Which Board is Best for Education – CBSE, ICSE, IB or State Boards?

Franklin Roosevelt – the 32nd American President, once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” Thus, no one is entrusted with a more difficult job than the parents, who are the custodian of India’s future. And one of the biggest jobs for any parent is to ensure that the education provided to their young wards should best prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow. Of course, it is easier said than done since most new parents grapple with a common dilemma – which school to choose?

After all, India with more than 1.4 million schools and more than 230 enrolments, is home to one of the largest and complex school education systems in the world (according to a report published by the British Council in 2014). It really isn’t difficult to see why the numerous parents are left confused.

Well, you don’t have to fret anymore, for we are here to solve this great parenting dilemma. Hence, let us demystify these boards, so you can make a more informed choice.

When it comes to education (which falls in the concurrent list), the Indian school system comprises mainly of four boards, namely:

1. CBSE [Central Board of Secondary Education]

Established in 1962 (under the purview of MHRD), CBSE provides affiliations to both public and private schools. With over 15,000 schools affiliated to CBSE, it is by far the most popular board in India. It also conducts the annual AIEEE and AIPMT examinations for admission to engineering and medical. These two examinations allow students to compete for seats in the prestigious IITs, IIMs, NITs, AIIMs, and other national institutes.



  1. It is recognised by the Indian Government. Or in other words, it is an all-India education board and is the safest bet for parents who work in transferable jobs or relocate to different states.
  2. The syllabus is structured, predictable and controlled, which makes it extremely useful since all national entrance examinations are conducted as per this syllabus. Especially useful if the child wants to become an engineer or doctor.
  3. A result-oriented approach to content, with emphasis on application skills and problem-solving abilities.
  4. If you live in small towns or rural places, since you may not have access to good ICSE and IB World Schools which are primarily concentrated in metros or Tier-I cities.
  5. CBSE balances academia and extra-curricular well, providing a holistic development to children.
  6. CBSE is comparatively easier as compared to ICSE, which is more detailed and requires students to remember more.
  7. Higher diversity in classrooms since it brings together students from different backgrounds.
  8. It has a high quality in terms of book content, with no errors and/or printing mistakes.
  9. High-availability of scholarship exams such as SSTSE, NSEB, NSEC, etc.
  10. Easy to find coaching and tuition facilities.

2. ICSE [‘Indian Certificate of Secondary Education’]

CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certification Examinations) is a private, non-governmental education board that was established in 1956 at the meeting of the Inter-State Board for Anglo-Indian Education, which took over an offshoot of the Cambridge IGCSE that existed during the British regime. It conducts the ICSE (for Class X) and ISC (for Class XII) examinations. There are about 1,900 schools that are affiliated to the CISCE board. It was previously known as Senior Cambridge.


  1. While CBSE recommends either Hindi/English as medium of instruction, ICSE does not recommend Hindi. Hence, ICSE lays a higher emphasis on language with two papers on English unlike CBSE, which only has one paper.
  2. A lot of elite schools (including day schools and boarding schools) are affiliated to ICSE board such as Mayo, Welhams, Doon, etc.
  3. It provides more choice, flexibility and freedom to students vis-a-vis subject choice.
  4. Wide recognition of education board, not only in India but in foreign institutions as well.
  5. While CBSE primarily focuses on Maths and Science, ICSE provides equal focus to both art and science.
  6. It provides a detailed learning experience, with an emphasis on environment as well.

3. IB [International Baccalaureate]

The International Baccalaureate was established in 1968 as an international, non-governmental, non-profit educational organisation that is based in Geneva, Switzerland. There are, at present, about 109 IB World Schools in India, mostly limited to the metros and large Tier-I cities. IB actually focuses on the expat and the NRI population in India.

Why IB?

  1. IB syllabus is accepted world-wide, which gives an edge to students who wish to go abroad for further studies.
  2. Since there are very few IB schools in India, there is a certain ‘elite’ factor associated to sending your children to a IB World School.
  3. Innovative pedagogy and curriculum, which makes learning more fun and stress-free. It is a different learning experience altogether, which does not promote rote-learning amongst students.
  4. IB World Schools focus on an all-round development rather than pure academic performance.
  5. IB creates active learners and not rote-learners.
  6. Recognised by UNESCO, Council of Europe, Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF)
  7. Great infrastructure (of course, which means you have to shell out more in terms of school fees).

4. State Boards

As reiterated earlier, education comes in the concurrent list. Hence, all states have their respective state-recognised board of education that conducts examinations for class 10th and 12th. Of course, different state boards have different

Why State Boards?

1. Usually cheaper schools, which makes education accessible for families in the lower economic strata.
2. Topics and content is more locally-relevant, which is helpful for students who wish to take state public service commission examinations.
3. With scoring range higher than CBSE/ICSE, that is, students are likely to earn 5% to 10% marks higher in state boards, it makes it easier to take admission in colleges.
4. Favourable for parents who are self-employed or are working in non-transferable jobs.
5. Moderately-loaded curriculum leaves ample time for students to explore more extracurricular activities.
6. More reserved seats available for state-recognised colleges.


  1. really liked your article just a little reminder that if you could’ve have given the date on which you posted, then I would’ve quoted you in my article and also it’s a good habit. Thanks.


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