In the past two decades, the academic space within India has changed drastically. One of the most significant developments has been the introduction of international curricula. What started with just 8 schools in 2000, has grown to over 600 schools today. This has led many students to switch to international curricula for grades 11 and 12, such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), after completing their grade 10 examinations under the Council of Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) curriculum. Students switch as they believe that studying an international curriculum will give them an advantage while applying to universities abroad for undergraduate programmes. But the truth is that global universities equally recognise both Indian and IB curricula.
If you are thinking of shifting your child to the IB curriculum, there are a few things you need to know:
What is the difference between CISCE and IB?
When evaluating applications, admissions officers (AOs) look for students who challenge themselves within their curriculum, show consistent academic improvement and are at the top of their class. While international universities acknowledge Indian curricula for grades 11 and 12, a few differences may influence your decision to shift to the IB curriculum in grades 11 and 12.
1) Learning style:
The CISCE tends to be more theoretical and focuses on learning by practice and memorisation. The IB on the other hand, offers subjects that incorporate a global context of knowledge. It encourages an application-based assessment and learning methodology, with projects that are oriented toward inquiry, research and writing. These aspects are similar to the learning processes followed by universities abroad.
2) Subject selection:
Regarding subject selection, the IB curriculum offers flexibility in subject selection. Your child can explore different disciplines simultaneously without selecting an area of focus or ‘stream’. For example, if they are interested in medicine but also enjoy business, they can study biology, chemistry and business management to explore both career fields, before deciding which one they prefer.
3) Class size:
CISCE schools typically have a class size of approximately 40 students, while the IBO recommends a limit of 25 students per class. Smaller class sizes ensure individual attention from teachers, which helps your child make personal connections with teachers and thrive.
Compared to CISCE, the IB curriculum is more expensive. Since high school is merely the beginning of your child’s academic journey, it is essential to see whether an IB school and curriculum fit within your family’s budget, especially considering the additional costs.
5) Future plans:
If your child plans to continue studying in India after grade 12, then it might be worth thinking about continuing in the traditional Indian curriculum. However, if they wish to apply to international colleges, the IB curriculum may align more with your child’s future goals.
Understanding the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)
Before making the decision though, it is imperative to understand the IBDP curriculum. The IBDP requires your child to study six subjects, graded on a scale of 1 to 7 (with 7 being the highest score). Of these six subjects, three are at a Standard Level (SL) and the other three are at a Higher Level (HL). Apart from academics, there are three essential components, which account for the final three points. These include:
- Extended Essay (EE) – a 4,000-word independent research paper
- Theory of Knowledge (TOK) – an interdisciplinary course in critical thinking
- CAS – Creativity, Activity and Service
Read more on the IBDP curriculum here.
The Next Steps
Once you and your child have decided to shift from CISCE to the IB, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1) The IB has a different learning and assessment methodology:
Students should keep in mind that they are shifting from an education system emphasising rote learning to one requiring practical thinking and application. While the overly structured CISCE board has a prescribed syllabus, textbooks, reference books and guides, the IB curriculum is more research and inquiry-oriented. The sooner your child understands this difference, the better and faster they will adjust. So, spend time reading, researching and analysing during the summer break before the start of the semester. Also, it is important to review the pre-reading materials before classes begin. Doing so ensures that your child’s transition is smoother and won’t negatively impact their grades. This is important as AOs look for a consistent upward trajectory when evaluating college applications. However, a slight dip, in the beginning, can often take place.
2) Develop a daily study routine:
The IB requires consistent work. It tests concepts and their application. That’s why an in-depth understanding of concepts is essential. This is impossible to do a week before exams. This is why it is essential to adapt to a daily study routine at the beginning of the academic year. Often students from CISCE backgrounds struggle with this style of education and see a drop in grades. But committing to a study schedule can quickly help you overcome this transitional hurdle.
3) Effectively divide your time between academics and essential components:
Besides the academic syllabus, the IB curriculum has three essential components, each worth an additional bonus point. Managing your time well between the TOK, Extended Essay, CAS and academics are critical to scoring well. Students are encouraged to try to complete their required CAS hours early in grade 11 and work for the other two requirements at the earliest.
Remember, while applying for undergraduate studies, competitive colleges worldwide select well-rounded and highly intellectual students who have challenged themselves, rather than what curriculum they have studied in grade 12. Students who have chosen the more rigorous subjects, who spend time outside the classroom to explore their interests by doing internships, writing research papers or working on passion projects stand out more than others.
Academics will always remain the most important criteria, which is why choosing a curriculum that is the best fit for you is imperative. Before making the shift, gather information, talk to other students, meet the school teachers and have a clear understanding of what would be required from your child in an IB school. For further guidance, get in touch with us.