In recent years, it is not just the Indian School Certificate (ISC) and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) that have gained momentum in India but several other international boards like Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).
In the last few years, Indian students have been very successful in Cambridge International Examinations. Over 400 schools in India made over 57,000 entries for Cambridge qualifications in the March and June exam series of 2017, registering a 10% increase over last year. Entries for Cambridge International AS & A Level in 2017 increased by 18 % in 2016 and Cambridge IGCSE entries increased by 8%.
Ruchira Ghosh, Regional Director for South Asia, Cambridge International Examinations, informed BE, “We are one of the boards under the Cambridge assessment group, which is under the University of Cambridge. In India, we have about 400 plus schools that go with the Cambridge curriculum. We offer education right from the primary level and end with the IGCSE exams. IGCSC is equal to board examinations in India. It has a total of seventy-five subjects. One aspect that makes us different from other boards is that we offer a wider range of subjects. It is not only language, science, and commerce. There are creative and professional disciplines like media studies, designing and technology, art and enterprise that are offered to the students.”
She added, “Studying in any international board or obtaining Cambridge school qualification does not give an automatic entry to Cambridge University. Our students too have to follow the same procedure like others to get entry into Cambridge University or any other international universities. Yes, it gives them a slight advantage in terms of methodology that they have studied, the kind of independent research, critical thinking, analysing that they have been trained in. The majority of students prefer to stay in India for their undergraduate courses and keeping that in mind, we have introduced the March exams since 2015. The March examinations take place at the same time as the other board examinations in India. The results assist the students to take part in the admission process of colleges and universities in India and abroad.”
According to the Market Report for India published by ISC Research, the leading provider of data and intelligence on the English-medium international school sector, the number of international schools in India has grown by over 45% while student enrolment has increased by over 70%. There are currently 469 international schools located throughout the country attended by 268,500 students aged between 3 and 18. There is a decline in enrolment in India’s private schools as some students migrate to international schools and because several of India’s schools are moving from state examination boards (such as the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) to international boards (such as the IGCSE, the Cambridge International Examination, and the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) to respond to the increasing demand for global education.
Anuradha Das, Director, Garden High International School, said, “Different students react and respond differently in different boards. A board does not evaluate a student’s competence. But yes, what makes an international board different from other boards is that they have a myriad of options for their students. The students have the liberty to choose their favourite subjects. There is a lot of flexibility and scope for skill development. We have students who pursue physics and history together. I feel 16 is not the right age to streamline them.”
Even though the international schools are booming in India, they cannot be afforded easily. State boards try reach out to every student in the society. On the other hand, CBSE, being a National board of our country is still widely preferred by Indians as many are of the opinion that all the major nationalized competitive exams like JEE and NEET which are conducted by CBSE follow the CBSE syllabus, thus making it easier for the students to crack these examinations. In the academic session of 2015-2016, one out of three students taking the ICSE examinations later shifted to the CBSE for class 12.
Piya Singhal, of La Martiniere for Girls alumni is working as a software engineer in UK. She informed BE, “It is absolutely wrong to say that studying in a CBSE board helps to crack IIT. All boards follow a common core curriculum. The syllabus of class 12 in both ICSE and CBSE is almost similar as far as science subjects are considered. A lot of personal hard work and dedication is needed to reach your goal. School boards do not play a part in it.”
Mayuri Dutt, Rector and Manager, Indira Gandhi Memorial High School, Barasat, said, “Somehow all boards are co-related. Some of the subjects are brief and some are descriptive. English is considered to be strong in the ICSE board. But you don’t need Shakespeare in daily life. A lot of parents prefer ICSE because it is run by missionaries and there is always a convent feeling that symbolises decency and decorum. But government schools in India reach out to the remote parts of the country. They are still the centre of education for billions of students who cannot afford an expensive education.”
She added, “Exam results and marks do not define a child’s life. There are all kinds of opportunities out there, to study, to work, to do things you like, to do things that help you grow. Eventually in life, nobody looks back and asks you how many marks you scored in your exams. Knowledge is more important if a student want to develop personally.”