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Birds of a feather do not flock together

Both the Indian national boards focus on the learner-friendly approaches, writes Rupashree Singh.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 15:39 IST

Even though the two Indian national boards — the Central Board of Secondary Education and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education — differ from one another, they are ‘birds of a feather’ as both of them focus on learner-friendly approaches. Rupashree Singh reports

Did you know that there are 41 different Boards which schoo-ls are affiliated to in India? Surprising but true. Most of these are State and University Boards apart from three which are at the national level: the Central Board of Secondary Education, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) and the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).

The CBSE was set up by a special resolution in 1929 by the then Government of India to raise the standard of secondary education, where as the CISCE is the Indian offshoot of the University of Cambridge Examination. The NIOS was set up for those students who were not able to join regular schools. Though the popularity of the CBSE Board in Delhi has surpassed the other two, all of them have a rich history to talk about.

One of the chief reasons for the CBSE to be more popular in the capital state, as Lata Vaidyanathan, Principal, Modern School, Barakhamba Road, states, is the fact that it is headquartered in Delhi and also centrally governed. Schools affiliated to this Board (at present) exceed 8,500, which are spread across the country. A few states like Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Uttaranchal and Chhatisgarh conduct their own examinations at the Class X and XII levels.

The top three states having the maximum number of affiliated schools are Delhi (1,628), Uttar Pradesh (970) and Kerala (694). The Delhi-based CISCE is not centrally governed. Out of the 1,482 schools affiliated to the Council, three states top the charts: West Bengal (276), Uttar Pradesh (126) and Karnataka (124).

The NIOS — formerly known as the National Open School — which has 2,995 accredited institutes has the maximum number of takers in the Capital (448), followed by Uttar Pradesh (369) and Haryana (268).

So what differentiates one Board from another? How do you know which Board will cater to your needs and help groom you better? According to Ashok Ganguly, Chairperson, CBSE, every Board focuses on learner-friendly approaches and strives to achieve excellence in every sphere of activity. Says Vaidyanathan, “It is difficult to make a choice as there is no major difference between the CBSE and the ICSE. One can say that the former is more oriented towards competitive exams whereas the ICSE has a better language style.”

In other words, there is an emphasis on English literature in the ICSE whereas in CBSE, English is functional and communication-based. As far curriculum revision goes, both regulatory bodies have been very progressive. Explains Ganguly, “Knowledge is changing in an exponential function meaning that it is being doubled every four to five years. Therefore, there is an imperative need to address this phenomenon of knowledge explosion. The last time a revision of curriculum took place was in the year 2005 and it was based on the National Curriculum Framework which was implemented in a phased manner.”

Some major changes included the introduction of Computer Science at the secondary level and the concept of a frontline curriculum that facilitated the inclusion of the latest developments in many upcoming streams, besides focussing on inter-disciplinary areas like adolescent education and de-stressing the examination system.

Similarly, the CISCE introduced skill-based subjects as compulsory components since the last academic year. Informs Poonam Sodhi, Deputy Secretary, Council of ISCE, “The syllabus for both ICSE (Class X) and ISC (Class XII) are reviewed every three years and the review is undertaken more frequently, if a need is felt. Internal assessment is now an important inclusion towards the integration of the three main functions — teaching, learning and testing. Clubbed with external assessment, this has helped to make the evaluation more comprehensive and meaningful.”

But what about changes for children with special difficulties? “From March 2006 onwards, the CISCE has permitted students with special difficulties to use a computer to answer papers and those who suffer from dyscalculia are allowed to use a calculator for the Maths paper.” Apart from various initiatives, a striking factor that distinguishes one curriculum from the other is the medium of pedagogy.

The NCERT curriculum followed by CBSE-affiliated schools is offered in both English and Hindi mediums whereas the ICSE is provided only in English. Many schools, which earlier offered the ICSE/ISC, switched over to the CBSE during the late 80s and early 90s due to this reason –– one of those was St. Columba’s School, Delhi. Reasons J.K. Jain, retired teacher of St. Columba’s School, who spent 38 years with the institution, “The primary reason for the transition to CBSE was its wider reach and simple curriculum as it is offered in two mediums. Moreover, being a national curriculum, it is preferred by those whose parents are in transferable jobs. ICSE was considered to be more tough than the CBSE by many of our students who came from economically poor backgrounds.”

However, as Sodhi says, projects on various subjects are an integral part of the ICSE and these give it Brownie points. If you are still wondering which the better Board is, let us assure you that it is your own resilience and hard work that will bear fruit and certainly not the 'Board' you choose.

rmitra@hindustantimes.com

First Published: Jan 09, 2007 15:39 IST