Right from the time when a child starts his/her academics, the dilemma of choosing the board of education becomes a prime concern for parents. The choice of board makes a significant difference in the early development of the child and his/her exposure to the kind of education system that we have. In the Indian education system, two of the most recognized boards of education that one gets to opt for are CBSE and ICSE. The education system is split into primary, secondary and senior secondary levels. These levels play a significant role in building up one’s career goals and achievements. The question that arises is — what is better for the child? How does one choose the right system? One has to note that the two boards are very diverse and hence cannot be clubbed together.

We need to examine the two boards on the basis of their functionalities, offering abilities and other standards.



CBSE is responsible for preparing the syllabus for the secondary and senior secondary levels. It is one the most preferred boards in India. It follows the national curriculum along with additional subject matter. The board conducts two examinations — the All India Secondary School Examination, AISSE (Class X) and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination, AISSCE (Class XII). CBSE is recognized by the NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) with the aim to operate a chain of central schools (Kendriya Vidyalaya) that could cater to the government employees who are in transferable jobs. A number of private schools have started to offer CBSE since a lot of private sector employees are also moving from place to place. The CBSE syllabus is very structured, highly predictable and controlled. All national entrance examinations are conducted as per this syllabus.

ICSE on the other hand is conducted by yet another board, CISCE or the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination. It is similar to AISSE conducted by CBSE. An offshoot of the Cambridge IGCSE that existed during the British regime was taken over by the Anglo Indian Board and is now governed by the ‘Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations’. ICSE has taken in a lot of structures from the NCERT. At Grade 10, it is as of now is the toughest board examination. ISC (Class XII) is equally difficult to crack owing to its extremely detailed syllabus.

Let us try to see the major differences between the two:

Medium of Instruction:

CBSE approves both English and Hindi language as the medium of instructions, ICSE does not recommend Hindi.

Regular and Private Candidates:

CBSE is affiliated to a large number of schools all over India. The board allows both regular candidates, who study in CBSE schools, as well as private candidates from non-affiliated schools to appear in the exams. Contrary to this, ICSE does not allow a candidate who has not been studying in an ICSE affiliated school to appear for the exams.

Board Recognition:

CBSE is recognized by Indian government and ICSE is not. Although the certificates provided by both of them are globally valid, yet CBSE has a better footing in the subcontinent than ICSE. CISCE is now recognized by many foreign education systems as equivalent to senior examination or high school.

Curriculum/Course Content:

The syllabus prepared by CBSE is more suitable for qualifying in various entrance examinations, including the medical and engineering professional exams. The syllabus of ICSE is more detailed and requires the student to remember a lot. CBSE is comparatively easier than ICSE. Both CBSE and ICSE (CISCE) have slightly different focus in terms of course content. CBSE is extremely focused on science and maths with a lot of attention paid to the application of knowledge. CISCE (ICSE) on the other hand is more balanced with equal focus on language, arts and science.


One more point of distinction between the two boards is the evaluation and assessment of students. In ICSE, internal assessments are vital and practical tests are aggregated with the overall scores. ICSE lays more emphasis on lab work. Also, a career in English Literature or Language is best suited for ICSE students.

Teaching Methodology:

With the changing times both the boards are aiming for active learning. CBSE and ICSE (CISCE) prescribe a certain teaching approach and both have undergone significant change over the past 10 years. The focus has majorly increased on learning through experience and experimentation rather than through one-way teaching.

In India most of the parents are unsatisfied with the standards of education provided by CBSE. They feel that the learning and grooming process needs to be more thorough in CBSE when compared to what ICSE offers. ICSE includes the detailed study of subjects and an edge over English literature and language and is more flexible in nature. Both the boards are recognized by colleges/universities in India. However, the CBSE curriculum doesn’t provide students academic luxuries. ICSE board has a lot of combinations to offer to students- such as computer science, environmental science and even interior design in a lot of schools.

In a city like Delhi, the tutors who can help students with the CBSE syllabus are more accessible whereas in the case of ICSE, it is a lot tougher due to a low number of schools following this board. On the other hand, in cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, ICSE tutors are in abundance. For instance, the Mumbai ICSE board is more prevalent in schools than their local Maharashtra SSC board. In terms of prevalence, CBSE board is easier to find when you move to a new place. However, in various states of India ICSE is given the first preference whereas CBSE is recognized in most of the schools. To conclude, both have their pros and cons and form an extremely vital part of the Indian Education System.