Decisions pertaining to education are among the most important in one’s life. Students and parents are often confronted with dilemmas of choosing the best school, the relevant subjects, and even the right curriculum to get the most out of education. In India, the choice of curriculum comes down to broadly two categories: CBSE versus International Curriculum.
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is the most prominent board for education in India. More than 21,000 private and public schools are affiliated to it and the number is rising every week. The board examinations for classes X and XII, conducted every year by CBSE (with exceptions being made during the pandemic), are considered an important rite of passage to the higher education for millions of students.
Compared to CBSE’s six-decade-old presence in India, the International Curriculum is relatively new. There are different types of international curricula that have caught on in the last few years. The most notable of them are the Cambridge Curriculum IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) and IB (International Baccalaureate) which has headquarters in Switzerland. Of the two, the Cambridge Curriculum, also referred to as Cambridge Advanced, has made good inroads into the Indian education sector.
By and large, both IGCSE and IB represent what is called the international standard of education with a drastically different approach to learning than CBSE. On the other hand, CBSE is preferred by students who want to prepare for medical and engineering entrance exams. But a clear understanding of the differences between CBSE and International Curriculum must be reached before taking the all-important decision regarding education.
Several qualitative and quantitative factors set the two curricula apart:
· Approach To Learning
CBSE is relatively content-heavy as compared to international curricula. The board takes the traditional approach of information assimilation and knowledge application, with a particular emphasis on math and science. Learning in CBSE curriculum is instruction-based and the assessment is done through exams that merit recollection. Though in the past 5 years, CBSE has rapidly moved to Activity and Application-based learning. The International Curriculum gives equal importance to math, science, humanities and language. Students learn not just through instruction but also through activities and projects. Use of technology like Graphic Display Calculators is much accepted in International Curriculum though it is not yet prevalent in CBSE.
· Learning Objectives
Every curriculum has learning objectives that can be better understood in the context of Bloom’s Taxonomy. The CBSE curriculum, its objectives and the questions that appear in exams, feature on the lower end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, catering to the aim of knowledge, comprehension and application. The objectives and questions in the International Curriculum, however, feature on the higher end of Bloom’s Taxonomy, catering to the aim of evaluation, analysis and synthesis.
· Choice of Subjects
The CBSE schools group subjects into a number of streams such as Science, Commerce and Arts. Though the CBSE curriculum does not divide students as per this stratum, somehow it has gone into the DNA of schools who automatically divide students into three streams. NEP 2020 will bring in more flexibility in the choice of subjects, but the policy’s total implementation across India will take years. In the International Curriculum, students have more options for subject combinations.
· Learning Content
CBSE and International Curriculum differ in terms of the learning content they offer. CBSE has gradually moved beyond the traditional choices and started thinking along the lines of international boards by incorporating skill-based subjects and new content such as Design Thinking into the curriculum. International boards offer subjects such as Theory of Knowledge (TOK), Creativity Activity Service (CAS), Astronomy or Astro Physics with Global Perspective, Research etc.
· Scope & Reach
CBSE caters to a large variety of students across India, while International Curriculum has a small reach. Its appeal is limited to students from the elite class who use gadgets that aid in the application skills of a student’s learning, rather than memory skills. At the same time, it is difficult to strategize for an amazingly vast variety of students across the nation, different types of schools and remote locations. CBSE caters to a vast and diverse country where no other board has such an amazing reach. For the International Curriculum a basic minimum benchmark is the accepted norm. Reaching out to the remotest location at a bare minimum cost is not a mandate.
· Cost Effectiveness
CBSE is relatively more cost-effective. Education in schools affiliated to international curriculum is about 2 to 5 times costlier. Also, a lot of students from CBSE are able to adapt to international colleges because it provides the right skills and good launchpad.
National Education Policy 2020 – A Game Changer!
NEP 2020 will redefine education in India in the coming years. A lot of shortcomings in the present CBSE curriculum will be overcome with the implementation of the 5+3+3+4 curricular structure, which will provide flexibility to students of secondary level to choose subjects of their interest. The curriculum content will be reduced and there will be greater emphasis on essential learning and critical thinking. The rigid separation between curricular and extra-curricular will also disappear. These sweeping reforms ushered by NEP shall put CBSE on par with international boards and truly help to groom Indian students as global citizens.
The writer is Chairman, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions, Ghaziabad
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