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Choosing The Right Curriculum

At Study Networks, when assisting with a student’s career planning, we are often asked by students in (and parents of) the 10th standard which board or curriculum is best aligned to undertake studies overseas.

The answer isn’t quite simple because it depends on which curriculum suits the student best. To do this, you must understand the curriculum’s first both in India and abroad.

The Indian education system offers 3 main types of boards

  1. Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE):
    The CBSE follows a national curriculum which allows people with transferable jobs to give their children continuity in education; after all, it started as an option for government employees with transferable jobs. There are a large number of CBSE Schools in India but they are predominantly in the northern states and there are limited options across the rest of India. As this board is directly governed by the Central government, most changes to education and education systems are first implemented in the CBSE schools.

    Some of the features of the CBSE curriculum include:

    • Allowing higher secondary students to pick and chooses subject combinations of their choice.
    • A skill based curriculum, primarily built on analytical and reasoning abilities contrary to memorizing subject matter.
    • A focus on co-scholastic skills where life skills and value based education is at the core.
  2. Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSE):
    Often referred to as a board, the ICSE is a certification based exam. It is a private education body and not government aided. The ICSE too has a pan-India presence and provides consistency in curriculum for those in transferable jobs. The year 10 examination is referred to as the ICSE examination and the year 12 exam is referred to as the Indian School Certificate (ISC) examination.

    Some of the features of the ICSE curriculum include:

    • A comprehensive curriculum which gives equal importance to all subjects
    • An emphasis on English and therefore a higher level of English proficiency among students
    • A project based learning style
    • Students are allowed to select streams of study (Commerce, Arts, Science) in their high school.
  3. State Boards:
    The State Boards are governed by each state in India and therefore almost 30 state boards exist. While the year 10 examination is referred to as the Senior Secondary examination (SSC), the year 12 examination is referred to as Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) or Pre-University (PU) and is often completed through the affiliated college system in India. Schools offering the State Board are usually government aided schools and therefore have an inclusive class structure with students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds.

    Some of the features of the State Board curriculum include:

    • A rote based education system
    • A state based syllabus and grading methodology where regional languages and culture is practiced.

In addition to the above mentioned curriculum, students now have the option of an international curriculum even after they finish their year 10 examinations. Contrary to popular belief that International Curriculum is just for those students who may be looking at sending their children abroad after their year 12 (high school), the appeal in the international curricula lies in providing a different way of learning i.e. essentially concept based learning and allowing the child to develop their strengths in non-traditional subjects as well. The two popular international curricula offered in India include the:

  1. International Baccalaureate (IB):
    This curriculum is gaining popularity among parents who want a different learning system for their children. However, due to the high cost of fees, this curriculum is currently limited to the elite.

    Some of the features of the IB curriculum include:

    • Critical and Independent thinking
    • Development of strong academic, social and emotional attributes
    • Consideration of both – local and international environments
  2. Cambridge Examinations (IGCSE/O Levels and A Levels):
    International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a globally accepted qualification and considered highly credible.

    Some of the features of the Cambridge curriculum include:

    • A wide range of subjects including non-mainstream subjects at that level including music and art design
    • Assessments are not restricted to traditional written papers and consist of a variety of tests
    • Most of the subjects offer an option between core curriculum and extended curriculum

So what are International Universities looking for?
University life is different from schooling and curriculums so International Universities are essentially looking for talented students who come from diverse backgrounds and skill sets. Just like our colleges and Universities have found a way to equate all curriculums for admission, International Universities also have their own conversion parameters of all curricula (including the State Boards!). Some of the best International Universities also provide an option for students who may not have performed their best in their year 12 to gain admission into their programs through a pathway program.