Multiple choices

Print edition : February 25, 2011

A class in progress at Kodaikanal International School, which offers the IB curriculum. - BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Besides the CBSE and the CISCE, schools now have the option of choosing the IB or the IGCSE for a global outlook.

THE Indian education system has been evolving since the colonial era, particularly at the high school level. In the 1950s, the Senior Cambridge examination gave way to the Indian School Certificate Examination (ICSE) administered by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE). Simultaneously, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) began consolidating its position in the northern region and became an umbrella organisation for many schools there. In the course of time, States across the country came up with their own boards, which were not as rigorous as the CBSE but provided quality education.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) ventured into India in the 1970s but gained popularity only in the 1990s, with private schools opting for it. It is known for its exacting standards. In recent years, several private schools have begun offering the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) stream promoted by the University of Cambridge.

The IB system, founded in 1968, and followed in 3,127 schools in 140 countries, offers three challenging programmes primary years, middle years and diploma to over 897,000 students in the three to 19 years. There are 73 IB World Schools in India offering one or more of the three IB programmes; 24 schools offer the primary years programme (PYP), eight schools offer the middle years programme (MYP) and 68 schools offer the diploma programme.

The PYP, for students aged 3 to 12, started in 1997 and is offered worldwide by 749 IB World Schools. The MYP, for students aged 11 to 16, started in 1994 and is now offered by 858 IB World Schools. The diploma programme, for students aged 16 to 19, started in 1968 and the first examinations were held in 1970; it is now offered by 2,205 IB World Schools.

The IB diploma was granted recognition by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) as an entry-level qualification to all universities in India. Earlier only students who wished to apply to international institutions opted for IB.

Kodaikanal International School (KIS) in Tamil Nadu was the first school in India to be authorised by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), in 1976. Established in 1901 as an American boarding school for children of missionaries, the KIS has played a pioneering role in bringing an international flavour to Indian schools. It offers IB and American curricula to around 600 students from preschool to Grade 12. Students have consistently achieved higher results than world mean scores in the IB diploma and Standard Aptitude Test (SAT) examinations. The students of the school have had a 100 per cent success rate in gaining admission to colleges and universities worldwide. The school now has students and staff from over 30 nations and is recognised as one of India's most prestigious independent schools.

Among the newer establishments offering IB is the Oakridge International School in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. It offers young learners an outstanding education programme and boarders an at-home life. Over the years, the residential school has built a solid reputation for high academic standards, cutting-edge practices and for its wide range of co-curricular programmes.

The DRS International School in Hyderabad is a blend of international and Indian boards. At the pre-primary level, it offers the IB's PYP programme that educators say provides academics a superb foundation. At the middle school level, the IGCSE system has been put in place and this acts as a feeder to the IB diploma for high school graduation. The IGCSE is an internationally recognised qualification for school students, typically in the 14-16 age group. It is similar to the GCSE of the United Kingdom and was developed by the University of Cambridge International Examinations in 1988.

It provides a broad and flexible study programme and covers subjects from a variety of areas: languages, humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and subjects in the creative, technical and vocational streams. Essentially, the IGCSE allows teaching to be placed in a localised context, making it relevant for different regions. The examinations are designed to test the skills of students with varying levels of ability.

In India, several schools have begun to adopt the IGCSE system. Sai International School in Bhubaneswar, Orissa, believes that the curriculum is comprehensive and gives students a good foundation. A residential school equipped with high-tech classrooms, laboratories, a world-class library and playgrounds, Sai International is also connected to over 50 schools across the globe in the Global Connect Program.

AN OUTDOOR MUSIC class at Abhyasa International Residential Public School.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Laxmi Global School in Valsad, Gujarat, also offers the IGCSE system. Founded recently as a co-educational residential school, its lush green campus boasts digital classrooms and state-of-the-art laboratories and studios. It aspires to be a global school that gives specialised training in swimming, skating, trekking, horse riding, martial arts, adventure sports, Western and classical dance, Western/classical music, and photography.

