The CISCE only gives guidelines but there is enough scope in the curriculum for critical thinking and reflective learning. We also cater to individuals with different learning abilities – the visual learner, the oral learner… The buzz word is differential learning. Teachers are continuously trained to deal with different kinds of learners. A geography lesson can include a field trip, a multimedia lesson, etc. This is what makes a school progressive and different.
– Sudha Sahay, Principal, Sriram School Vasant Vihar, New Delhi
Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
The CISCE administers the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education, otherwise known as ICSE. Many criticise the ICSE curriculum as being too examinationfocused and expecting children to learn copious amounts of information, facts and figures. But talk to people who are in the system and a different picture emerges.
Sudha Sahay, the Principal of the Sriram School Vasant Vihar in New Delhi, opines that the ICSE system compares favourably with any curriculum worldwide. According to her, the focus of the Board is on the holistic development of the child, and not just on the subjects they study. There is a lot of importance given to extracurricular activities like music, dance and theatre. Sahay also mentions that the strength of the Board lies in its emphasis on understanding. Students need to understand how to apply their learning to practical situations. While the syllabus is extensive and vast, basic concepts are inculcated so strongly and rigorously that they stay with the child through life. Jaishree Ramesh, Principal (ICSE), Sri Kumaran Children’s Home, Bangalore, agrees that while the general perception of ICSE is that it is a tough curriculum, the learning is very in-depth and not just about rote memorisation.
Even parents agree. “ICSE encourages lateral thinking and entails wider exposure to the world at large. Creativity and outof- the-box thinking are appreciated,” says Amritha Pai, a parent of two from Mumbai.
Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
The CBSE has received a lot of attention since the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) scheme was extended to high school. The CCE scheme aims to eliminate the most criticised aspect of the Indian system, the exam-oriented approach, and instead implement a regular, unbroken, continuous assessment mechanism using a variety of tools to monitor a child’s understanding – through an activity, for instance, or through different projects. In addition, non-academic areas including sports, behaviour (interaction with peers, teachers, and others), and attitude to work (like completion of work, presentation, and regularity) are also being graded.
The CCE has been hailed by many as the right way to go – it takes away the focus from studying for an examination and instead encourages continuous learning and understanding. The on-going assessments are meant to test the students’ understanding and evaluate the level they attain at the end of the academic year, not to assess their capacity for memorising facts and figures.
Vish A Viswanthan, whose children study in the CBSE system claims that he likes the “quality of the curriculum and the grading system that has recently been put in place. The quality helps children learn things that are valuable for their future and the grading system provides some semblance of overall performance of the child measured over a period of time.”
And yet, there are many who point out the faults of this system: some teachers feel that the high standards of the board are being diluted, allowing students to get away with working less than they previously used to. Also, schools are still trying to wrap their heads around what it takes to effectively implement such a system.