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CBSE Or ICSE: Pros And Cons of Both

In India, CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) are one of the most popular education systems that most parents opt for. But isn’t it important to analyze which type of system is better for your child? Every child is different, and they have different aptitude levels and aspirations.

So, should one go for CBSE or ICSE? Students are often confused about the choice of boards. This article helps put the eternal debate to rest.

For generations, students under CBSE have though that ICSE is easier and students under ICSE have thought that CBSE is easier.  After all, it’s only human to underestimate what one does not have to go through.

Two boards, both of which encompass a lot of aspects involved in proper education for the child, cannot be compared in black and white. Both the boards have their own pros and cons and it’s the responsibility of the parents to understand these two boards completely, keeping in mind their child’s abilities and ambition and then take a decision.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is the main board, read the most popular board in India. The Indian Certificate of Secondary Examination (ICSE) was first established by the Local examinations syndicate of the University of Cambridge. Let us now do a comparative study of both the boards highlighting their respective pros and cons.

Overall Comparison Between the Two Boards

  • The syllabus of CBSE board is in sync with that of major competitive exams such as IIT-JEE, AIEEE, AIPMT etc. This forms one of the biggest advantages of CBSE as after clearing 12th Class exams, the competitive exams are the next challenge that every student is made to conquer. Having said that, more importance is given to theoretical knowledge and less emphasis is laid on practical applications. This is where ICSE scores as the syllabus under ICSE is more application based which results in better comprehension of the subjects.
  • Under CBSE the syllabus is comparatively easier and more compact with fewer and well-structured subjects. However, this does in a way blunts the competitive edge in students. Under ICSE, great emphasis is laid on the English language and this helps the kids do better in exams like TOEFL.
  • Throughout India, CBSE board marks are widely accepted be it any university or course. Certification under ICSE is recognized around the world, particularly foreign schools and universities.
  • The syllabus under ICSE being extensive facilitates a deeper understanding of the subject, but it might be too much of a predicament for an average student. The syllabus under CBSE being more crisp leaves space for the level of difficulty of ease up and also facilitates better marks.

Now, let us try to also spot the major differences between the two:

Major Differences Between the Two Boards

Teaching methodology

Keeping up with the changing times, today, both the boards want to encourage active learning. CBSE and ICSE follow a certain teaching approach and they have undergone many changes over the past 10 years. Their primary focus remains on learning through experience and experimentation instead of through one-way teaching.

In India, many parents are disappointed with CBSE’s standards of education provided. Most of them feel that the overall learning and grooming process has to become more thorough in CBSE and needs to get at par with what ICSE offers. ICSE is all about the detailed study of various subjects and having an edge over English literature and language. The board is also more flexible in nature. Both the boards have been recognized by colleges/universities in India. Still, the CBSE curriculum does not give students academic luxuries. ICSE board offers many combinations to students like computer science, interior design and even environmental science in a lot of schools.


If we talk about cities like Delhi, then the tutors who teach the CBSE syllabus to students are more accessible, but in the case of ICSE, it gets tougher to find teachers because of a low number of schools following this board. On the contrary, in cities such as Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata, ICSE tutors are available easily. Did you know that the Mumbai ICSE board is more common in schools than their local Maharashtra SSC board? Also, when it comes to prevalence, students can find the CBSE board easily when they move to a new place. But in many states, ICSE is given the first preference whereas CBSE is recognized in most of the schools.

Medium of Instruction

CBSE encompasses both English and Hindi language as the medium of instructions, but ICSE does not advocate Hindi.

Regular and Private Candidates

A large number of schools all over India are affiliated to the CBSE board. The main reason is the fact that it allows both regular candidates, who already study in CBSE schools, along with private candidates from non-affiliated schools to give their exams. On the contrary, a candidate who has not been studying in an ICSE affiliated school is not allowed to appear for the exams in ICSE.

Board Recognition

As we know, CBSE is recognized by the Indian government but ICSE is not. The certificates given by both the boards are globally valid, but CBSE does visibly have a better footing in the subcontinent than ICSE. Many foreign education systems also recognize CISCE as equivalent to senior examination or high school.


One more important distinction between these boards is their overall evaluation and assessment process. In ICSE, internal assessments are extremely crucial and overall scores are aggregated with practical tests. ICSE also concentrates more on lab work and a profession in English Literature or Language is ideal for its students.

Overview of the Boards

All boards are unique in terms of their functionality, curriculum, standards and abilities. ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) is an examination that is conducted for Grade X and ISC (Indian School Certificate) for Grade XII and is governed by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), a non-government, private board for school education in India. CBSE organises two main examinations – All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE) in Grade-X and All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE) in Grade – XII.

