The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) is a private board of school education in India. It conducts three examinations and awards three certificates, two of which are for general education and one for vocational studies:
• The Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE; for class X)
• The Indian School Certificate (ISC; for class XII)
• The Certificate of Vocational Education Examination (CVE). This course is not about general education, but prepares a candidate for specific vocations. Those who wish to appear for this examination can do so two years after they have completed ICSE or an equivalent examination.
With its focus on a variety of disciplines, the CISCE board offers its students the flexibility to choose subjects of their choice. Let’s look at some of the reasons why seeking admission in a CISCE-affiliated school may be a good option for your child.
Nitya Ramaswami, Head Academics and Child development, Zee Learn, finds that what sets the CISCE exams apart from those of other boards is the fact that these are based on knowledge, comprehension, skill-sets and application. Both objective and subjective questions are asked and are given equal weightage.
From 2018, it has been proposed to conduct board exams for classes 5 to 8. The focus of these exams would be to understand how well the students apply their lessons, solve problems and think creatively. There will be no pass or fail tags.
The syllabus is designed to help students enjoy the learning process, understand and apply the concepts, articulate their ideas, learn newer tools of technology and grow up to become confident and responsible individuals.
The curriculum is child-centric and developed through collaboration among teachers, educationists and experts. It offers a sequential learning experience; as children progress through classes, they re-visit and re-learn certain topics, but each time with an increasing level of complexity and depth. This process of learning makes a student well-versed in the essential concepts. Also, apart from offering general education, the board ensures that children are trained in Socially Useful Productive Work (SUPW).
The CISCE board offers its students a wide variety of subjects, both at the ICSE and ISC levels.
At the ICSE level, there are a total of 23 subjects, which are divided into three groups: Group I includes three compulsory subjects. Group II gives the students the option to choose any two/three subjects from a total of seven. While in Group III, the students have to choose any one subject from a total of 13.
For the ISC exams, the students are required to choose their subjects as soon as they are admitted to class XI. The subjects for ISC exams are divided into two groups. Group I includes the compulsory subject English. Group II includes 29 subjects, of which the students must choose any five.
Because of such a wide range of subjects being available, students get the opportunity to choose the subjects of their choice.
4. Internal and external assessments
The CISCE board applies the system of internal and external assessments to evaluate the students at the ICSE level. For internal assessment, 20%, 20% and 50% marks are allotted to subjects of Group I, II, and III, respectively. Whereas, for the external assessment, 80%, 80% and 50% marks are allotted to subjects of Group I, II, and III, respectively. The pass marks for each subject is 35%.
For the ISC exams, the marks are divided in a ratio of 70:30 between theory and practical exams. The pass marks for each subject is 40%.
Attention is also given to how clearly and accurately the students are able to express their learnings through their answers.
5. Teacher training
Counsellor and teacher trainer of the Gitanjali Group of Schools, Hyderabad, Gita Krishnan says that the excellence of the curriculum and other features of ICSE are of no gain if teachers are not trained properly. Teachers in all the CISCE-affiliated schools are provided periodic training to keep them up to date with available resources and technology.
The Council does not prescribe or recommend textbooks/study materials except for study of literature in English, and in other languages. This allows the school the liberty to choose books that best allows teaching the syllabus in a competent way.
7. Teaching methodology
Aju Chittoor, an operations manager in Chennai and a former student of St. Xavier’s, Kolkata says, “In-depth study of Shakespearean plays helped me appreciate the diverse nature of the English language. Classes included passionate discussions that spurred many of us to become forthcoming and confident contributors to other discussions.” Silvi Aneesh, entrepreneur and a former student of Loretto Day, Kolkata recalls how involved the teachers were with the students. The teaching methodology was lively with the use of games, quizzes, discussions, role play, etc.
In its affiliation guidelines for schools, CISCE stresses on certain facts that assist in maintaining a high standard of teaching. It says that the medium of instruction must be English, and special attention should be paid to maintain a high standard of that language. Guidelines on homework also regulate the type and amount of homework that students should be given. Also, all the teachers must be postgraduates in the subject they are required to teach. All this aids in keeping the teaching methodology simple, up to date, and effective.
8. Projects and lab work
Unlike the case with other boards, ICSE gives a lot of importance to projects and lab work.
All CISCE schools are required to maintain well-equipped and separate laboratories for Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Computers. These laboratories should also be equipped with safety measures like fire extinguishers, exhaust fans and first-aid kits.
Social service projects, projects in different subjects, as well as exhibition of arts, crafts and projects are a part of the curriculum. The projects are geared to increase the creativity and thinking ability of the student. “I had done a project in which I created a model of an offshore rig in class 10. The challenges involved in shaping the details of the model inspired my creativity and kept me busy for many weeks,” recalls Abraham, Head of Finance in a reputed company in Chennai.
9. Competitive Entrance Exams
The CISCE board lays a lot of emphasis on proficiency in English. So, students who wish to pursue their higher studies in foreign countries benefit the most. It also helps students excel in exams like GRE (Graduate Record Examinations), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), which have a large verbal ability component.
For ICSE, students can choose one or two languages from the list of regional, classical or foreign languages approved by the Council. For ISC, a second language isn’t compulsory. However, the list of electives features an Indian language, a modern foreign language and a classical language.
A wise decision always has a fruitful outcome. And, now that you know all about the CISCE board, you can take an informed decision on what’s best for your ward!
Famous people who studied through the CISCE
Neerja Bhanot: Sr. Flt. Purser with PanAm Airways, recipient of the Ashoka Chakra posthumously
Shankar Roychowdhury PVSM ADC (Retd.): Former Chief of Army Staff and former member of the Parliament
Altamas Kabir: Former Chief Justice of India
Sunil Bharti Mittal: Well-known entrepreneur and the founder, chairman and CEO of Bharti Enterprises, Padma Bhushan awardee
Hannah S Mathew is a freelance teacher, trainer and certified diagnostic counsellor.