Ritika Arora, undergraduate student of psychology in Delhi University, had a different approach to studying from her classmates. I would write the entire answer on my own and never copy lines from books, she says. This she attributes to the fact that she has an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma from abroad. She feels that helped her develop an analytical approach to academics.
With the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) poised to go international next year, perhaps it is time to take another look at the different education boards that are now popular with students in India. CBSE and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) still rule the roost. But gradually, an increasing number of schools in India are offering international curricula such as IB and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) which is offered by the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE).
IB made its presence in India as early as 1976. A majority of the schools typically offer the two-year IB diploma that is equivalent to Plus Two. The number of such schools has grown six-fold from 10 in 2004 to 64 at present. We believe this is because both parents and educators are realising the value of an IB education, says Eleanor Oh, communications manager, IB Asia Pacific. In IB, the academic curriculum is not content heavy but application based. In mathematics, the emphasis is on deducing and understanding formulae and not on memorisation, explains Pushpa Jain, admission counsellor at Amity Global School, New Delhi.
On the other hand, as many as 230 schools in India follow the CIE, which offers IGCSE and A levels. Almost five per cent of students in India score more than the average marks obtained the world over, says Ian Chambers, regional manager, South Asia, CIE. Ten students from India topped their Cambridge International Examinations in the November 2008 and June 2009 sessions. Three of the toppers, from the DPS International School in Delhi, also won the Commonwealth Scholarship.
IB is a researchers delight while Cambridge ensures skill-based learning, says Amita Mishra, principal of DPS International School, which is a certified IB school but teaches CIE. CIE is better attuned for Indian students as it gives students five months to prepare for competitive exams she adds.
The IB and IGCSE programmes are recognised by universities around the world. In India it is recognised by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) as a qualification for all major universities in the country. The IB diploma is recognised by the AIU as equivalent to Plus Two of the Indian system, says F.B. Dohadwalla, IB South Asia regional representative.
A third board that is now making its presence felt in India is the Advanced Placement (AP) programme which is anchored to university-level courses. AP exams measure concepts, skills and the content needed to succeed in leading university-level courses, says Jennifer Topiel, executive director, communications, College Board, the body that conducts AP programmes across the world.
Around 10 secondary schools in India have already administered the AP exams this year. Students may take AP courses at any time during secondary school. AP is used by colleges and universities throughout the world in the admission process, as well as to grant credit, placement, or both, for incoming students, adds Topiel.
Despite the increasing popularity of international curricula, CBSE is undeterred. According to Ameeta Mulla Wattal, a member of the CBSE committee on examination reforms, and principal, Springdales School, Pusa Road, Delhi, the introduction of grades by CBSE is an exciting trend. Wattal, who recently concluded a workshop in the capital on the grading system, believes that the introduction of grades will put students on a par with their international counterparts.
Despite having taught pupils under the IB and CIE curricula, Wattal feels that CBSE is no less when it comes to securing admissions in globally recognised universities. You dont have to pursue an international board for an international education, she adds. With exciting options on the anvil, it is now up to a student (or parent) to choose his or her mode of learning and assessment.