The Great Indian Dilemma - Which board to put children in? Demystifying the three big boards of India - CBSE, ICSE and State Board.

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India is home to multiple boards of education such as CBSE, CICSE and State Board. This diversity has caused a great deal of difficulty and confusion among both students and parents. The anxiety is further compounded when students start seeking admissions in universities for their undergraduate education as the quota for each board varies from state to state and university to university. By researching about the 3 boards beforehand, we can minimize the confusion to a great extent. There are 7 critical factors that are very important when it comes to comparing the various boards of education and they are as follows

  • Curriculum & Syllabus
  • International recognition
  • Tuition help availability
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Quality of teachers
  • Undergraduate admissions
  • In the long run


This is hands down the most popular board in India as it conducts two of the biggest national exams - JEE for engineering and NEET for medical. These two exams allow students to compete for seats in the prestigious IITs, IIITs , NITs, AIIMS and other institutions of national repute. Lets see how CBSE fares in the 7 critical areas.

Curriculum & Syllabus: CBSE curriculum is geared towards developing student’s application skills and problem solving abilities. Once a particular concept is taught, students are tested on the concept using various methodologies.This helps students learn how to apply the concepts in various contexts. Also, since CBSE conducts JEE and NEET, students will have the basic background required to crack these exams. CBSE syllabus is tough and students will have to work hard to get good results. From classes 1 to 10, you will have to study english, second language, third language (from classes 6 to 8 only), mathematics, sciences, social science and information technology (for classes 9 and 10 only). Also, there is this common misconception that CBSE focuses more on math and science and does not give equal importance to english and the languages. This is not necessarily true. Plenty of students from CBSE have exemplary command over the english language. The reason why schools give more importance to math and science is because of the hugely competitive entrance exams and the need to produce good results every year. CBSE english syllabus is good enough for students to develop a strong understanding and good communication skills in english.

International recognition: Since CBSE syllabus is quite tough, students will have no problem adjusting to the local education system in places such as North America, United Kingdom and Singapore, to name a few.

Tuition help availability: Good tuition centers are very important provided kids need additional help in any subject. In Tamil Nadu, the state board education system is very popular and some smaller cities may not have good tuition facilities for CBSE students as most of the schools there follow the state board curriculum. For this reason alone, it is important that you live in a town or city that has good tuition facilities for the particular board your children are studying in.

Extracurricular activities: This varies from school to school. There are many CBSE schools that give a lot of importance to extracurricular activities while there are many others that strictly focus only on studies. Some elite schools may have better facilities and training for extracurricular activities.

Quality of teachers: The quality of teachers in India has gone down considerably due to most students belonging to the younger generation preferring to join the IT workforce where the salary and other prospects are way better than what teaching jobs offer in India. For this reason, it is extremely difficult to find good teachers in schools nowadays. Elite schools that charge heavy fees may have a chance of having better teachers but that is purely speculative and may not apply to all the schools.

Undergraduate admissions: For engineering exams, students have to write various entrance exams in order to gain admissions in universities across India. The JEE and NEET are based on the CBSE curriculum but that alone is not sufficient to crack the exams. Extra help in the form of tuitions and coaching classes is required to clear the entrance exams. 12th board exam results are important for admissions to courses such as sciences, commerce and humanities and the quota for CBSE students varies from state to state. Many universities use this process called normalization in order to admit students on a common platform but this doesn’t seem to be helping much and CBSE students may be at a disadvantage in places such as Tamil Nadu where universities favor state board results over CBSE or CISCE. For more information on other states, you will have to check in with the respective universities of each state.

In the long run: CBSE students do very well in their professional lives as they have great logical skills and excellent problem solving abilities which will help them in all walks of their lives.


Curriculum & Syllabus: The CICSE curriculum is designed in such a way that students develop thorough knowledge about various concepts and topics, both content and application wise. Practical and lab work is given a lot of importance which in turn helps students develop excellent analytical skills. CICSE students are expected to study subjects by reading and collecting lots of information on the topics taught in class, analyze the collected information and learn from them, develop the ability to visualize, solve and speak coherently about complex problems. CICSE syllabus is vast and tough. Students have to do a lot of reading and refer to numerous books other than the prescribed text books. CICSE also offers greater flexibility and variety when it comes to choosing your subjects. From classes 1 to 5, students study english, second language, history, geography, mathematics, science, computer science, third language and a whole host of physical activities and extracurriculars. In classes 6 and 7, you will study english language & literature, second language, environmental education, history, geography, mathematics, science, computers, third language, and extracurricular subjects like art, dance, music etc. Class 8 syllabus is similar to classes 6 and 7 except that instead of science you will learn physics, chemistry, biology as separate subjects. In classes 9, 10,11 and 12, you will get to choose your own subjects from a variety of subjects provided thereby giving you greater flexibility and choices. Most importantly, evaluation is super strict in CICSE and the board exam scores will not be as high as CBSE and State Board exam scores.