Sholai School in Kodaikanal has a unique model that offers the same curriculum differently. The school says it is working towards upgrading the local environment and the lives of the local people. We are intentionally a small school, presently having 50 students (maximum 65) at present. We consider the relationships between staff and students to be crucial. Hence we understand 65 is a manageable number. More than that makes our school into a commercial business which we are not, says a statement from the school.

The campus is described as The Centre for Learning, Organic Agriculture and Appropriate Technology (CLOAAT). Students belong to the 3-19 age group and follow the IGCSE (equivalent to Standard X) and A levels (equivalent to Standard XII) systems. Besides the regular subjects, skills such as woodwork, pottery, and art are taught here.

The school has a student teacher ratio of 6:1. Started by educator Brian Jenkins, the school is located in the beautiful environs of the Palani hills in Tamil Nadu. What is particularly interesting is the way students learn to sustain their lives by farming. Jenkins says: Initially, there were just two huts. We constructed buildings from stones and bricks available locally. Then, we converted the land into an organic farm that grows coffee, pepper, bananas, seasonal fruits and exotic vegetables. Today, the children benefit from the vegetarian food, organically grown at CLOAAT.

The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations conducts three examinations annually the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE Class X), the Indian School Certificate (ISC Class XII) and the Certificate in Vocational Education (CVE Class XII). The subject choices and syllabi prescribed for these examinations are varied and are aimed at nurturing the unique skills of each pupil.

The examination has been designed in accordance with the recommendations of the new education policy of 1986. The ISC is conducted after a two-year course of studies beyond the ICSE examination or its equivalent.

Several new-age schools opted for the CISCE system when they started out. Once they qualified for the IB and IGCSE curricula, they either switched to these programmes or offered these along with the ICSE examinations.

LAXMI GLOBAL SCHOOL at Sarigam in Valsad district of Gujarat is a co-educational residential school that has digital classrooms and state-of-the-art laboratories.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The Orchid International School in Nashik, Maharashtra, established by the Kalyani Charitable Trust, is a new school that has achieved great heights in the ICSE examination. It was ranked fourth in the western region and 12th in the country in the EducationWorld-C-fore Survey of schools in 2010. The school is part of what is called the Sapkal Knowledge Hub (SKH), an integrated educational hub that has colleges of management, pharmacy and engineering under it.

The school is already a candidate school, seeking accreditation from the IBO, Geneva, Switzerland. It is planning to run the IB diploma tentatively from the academic year 2012-13.

Abhyasa International Residential Public School near Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, is an ICSE school with a difference. It strongly believes in the values of the gurukul system.

Initially, its ICSE course had all the components of traditional academics such as mathematics, English, geography, the sciences, and languages. Now, the courses have become more varied and include fashion designing, media studies, information technology, and foreign languages.

The CBSE, one of the widely recognised boards of school education in India, got its present name in 1952, but its origins can be traced back to 1921.

The CBSE's primary importance lies in its commendable efforts to evolve a common standard of education in the country and make education more meaningful, relevant and life-oriented. Curriculum innovation and curriculum development has, therefore, been a major concern of the CBSE.

As of March 31, 2007, it had 8,979 schools affiliated to it including 897 Kendriya Vidyalayas, 1,761 government schools, 5,827 independent schools, 480 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas and 14 Central Tibetan schools. It also has 141 schools in 21 other countries. All schools affiliated to the Board of Higher Secondary Education, Delhi, as well as schools in Chandigarh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim fall under its jurisdiction.

Apart from preparing the syllabus for schools affiliated to it, the CBSE conducts two board examinations: the All India Secondary School Examination for Class X and the All India Senior School Certificate Examination for Class XII.

The CBSE also conducts an engineering entrance examination the All India Engineering Entrance Examination and a medical entrance examination the All India Pre-Medical Pre-Dental Examination.

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