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CBSE vs IGCSE vs State Boards: Which Board Is Best for You?

Selecting a board has a profound impact on the student’s future. This selection creates an educational foundation for career and general life success. And parents take all necessary steps to create a solid academic foundation for their children. Choosing the right board from the globally acknowledged options is undoubtedly one of the most important yet complicated decision for parents in today’s world. In India, the difference between these boards is a topic of discussion for many stakeholders. And the growing number of choices in school education (such as online schools and hybrid learning options) has further complicated the decision for many of them.

Let’s explore the differences between these boards to help you make an informed choice:

CBSE Board

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is one of the popular boards that is in operation in India since the year 1962. It is a national-level board. And had around 20354 schools affiliated with it by the year 2018 (in India). It conducts two public examinations every year namely, ‘All India Senior School Certificate Examination’ (Class X) and ‘All India Senior School Certificate Examination’ (Class XII). Primarily, this national board follows the NCERT curriculum.

In India, CBSE holds the most prominent position as the best National board. And students who study through this board can seamlessly transfer to other CBSE-affiliated schools across the nation without much hassle. As per the recent National Policy of Education, 2020, there is a focus on skill-based learning to promote 21st-century skills in the classroom. The CBSE curriculum reflects the recommendations of this policy to improve the quality of education.

Here’s a quick look at the CBSE curriculum:

At the secondary stage (IX and X), the CBSE curriculum offers 37 languages other than Hindi and English. It also has options to choose electives other than compulsory subjects like Mathematics, Science, and Social Science.

The scheme of subjects at the senior secondary level (XI and XII) include languages, electives, subjects for internal assessments, and additional optional subjects.

Benefits of CBSE Board:

  1. The most popular and credible choice in India. (Over 35 lakh students appeared in the CBSE exams for classes X and XII in 2022)
  2. Better prepares students for national-level examinations such as Indian National Olympiad and JEE. (59% of students from the CBSE board achieve excellent scores in the JEE main)
  3. Easy for students who need to switch between schools, as it is the most popular in India.
  4. Allows students to appear as private candidates for exams.

Disadvantages of CBSE Board:

  1. Traditional approach mostly focused on theoretical knowledge which promotes the idea of Rattafication in students.
  2. Less choice of subjects in comparison with international boards.
  3. Mostly based on the idea of stream selection despite a revised pattern of subject choices.
  4. Less complex as compared with other boards.


The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is a renowned international board in India. It is a valid education board as per COBSE (Council of Boards of School Education). And offers international qualifications for students between 14 to 16 years of age.

IGCSE has a balanced curriculum which is better than many other boards. And this curriculum is also believed to be the best in the international context. It’s curriculum supports 21st-century skill-building in students and aims at building a solid foundation of concepts in students.

The best part about IGCSE is that it is based on skills like critical thinking, and not on memorized facts. Students not just get exposure to local cultures but also get to learn about the worldwide perspective of cultures. For various reasons like these, this board is highly preferred in India by parents who wish to support new-age skill-building in students. In short, IGCSE is the best curriculum to promote creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking in students. This internationally acclaimed curriculum is also trusted to develop research skills in students.

Benefits of IGCSE Board:

  1. Meets global standards, and is recognized in more than 2200 universities (in 90 countries).
  2. International curriculums like IGCSE are also available in online schools.
  3. Suitable for students who wish to pursue higher studies abroad.
  4. Focuses on all subjects equally without any stream restrictions.
  5. Great choice for homeschooled students.
  6. Based on knowledge acquisition instead of rote learning or studying for grades.

Subject Choices:

Cambridge international curriculum offers a wide range of subject choices without any predefined set combinations. IGCSE is more about the practical application of skills, and many students take up self-study options to prepare for these assessments.

Disadvantages of IGCSE Board:

  1. The syllabus is quite extensive and it becomes too hard for many students who struggle with challenging academic work.
  2. Some of the subject choices can be really hard to crack for many students. It requires a lot of hard work and practice to thrive.
  3. No choice to select a preferred language, it is only available in the English language.
  4. Can be expensive for many parents in the Indian scenario.

State Boards

As the name suggests, State boards are specific boards that follow a syllabus that is relevant to the state (culture, history, language, etc.). The teaching methodology designed by these boards is specific to their particular region (choice of subjects is also state specific). And, just like the CBSE these State boards also focus on preparing students for entrance exams.

Advantages of State Boards:

  1. Focus on region-specific relevant learning.
  2. Cost-effective and suitable for many students.
  3. Visionary approach towards new alternatives for education (homeschooling legalized in Maharashtra)
  4. Less expensive than international boards.

Disadvantages of State Boards:

  1. Often criticized for low difficulty levels as the curriculum is not very challenging.
  2. Less popular in comparison with national boards like the CBSE.
  3. Not preferred by all types of students.
  4. More focus on local languages.

Which Board Is Best for You?

India is a vast nation. And has many education boards at both the state and national levels. Our Indian boards do have their own advantages. However, there are still gaps within the system, and the relevance of content in the real life is still questionable. Our policymakers are in the process of introducing reforms within the education system. However, due to the disparities and differences of opinion, some parts of the nation are not willing to take up the changes (that are introduced through the recent education Policy, NPE 2020).

While the Indian boards are still looking for insights to improve their educational quality, international boards are already serving a better purpose. With options like IGCSE or IB, students get a rigorous syllabus and an international qualification. You can make a choice considering the future prospects and diligence of the student.

Despite the advantages of the International boards, one must remember that these options need a lot of focus and preparation, which means that it does not suit all Indian students at all times. If you wish to go abroad for international study, International boards can certainly give you an edge to earn an international degree. However, you need to be ready to bear the expenses. And the student needs to invest more time to achieve the desired results.

If you cannot decide the right board out of the options, consider the pros and cons individually to match your requirements before you select the board finally. Rest the choice is mostly subjective in nature, all as per individual caliber, future plans, and the ability to push oneself beyond the comfort zone.