If your child wishes to appear for a competitive exam like NEET or JEE, the best boards are CBSE/ISCE or state-level boards. NEET and JEE exams are based on syllabus and books prescribed by NCERT / CBSE. Most state boards follow more-or-less the same pattern as the CBSE. A child from IGCSE / A-level background may find it difficult for the following reasons:
1) CBSE syllabus is vast and in-depth. Please don’t assume that CBSE students have to cram – that’s not true. Of course you have to memorize some stuff in all subjects – definitions, equations. IGCSE/A level syllabi can never compare with the depth and breadth of CBSE syllabi. Don’t take my word – look at a class XI or class XII book of physics from both boards, the range of topics covered, and the depth of each topic.
2) CBSE syllabus for physics and chemistry has more calculations and derivations, with plenty of math involved. There is understanding, of course. But physics and chemistry are numerate subjects; there will be a lot of mathematical applications in CBSE syllabi. IGCSE / A levels do not seem to be that in-depth, and the notion that CBSE students don’t know the concepts is wrong. CBSE and state board students are very good at the conceptual knowledge.
3) Whether CBSE or IGCSE, a student will require special coaching for competitive exams. But more so for IGCSE.
4) The myth is that CBSE is theory-based. What is theory-based mean? A student who is going to study engineering must know the theory also, she is after all studying for a degree. In-depth knowledge is needed. If practical knowledge is the requirement, a 1-year certificate course will be enough, like how to use a tool. Those are skill-based courses, and they are different.
5) Some students of CBSE or state boards may have difficulty with English. So they find it difficult to write long passages – for them, English language is the difficulty, not physics/chemistry. So these students may have difficulty making their own answers because sentence formation and vocabulary are challenging. But CBSE / state board students compensate for that by doing well in numerical problems, derivations, and the mathematics of thes esubjects. Mathematical derivations and numerical problems require logical thinking. Everyone knows that IIT JEE exams are application-based, not memory based. And CBSE/state board students do very well in these competitive exams. So you can not attribute their success to memory power – it is brain power.
6) Students of the various state and CBSE boards perform 20-25 practicals in each science subject (physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics) in class 11 and 12. It includes all aspects of practicals – planning the experiment, apparatus usage, electrical circuit connections, error measurement, graphs, analysis from graphs, etc.
7) This does not mean the IGCSE board is not good. It has a different purpose and is inappropriate for JEE and NEET entrance exams. CBSE and state boards can implement some good features of the IGCSE/A levels. The argument in favour of international boards is that these boards provide “holistic” education. What does “holistic” mean? “A holistic approach means to provide support that looks at the whole person, not just their mental health needs. The support should also consider their physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. “A holistic approach focusses on a person’s wellness and not just their illness or condition” 1. The responsibility of providing this holistic approach does not lie with school teacher alone – remember, the child is in school for 6-7 hours and the remaining 18 -17 hours child spends in the company of parents, siblings, relatives, friends. They have a more crucial role to play than the teacher.
So if your child is aiming to give these two toughest competitive exams in India, please look at the CBSE syllabus, and early on – maybe by the time she is in class 8 or 9. All the best.