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Comparing IB and IGCSE

Comparing IB and IGCSE

Posted on December 20, 2017 | by Vinod Kakumanu

International Baccalaureate® (IB) and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) are the two International school education programs. IGCSE is also an examination conducting body.  The IGCSE is controlled by a department of the University of Cambridge and IB is an education foundation with headquarters in Geneva.

International Baccalaureate® is an International education foundation which runs four educational programmes namely Primary Year Programme (PYP), Middle Year Programme (MYP), Diploma Programme (DP) and Career-Related Programme (CRP). IGCSE is administered by a separate department at the University of Cambridge, UK.

IB prescribes an educational framework whereas Cambridge provides a designed curriculum. IB does not conduct assessment exams but provides certifications to the grades acquired by students studying the curriculum in a school which reach a certain standard.

The IGCSE, also known as Cambridge board is basically a class X level certificate exam after which the students can opt for A and AS level exams, Cambridge Pre U exams which have class XII equivalency. IGCSE students can also make a transition to IB Diploma Programme for class XI and XII. The choice, therefore, is between Cambridge A, AS level or IB Diploma Programme.

IB programme has to be implemented by school administrators and teachers well oriented in the IB framework with excellent comprehension of demands of a curriculum centered on targeted skills in every subject.

Cambridge provides curricular guidelines whereas IB gives the schools running its programme the liberty to design and enforce a curriculum. The curriculum designed by the schools must be attuned to the criteria including scientific knowledge, communication, scientific inquiry, scientific attitudes etc. of assessment prescribed by the IB.

IGCSE has a diverse International curriculum, international in orientation but adapted to national context offering around 70 subjects to be followed by Cambridge International schools. IGCSE keeps assessment as a pivotal factor in its programme.

We have provided condensed information about the advantages and limitations of both the IGCSE and IB. These are based on the observations after the study of the programme structure as well as the school’s experience


IB advantages

  • The teachers have a big role to play in establishing a curriculum and as they are closest to the students they can personalize the implementation of the curriculum according to the student’s socio-cultural context.
  • The absence of a strict curricular design can promote teacher’s imagination and translate into better learning outcomes.
  • The IB system allows space to several different curricular designs and can adopt the best of every proposed way within the framework.
  • The skill centered approach is more engaging than content-based approach and encourages the development of multiple intelligences.
  • IB offers a genuine and complimenting mix of national and international viewpoints in education.
  • Entrepreneurs globally have shown a preference for IB school students as skilled employees and this is a boost for IB school promoters.
  • IB education provides increased prospects of settling internationally

IB’s limitations

  • The teachers’ and administrators’ error in judgment or approach can affect the efficacy of curriculum in achieving the skill set required for qualification.
  • Teachers may feel overburdened by the work of providing inputs for curriculum.
  • IB expects the revision of curriculum quite frequently. This can prove challenging for school promoters.
  • IB schools need more resources to implement the IB Programme effectively. The fee also increases as a direct result.
  • IB requires teachers to attend a lot of workshops for skill enhancement and programme comprehension. This might come as a challenge for the school management.
  • Schools in India find it difficult to implement all IB programmes. Some schools have PYP, MYP, and DP. Some have only DP. This can result in a break of the continuum which is ideal for IB programme.
  • There are no Career Related Programmes running in India as on date.
  • Student’s level of knowledge in PYP and MYP may vary from school to school.
  • IB schools have to bear the responsibility of assessment and assistance provided by the IB school community may seem insufficient in this regard.

IGCSE advantages

  • IGCSE students get a fixed idea as to what their future course should be.
  • The curriculum is structured and global in perspective while being nationally relevant at the same time.
  • The assessment is credible and makes students more focused.
  • Teachers are not burdened with curriculum designing that is something teachers in India are not used to doing.
  • It does not require teachers to attend workshops as frequently as IB which reduces cost.
  • An examination provides fixed assessment criteria and grades attained by the students makes it possible to compare the results of schools internationally.
  • Parents prefer the arrangement of fixed external exams in India.
  • IGCSE precedes IB in India and teachers are more easily available than for IB schools which requires curriculum design.

IGCSE limitations

  • IGCSE restricts the engagement of teachers and their creativity is not employed so much.
  • IGCSE curriculum is international but the attitude of teachers towards imparting education remains traditional, totally focused on exams.
  • IGCSE encourages rote learning and is very fact-based.
  • Assessment of classwork and homework assignments is not incorporated in the final assessment in IGCSE.
  • The IGCSE culminates in class X and the Cambridge advanced is to be chosen which the students find difficult to cope with. The students can opt for IB diploma programme but are sometimes not capable enough to meet the challenge.
  • IGCSE syllabus remains fixed and is not revised according to the needs of the new batch of students, unlike IB.

Both of the international educational programmes (IB and IGCSE) are especially beneficial for the emerging global needs and are capable of developing the skill set in students which are internationally comparable and equipped for higher studies and research work. They can complement the Indian education systems making it complete, given the human resources are available and school promoters turn out to be as progressive as both of these systems of pedagogy demand them to be.


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CBSE, ICSE vs IB, IGCSE; Which is better for Indian Students?

Posted on December 10, 2017 | by Vinod Kakumanu

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–

  • It has been seen that students have developed a genuine interest in subjects in which they were not originally interested thanks to the teaching methodology which makes them more receptive.
  • The teachers share their experiences with other IB teachers around the world and are better placed to reinvent their teaching styles.
  • The students have a lot of activities besides the regular classroom attending drill that engages them more intently with academics.
  • There is no particular reason why IB students cannot fare better in Indian competitive exams given their good subject knowledge.

There are certain questions that remain in the minds of the parents and school promoters about IB education in India.

  • IB is marketed on many themes one of them is the ‘continuum’. The question remains that if the Indian students who have studied in CBSE and ICSE boards in their early school years or sometimes as long as class X will ever become the beneficiaries of this much-publicized continuum.
  • Is it equally easy for the teachers of the IB schools to adapt to such big a change in their role? Can they really be comfortable with playing a major part in curriculum design? Do they have necessary skills for the job? Do the workshops, training programmes they attend suffice in this regard?
  • Do the expenses that are incurred by the parents by getting their children IB education act as a deterrent for many? Are the expenses really commensurate with the said up gradation in the quality of education?
  • IB does not have a centralized examination conducting body although it decides the education framework. It provides certification to the students graded by the schools that follow the assessment guidelines. So, are the assessment exams taken by the schools well calibrated and are the school grades objectively comparable globally?
  • Do the career options in the country require the much publicized international perspective in education? Will they leave enough time for the students to compete with the students from ICSE and CBSE in competitive examinations?

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—

  • The curriculum is fixed and examination centered approach makes them analogous to the national boards
  • There is a clear proximity to UK’s school’s curriculum which may be undue and does not make it “International”.
  • The “rigor” of the curriculum enforcement may be excessive to the teachers and students.

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.



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