International schools in India were affiliated to three foreign boards - the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Geneva, Cambridge International Examination (CIE) and Edexcel, both based in the UK.
A study conducted by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration commissioned by the Ministry of Human Resource Development found that, as of 2013, there were 478 international schools in India. These schools were affiliated to three foreign boards - the International Baccalaureate (IB) in Geneva, Cambridge International Examination (CIE) and Edexcel, both based in the UK.
However, though schools offering international curricula continue to gain in popularity, many parents are still unaware of the exact differences between the two more common boards — IB and International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and how to go about selecting the right one for their child. Here are the major differences between the two curricula.
IGCSE and IB essentially cater to students from different age groups. Cambridge International Examinations' (CIE) IGCSE is comparable to IB's Middle Years Programme (MYP) while it’s A levels are comparable to the latter's diploma programme (IBDP).
Karan Gupta, education counselor, said, "At class X level, IB students study the MYP while CIE students study for the IGCSE. IGCSE students can opt for the IBDP after the IGCSE exams or move on to A levels."
Both have maths, at least one science, humanities and social science and two languages as mandatory requirements. Apart from these, MYP covers arts (including visual art, media, drama, music and dance options), design and physical and health education subjects. In the IGCSE curriculum, additional subjects under the business, technical and creative courses include accounting, art and design, business studies, drama, enterprise, food and nutrition, and information and communication technology. Every school may offer different subjects and subject combinations. The combinations at A level and in the IBDP are similar to those offered at the IGCSE and MYP levels.
While both organisations are known to be flexible and provide students a platform to explore their potential, they have a distinct approach to achieving the objective. The IGCSE curriculum is more content-orientated and exam-centric whereas the IB prefers a stronger practical approach.
Sudha Goyal, principal, Scottish High International School Gurgaon, said, "Components such as TOK (Theory of Knowledge), CAS (Creativity Action Service) and EE (Extended Essay) make IB education more comprehensive especially at diploma programme level."
Meghna Singh, who is studying the IBDP after completing her IGCSE at Jamnabai Narsee International School, Mumbai, said, "The IGCSE means a wider range of subjects. It encourages high academic standards through a practical approach to teaching and learning. If students find a particular subject difficult, they can drop it. The IBDP develops students holistically and encourages them to be better people as they are required to keep track of current affairs. Furthermore, it makes students come out of their shells. Individual presentations in class and oral exams are among the many ways students gain confidence. I was always shy and reluctant to make presentations, but the IB taught me to be bold."
IB and IGCSE qualifications are recognised by Indian universities. Till last year, both the IBDP and A level results were declared after the Indian college admission season. Thus, colleges would offer provisional admission on the basis of predicted grades. However, this year, the A level results of the March exam were announced in time for college admissions in May. However, experts agree that such qualifications open overseas opportunities for students. Gupta, said, "While the IB is preferred by US schools, UK schools will prefer students with A levels."
Factors to consider
When it comes to international schools, parents have numerous options. However, it is important to find a good fit for your child. Evaluate the child's strengths as well as weaknesses and take his/her academic goals into account.
Gupta, advised, "Parents should make sure that the student is doing well because in the end grades matter. If a student finds the IB or CIE tough, he/she should consider moving to an Indian board. More important than the board choice is the school. Opt for a school which has good teachers and where students consistently perform well. There is no point in opting for the IB or CIE at a school where the highest grades are less than optimal."
Singh, said, "A few subjects are difficult and demand time and energy. Students will be busier as the number of assignments keeps increasing and tests become harder. So, parents must be supportive as well."