and central subject. The states prioritize the provision of universal compulsory education i.e. primary education. The students of state-run institutions move on to state board affiliated high schools and intermediate colleges and appear for state school certificate exams. There are private primary schools too in every state. In later stages, these schools opt for affiliations to various other boards including CBSE depending upon the vision and capacity of the school promoters. The curriculum and syllabus vary from state to state. For instance, the curriculum and syllabus of state boards of North Eastern States would widely differ from that of the other states like, say, Kerela. This difference owes to the social and cultural differences of the population of the states.

The differences in the curriculum of the state boards and the CBSE translates into the difference of the syllabus. If we concern ourselves with the syllabus studied for the certification exams of both we see that CBSE comes out to be more national in outlook, as expected, than the various state boards. The state board’s syllabus for the science subjects is not widely different from that of the CBSE. There are differences in the level of difficulty, however. There is marked a difference in the syllabus of the languages especially, English and social sciences.

Coming to the examination pattern, the certification exam for class XII CBSE called All India Senior School Certificate Exam (AISSCE) covers the syllabus of class XII and not XI. Exams for class XI are internal. Some state boards follow the same pattern, however, there are states that tests both years’ studies in the board examinations. This can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the student.

The CBSE board students appear to have an edge over the state board students in national level competitive exams. Though the board subscription alone does not guarantee success in any competitive exam of engineering and Medicine, the orientation of the students makes a clear difference.

Now, when the major after 12 exams like Pre Medical test and Pre-engineering test have been centralized the relevance of the question of advantages of studying in a state board has diminished.

For the school promoters, it can be said that although it is definitely easier to start and manage a state board affiliated school, the quality of education can be better if CBSE is opted for. The teacher training facilities and guidance is provided by the states too but compared to CBSE they are often found wanting and far more dependent to the state education policies regarding teacher recruitment than desired, despite the autonomous status of the SCERTs. The CBSE has more regularized policies and that is clearly an advantage.

It must be said that, if resources and circumstances allow, the CBSE certificate examinations must be opted for by the parents, if starting right from the primary is not possible. The school promoters can seriously consider making a transition to CBSE after they have completed the necessary time off school operation under state board.

Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

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.

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