International recognition: CICSE affiliated schools are present in Dubai, Sharjah, Indonesia and Singapore. Also, CICSE syllabus is way tougher than the curriculum in countries such as the United States, UK and Singapore. Therefore, students will not have a problem adjusting to the curriculum in these nations.

Tuition help availability: Before you decide which board to put your child in, it is very important to do a quick check on the local tuition help availability for CICSE board. Lack of good tuition centers and teachers will be a problem, especially if children need extra help for any subject. So, make sure the town or city you live in has access to high quality tuition centers or teachers for CICSE board.

Extracurricular activities: CICSE curriculum is known to give a lot of importance to extracurricular activities. The board believes in giving students an all rounded education and students are exposed to all kinds of activities, ranging from academic oriented such as project works, debates, competitions to other activities such as sports, drama, arts and music. If you are looking for a well balanced education, then CICSE will be the perfect fit for you.

Quality of teachers: Since most CICSE schools charge a hefty fee, you can expect the teachers to be well qualified and trained for their job. However, since the quality of teachers has gone down rapidly in India, do not expect to find great teachers even in CICSE schools.

Undergraduate admissions: For engineering seats, students have to write various entrance exams for admissions to various universities across India. Most CICSE students shift to CBSE and State Board in order to get better scores in their 12th or have more time to crack the JEE and NEET exams as CICSE syllabus in 11th & 12th is way more demanding than CBSE and State Board. However, there are students who complete their 11th & 12th classes in CICSE based schools and crack the JEE. At the end of the day, the decision is up to the students. When it comes to undergraduate admissions, there will be a big disparity as CICSE board’s exam evaluations are very strict and they do not give high percentages as CBSE and State Boards do. For more information, you will have to check with universities regarding their seats and quotas for CICSE board students. Although many universities do follow this process called normalization to give students a common platform for admissions in places such as Tamil Nadu, CICSE students will still be at a disadvantage due to the high marks that TN state board students get in the board exams.

In the long run: Many students from CICSE board are highly intellectual and have well rounded personalities. They are highly knowledgeable not just in academics but in many other areas as well. To sum it up, If you want your child to learn for the sake of learning, then CICSE is the way to go.

State Board:

Curriculum & Syllabus: There are approximately 30 State Boards of education in India. Each board’s curriculum and syllabus varies from state to state. The general perception is that State Board curriculum promotes rote learning and does not give enough importance to application and critical thinking. This does not hold true for all state boards in India. Some state boards are more rigorous than CBSE and exam evaluations and scorings are very strict.

Tuition help availability: Before you decide which board to put your child in, it is very important to do a quick check on the local tuition help availability for State Board syllabus. Lack of good tuition centers and teachers will put students in difficulty, especially if they need extra help for any subject. State Board system is very popular in Tamil Nadu and you have great tuition centers catering to the State Board syllabus but the same cannot be said about other states. In some states, CBSE rules the roost while in a few others, State Board may be the most preferred destination.

International recognition: Indian students in general do very well in USA, UK etc. as the curriculum in these countries are less demanding when compared with Indian board’s education system.

Extracurricular activities: This varies from school to school. Some schools give equal importance to extracurricular activities and academics while some schools give very little importance to activities that are not academic oriented. For more information, ask around to hear more about the various schools in your area and what their reputation is like.

Quality of teachers: The teaching profession has seen a huge brain drain due to most students preferring to join the IT workforce, which is better paying than a teacher’s job. Due to this reason, most schools presently do not have good quality teachers and the same applies to schools under the state board curriculum.

Undergraduate admissions: For engineering, students have to write various entrance exams to gain admissions in universities across India. For sciences, commerce and humanities based courses, there are no entrance exams and admissions are based on 12th board results. The admissions requirements and quota varies from state to state. Some states give more importance to students from state board systems, specifically in TN, while some states give more importance to CBSE students. Therefore, it is important that adequate research be done on the various universities and their quotas for state board students.

In the long run: Plenty of state board students do phenomenally well in their professional lives. At the end of the day, your abilities and work ethic plays a larger role in life than the board you studied in.

Final Verdict:

Schools must nurture student’s talents and give them the perfect environment to thrive in all areas, be it academics or extracurricular activities. Apart from evaluating various boards, there are other practical aspects to be considered such as distance from home, kind and encouraging teachers, good friends, healthy environment, safety etc that are more important than the board of a school. No matter how good a school or a board is, what really matters at the end of the day is your child’s happiness. If they are unhappy with their school, then it will be reflected in their academic performance. For this reason alone, it is important that students go to schools they enjoy studying in as opposed to putting them in boards that are considered to be the best.