Indian Curricula - CBSE and ICSE/ISC

The two well-known Indian school level curricula are those of the two Boards of Education – CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and ICSE ((Indian Certificate of Secondary Education). The quality of education of both these Boards is excellent. The focus in these two curricula is not on memorisation; it is on critical thinking and problem solving – two essential skills needed for university education and employment afterwards.


CBSE, the most popular Board in India, is governed by the HRD Ministry of the Union Govt. of India. Set up in the year 1962 with 309 schools, the Board today has around 16,000 schools including around 200 schools in 23 countries. It follows the syllabi of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). In addition to the class 10 and class 12 exams, the CBSE conducts the entrance exams IIT-JEE and the AIPMT (All India Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Entrance Test), which are based on the CBSE syllabus).


It is an examination conducted by CISCE (Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations), a private, non-governmental board of school education in India. ICSE was first administered by the University of Cambridge during the British regime. The board conducts an ICSE examination for class 10, and an Indian School Certificate (ISC) examination for class 12. ICSE prepares students for studies abroad as its course structure is similar to many international curricula. It is recognized around the world by schools and universities; for example it is at par with the Higher School qualification of the University of Scotland.

The Catalyze Center Initiative

Catalyze Center offers unmatched coaching for exams of both the CBSE and ICSE streams. Its dedicated online tutors with their long experience and rich expertise guarantee students superlative performance in Science, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Accountancy, Economics and Commerce for the CBSE, and Maths, Physics and Chemistry for the ICSE.


  • What is the difference between CBSE and ICSE Curricula?

    The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) are well known self-financing school education boards in India with a different syllabus, education and exam pattern. Both the curricula lay emphasis on analytical thinking and problem solving abilities that are essential to prepare the students for university education and employment later in life.


    CBSE conducts two examinations — the All India Secondary School Examination (AISSE - Class X) and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination (AISSCE - Class XII). It is recognized by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) that manages a chain of central schools (Kendriya Vidyalaya & Jawahar Navodya Vidyalaya) spread across India. Established in the year 1962, around 16,000 schools across the country and 200 schools in 23 countries around the world are affiliated to the CBSE board.


    ICSE is conducted by a non-governmental education board, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE), a reputed private board of school education in India. It is similar to AISSE conducted by CBSE. It is an offshoot of the Cambridge IGCSE that existed during the British regime; before 1986, it was affiliated to the French Board of Examination and is now governed by the CISCE.

    ICSE has taken a major chunk of its constituents from the NCERT. It conducts the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE-Class X) that is considered to be the toughest board examination. The Indian School Certificate (ISC-Class XII) examination with its extremely exhaustive syllabus is equally difficult.

    CBSE vs ICSE

    The CBSE is an educational board that has public and private schools affiliated to it both in India and other nations. The ICSE is an examination held by the CISCE in the course of general education as per New Education Policy, 1986.

    Here we will look at major differences between CBSE and ICSE curriculum:

    • Subject
    • English
      • 1 paper
      • 2 papers
    • Science

      1 paper

      3 papers (Physics, Chemistry & Biology)

    • Social Studies

      1 paper

      2 papers (History & Geography)

    • Environmental Education

      Not compulsory


    What is the syllabus like?

    The CBSE curriculum is generally considered to be easier in comparison to ICSE. It has a more structured and scientific approach to its coursework that is regularly upgraded in line with the changing demands.

    The ICSE syllabus with diverse subject combinations is more comprehensive and detailed that matches international standards.

    Medium of instruction

    The medium of instruction is either English or Hindi with respect to CBSE whereas it is only English in ICSE board.


    Students get results as grades only in CBSE. The ICSE announces two result sheets, one showing grades acquired by the student and the other showing his/her marks.

    While the CBSE board lays the foundation for the students to sit for the national level entrance examinations for admission into professional courses, the ICSE certificate has wide acceptance in colleges and universities around the world.

    Recognition by Indian Government

    The CBSE has been recognized by the Indian government whereas it is not so for ICSE. While a large number of schools across India are affiliated to the CBSE board, the ICSE board in comparison has fewer schools partnered with it. Another advantage that comes with the CBSE board is that it allows both regular and private candidates to sit for the examination. On the contrary, the ICSE board allows only students studying in its affiliated schools to take the final examination.

  • Is ISC curriculum really suited for humanities?

    The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) is a national level, private board of school education in India. The CISCE conducts the Indian School Certificate (ISC) examinations for Class XII.

    The field of humanities is all about learning the functioning of human society, systems and social relationships. Though humanities was once considered as a stream meant for under-performers, it is now gaining ground both with students and parents as an attractive stream that lends many opportunities both to pursue higher education and climb the career ladder in future.

    Students interested in the field of humanities find the ISC curriculum to be more engaging and flexible as it offers varied subjects. The flexibility to choose subjects of one’s interest along with others allows the student to pick a wide range of subjects at the university that opens up a wide selection of professions at a later stage. The ISC board offers more subject options for students than CBSE that leave many choices open to the aspirants for higher education. Development of creativity and thinking skills is the added bonus when you take up humanities in ISC curriculum.

    Students who wish to take up a career in teaching, civil services or social sector choose humanities in the ISC curriculum. ISC also provides a good platform for students who wish to take up a course abroad post completion of Class XII. The course structure is extensive and exhaustive that gives the students in-depth knowledge of the subject. This helps them cope with higher education and competitive preparation later.

    Choosing humanities in ISC curriculum opens up a plethora of avenues in college as it covers varied subjects under its stream like English (compulsory), history, geography, sociology, political science, philosophy, economics, arts, music, anthropology and Sanskrit. Students also develop an extraordinary hold on English that they are well equipped to face interviews or any professional/social situation anywhere.

    For those armed with a certificate in humanities in ISC curriculum, a bouquet of courses is available to take up from Arts to Fine Arts to Journalism to Hotel Management in college among others.

    1. Arts & Humanities: Includes study of humanities, languages and music. You may also pursue specialization courses like psychology, history, archaeology, economics, journalism, sociology, geography, languages, social work, physical education etc.

    2. Fine Arts: Open for humanities students who have a penchant for fine arts like music, dance, photography, painting, sculpting etc.

    3. Business Administration: If you are looking to straddle the corporate world, you may take up BBA that would expose you to subjects like business statistics, marketing, business laws, human resource management etc.

    4. Integrated Law: Such a law course is open to humanities students across law schools in India.

    5. Elementary Education: This is a 4-year integrated professional degree course offered to humanities students after completing higher secondary school.

    6. Hotel Management: With India emerging tops as one of the popular tourist destinations, tourism has acquired a major fillip and the hospitality industry has equally seen an exponential growth. This course can be chosen by a student pursuing humanities course in Class XII. Coupled with experience and excellence in the profession over time, hotel management students may get an opportunity to see the world.

    7. Media Studies: The only requirement for these courses is good proficiency in English. As the ISC curriculum lays great emphasis on language acquisition, there is no limitation to students aspiring to take up courses in journalism, visual communication and electronics media courses.

    8. Fashion Designing: Do you have a penchant for style and fashion? When you take up humanities under ISC curriculum in Class XII, you could soon see yourself hobnobbing with celebs, fashionistas and models.

    9. Journalism & Mass Communication: With the exponential growth in communication apart from traditional media, online and electronic media have evolved as popular career options. Do you love English or have a strong base in the language? Journalism could be the right pick for you.

Back to Top