Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Understanding International Boards at your Children’s Schools

This blog post has been written by my husband Jaideep. Having spent 2+ years in an initiative to set up an international school in Mumbai, he spent a lot of time studying this space in detail, and wanted to share his views on queries we repeatedly hear from friends and colleagues who are grappling with understanding the new boards being offered by schools in India.  

When many of us went to school in India, there were only 3 choices for school boards - 2 National boards (namely CBSE and ICSE) and 1 local state board (namely SSC or equivalent).  Today, there are more choices, and many of us don’t have enough information about the differences between them, and thereby find it hard to make the right choice.  In this post, I’m going to attempt to help you understand the 2 main international boards that are now prevalent in India.   

The Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) board is based out of Cambridge (England).  It offers a global curriculum right from  grades 1 through 12.  From Grades 1-5, it offers the Cambridge Primary program, from Grade 6-10 it offers the Cambridge Secondary programs (which includes the optional Cambridge Checkpoint examination at Grade 8, followed by the International General Certificate of Secondary Education or IGCSE examination at Grade 10), and for Grades 11-12, it offers the Cambridge Advanced program (which includes the AS and A Level examinations).  More information on the program offered by this board can be found here.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) board is based out of Geneva (Switzerland).  It offers a global curriculum right from KG through grade 12.  From KG - Grade 5, it offers the Primary Years Program (IB-PYP), from Grade 6-10 it offers the Middle Years Program (IB-MYP) , and for Grades 11-12, it offers the Diploma Program (IB-DP).  More information on the program offered by this board can be found here.

Schools in India adopting international boards are allowed to switch from one program to the other at Grade 6 and Grade 11, often leading to confusion about whether the school is an IGCSE school, IB school or a school offering an Indian curriculum.  For example, a school may be an ICSE school and offer only IB-DP (i.e. from 11-12th grade) but market itself as an IB school.  Most international schools in India offer the IB-PYP program, then the Cambridge Secondary programs (which include the optional Checkpoint and the mandatory IGCSE examination), followed by the IB-DP program.  It’s therefore important for parents to understand which program is being offered in the 3 grade blocks indicated above, namely KG - Grade 5, Grades 6 - 10, and Grades 11 - 12, and it doesn’t have to be the same!  

In my post next week, I will write about the programs some of the popular schools in Mumbai are offering.  In the meantime, do share your views on my article above, and what your concerns are while picking the right international school for your children.

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