As Siddhant Natarajan settles into Class 9 at St Gregorius High School, Chembur, his class will for the first time follow a centralised curriculum that the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) board outlines in detail. And he’s relishing it. “The ICSE curriculum is tough, it offers me a challenge, and I enjoy that,” he said.Until Class 8, each ICSE school designs its own curriculum, chooses its own textbooks and determines its exam schedules. "The board doesn’t interfere until Class 8. We get a lot of freedom," said Seema Buch, principal of Gundecha Education Academy at Kandivli.
As the other central board — the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) — has already kickstarted a series of reforms, the Council for Indian School Certification Examinations (CISCE) that gives out the ICSE certification is playing the waiting game. “The ICSE board is following a wait and watch policy,” said Carl Laurie, principal of Christ Church School. “There is much confusion with CBSE reforms. If the ICSE board changes anything, they will consult stakeholders first.”
The ICSE board announced its latest changes last November. Students from the Class 10 board exam-giving batch of 2013 will not have to appear for an exam in environment education and passing the second language exam will no longer be mandatory. The content of the environment education course will be amalgamated in the biology and geography curricula instead.
The fact that the board takes a while before implementing changes means students and teachers have time to adjust. “The board hurries up slowly,” said Ranjini Krishnaswamy, principal of St Gregorius High School.
But not everyone is convinced of the board’s relevance. “It used to be about analytical thinking, but now kids are just mugging and regurgitating,” said Sanjita Prasad, whose daughter studies at Vibgyor High School, Goregaon.