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) – Pros and Cons

The Central Board of Secondary Education in India is one of the most important boards of education in India for school level education. It conducts the All India Senior School Certificate Examination each year for students who finish their twelfth grade, and the exam also works as the basis for them to pursue their higher education, once out of school.

The Central Board of Secondary Education also conducts the AIEEE examination, which is nothing but an entrance exam for getting admission to the various undergraduate engineering courses.


  • CBSE schools have its fair share of benefits, but the biggest pro is that all major competitive examinations in India are as per the CBSE syllabus. These exams include the Joint Entrance Examination (IIT-JEE), the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT) and the All India Engineering Entrance Examination (AIEEE).
  • The CBSE syllabus is much easier in comparison to the other boards, and that mainly is because of fewer subjects and a more compact structure. Also, secondary level subjects like Environmental Education are not mandatory under the CBSE syllabus. Subjects like Physics, Chemistry and Biology are all under the umbrella of Science, and History, Geography and Civics comes under the field of Social Sciences.
  • CBSE is quite popular in India and it also is very easy to find one school no matter which city you shift your base to. This board is recommended for parents who have transferable jobs.
  • CBSE syllabus lays more emphasis on Science subjects and Mathematics.
  • The certificate provided by the Central Board of Education is recognized in all colleges and academic centres throughout the country. Also, the board follows a concentric curriculum.
  • As discussed earlier, CBSE is approved by the Govt. of India and affiliated to a large number of schools including central schools (Kendriya Vidyalaya) in India and is also recognised by NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training).
  • CBSE has a lot of talent search examinations and scholarships in store for students and the volume of the syllabus is also less.


  • In CBSE, there’s not much focus given on giving practical knowledge to students. The CBSE syllabus does not concentrate on core English knowledge the way its competitors do, and chooses to put more importance on the disciplines of mathematics and science.
  • All the subjects in a CBSE syllabus are dealt with only in a theoretical manner, and an emphasis is not given on real-life concepts behind the science. In spite of the syllabus being application oriented, it does not offer room for effective understanding.

 Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) – Pros and Cons

The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education was first incepted by the Local Examinations Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. The syllabus that the ICSE schools follow differs immensely from that followed in CBSE schools, especially in terms of content and volume. The board also conducts an ICSE examination at the end of tenth grade and an Indian School Certificate (ISC) examination towards the end of twelfth grade.


  • The syllabus that the ICSE board follows is very comprehensive and complete, covering all fields with equal importance.
  • Students who want to pursue careers in fields of management and humanities will find the curriculum followed under ICSE to be more interesting and challenging, not to mention fruitful.
  • The certification done as per the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education board is highly recognized all around the world, specifically by foreign schools and universities in comparison to the central board’s local margin.
  • Since the emphasis is laid on English in ICSE, students from this board do have a slight edge over other students in exams like TOEFL.
  • ICSE students by default happen to perform well in scholarship examinations that are based on English as the syllabus and are more attuned to the world education standards. Also, students can take up careers in English literature or language through this board.
  • ICSE gives great importance to internal assessments for a child’s development. So, even the practical test results are aggregated with the overall scores.
  • Students also have immense flexibility in terms of selecting specific subjects.


  • Students may land up feeling that the syllabus is too extensive for their liking as an average student in an ICSE board will have to give thirteen subjects/examinations during the sixth grade, as compared to the six subjects that the student have in CBSE.
  • In spite of the fact that ICSE syllabus facilitates deeper understanding and better life skills and analytical skills, when it comes to pursuing further education, it might become difficult due to a lack of leniency in evaluating papers after an ISC examination.

Where do CBSE and ICSE strike a balance with each other?

Both ICSE and CBSE are recognised by all the colleges in India.

  • The main subjects that are taught in both the systems are almost the same.
  • It is admirable that both the boards offer high quality of education.
  • Both the systems are passionate about interactive teaching than one-way class lectures. They lay emphasis on learning through experience.

Taking a Calculated Move

So, both these boards have an equal amount of pros and cons, and choosing the right board will depends a lot on what kind of future you want for your children. The overall quality of education given by both boards is excellent, so one needs to assess your child’s strengths and gauge the right board for them.

However, you need to keep in mind that the quality of education that your children are receiving should be your primary concern more than the board of education involved. This is the reason why it is more important to choose a very good school, irrespective of the board of education it falls under.

A good board can make a lot of difference in a child’s early development and level of exposure that they would get. All parents want their child to be in an environment that is favourable to their overall growth. So, it’s crucial to think, analyze and then take a calculated move.

A brilliant student under CBSE might not do very well under ICSE and vice versa. This fact leaves a huge responsibility on teachers and parents alike to help the kids make an informed decision, hone their skills, empower their abilities and create the future of the country.

This debate – CBSE or ICSE – is not that easily resolved.

There are several advantages of CBSE; however, when compared to the state board. Read about them here.

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