The dual role of being a practicing teacher of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), while simultaneously being a trainee-teacher of International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, has forced me to disengage from a comfortable, almost predictable, routine that had steadily and surely crept into my professional life. Beginning from the first class of Introduction to Education paper, to a recently concluded, extensive three-day workshop, I am able to appreciate the obvious and subtle differences between the two curricula – the philosophy of teaching and learning, how the subject matter is taught to the students and what are the expected outcomes at the end of the course as it progresses through the ages of 14 to 18.

At the outset, I would like to note that a fundamental difference between CBSE and IB programme is the ultimate goal – the former aims to educate the massive and diverse population of India through which it aims to encourage humanism[1], whereas the IB programme aims to foster cooperation and understanding of global cultures through education.[2] While reading the texts for the first time, I thought that the aims are the same – after all, India’s diversity in culture is comparable to a global community. However, upon reviewing the material provided once again, and by paying closer attention to the language used in these seminal documents, I realized that there is a difference in the aims of the curricula, which has determinedly influenced the manner in which education is provided in the classroom.

Firstly, in CBSE a student at the age of 14 enters Class 9, which marks the start of ‘high school’. The title itself gives the student a sense of ‘growing up’ – a child is now expected to be more like an adult, be responsible and accountable for his/her own progress, with reduced help from the teacher[3]. This, I have found through my experience with students of Class 9, can be overwhelming for some – until a few months ago they were considered to be children who needed extensive guidance. This expectation is now taken to the ‘next level’ so to speak, when the student enters Class 11 at age 161, with a rudimentary understanding and ability of scholastic independence, but tasked with a heavier responsibility of academic rigor. In each of the above cases, the evaluation models and formative assessment patterns do not have a clear, continuous progression into each phase of the student’s scholastic life – which I have observed, affects the some students’ confidence in their abilities as they got older.

On the other hand, the description of a 14-year old in the IB is that of a Middle Year Programme (MYP) student and he/she has been part of the same programme for at least two years[4]. The development of the student in terms of critical thinking is a stable, steady progress with the aim of promoting independence in thought4, through assessments such as ‘Interdisciplinary Project’ and ‘Personal Project’ at the end of the MYP[5]. While reading this description of students in the final years of the MYP I am struck by how, through the structure of the programme itself, the students are trained to develop confidence in themselves to take on more arduous tasks in a progression through the years. I was especially impressed with the confidence and articulation of the students’ responses to interview questions in the introductory video posted on the official website[6]. To my delight, this confidence, articulation and lateral thinking ability (as it appeared to me) is augmented in the IB Diploma Programme (DP), as demonstrated by the  DP students[7], which I find lacking in most of my students as they progress to Classes 11 and 12 in CBSE.

In my professional opinion, the assessment pattern is an important determiner in how the subject matter is conveyed to the student in the classroom. In CBSE, the primary form of assessment is a pen-and-paper test. The tests are expected to follow Bloom’s Taxonomy religiously. It caters to students from different socio-economic backgrounds and provides teachers with an instant profile of student’s academic progress. In addition to this, teachers assign projects, including projects that integrate art with each subject, which encourage lateral thinking[8]. As an educator, I find this method of assessment repetitive, and I find myself instructing students in a way that will help them solve the problem, rather than teaching them methods of application of concept to solve the problem, in an effort to have them score higher marks. In fact, I find that this scheme is reinforced with how the curriculum document is worded – towards the end of the document8 I find that teachers are aided with synonyms to use in lesson plans! This, I realized, is a great example of what is the expected outcome – all possible permutations and combinations of a situation is spoon-fed to stakeholders, thus doing the thinking for them, and reinforcing the idea that there are only a limited number of ways in which a problem can be solved, thus slowing down or stunting independent and critical thinking. With the advent of the National Education Policy, 2020[9] and its revolutionary changes, I hope that this will not be the future of Indian National Education.

Contrary to this method of assessment, the IBMYP and IBDP look beyond the limited insights provided to an IB teacher from a traditional pen-and-paper test and assess the students that enforce students to think through different solutions for a proposed problem themselves. In the final year of the MYP[10] and DP[11], students are mandated to think of a problem that they would like to tackle themselves! The different perspectives encouraged through these mandated assignments, as well as the generalized, open-ended teacher-aids provided, to me, are exemplar of the end result of an IB education – global, critical thinkers who can confidently work in any environment that they need.

All in all, when contrasting the CBSE curriculum continuum with that of the IB programme, there are stark differences – from the aim of the curriculum to the end result of its implementation. These differences can be attributed to the difference in the students that it caters to as well – the IB programme has been associated with students from higher socio-economic standards in India. Nonetheless, I hope that the positive aspects of both curricula are implemented to most, if not all students in this country for, what I truly believe, to be a better future.


[1] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class XI-XII 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/SrSecondary/Intitial_pages_srsec_2020-21.pdf

[2] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020. https://ibo.org/about-the-ib/mission/

[3] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/Main-Secondary/Intitial_pages_sec_2020-21.pdf

[4] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020. What is the MYP? https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/what-is-the-myp/

[5] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.  Science. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/curriculum/science/

[6] International Baccalaureate. 2016, May 13. MYP Practice in India. https://vimeo.com/166519743

[7]  International Baccalaureate. 2015, December 28. DP learners: are global citizens. https://vimeo.com/150160162

[8] Central Board of Secondary Education. (n.d.). Senior School Curriculum Class IX-X 2020-21. http://cbseacademic.nic.in/web_material/CurriculumMain21/revisedsyllabi/Main-Secondary/REVISEDScience_Sec_2020-21.pdf

[9] The Hindu Net Desk. 2020, July 29. New Education Policy| Medium of instruction to be mother tongue of regional language till Class V. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-education-policy-cabinet-briefing-live-updates/article32219499.ece

[10] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.Assessment from 2016. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/assessment-and-exams/assessment-from-2016/

[11] International Baccalaureate Organization. 2005-2020.Assessment and Exams. https://www.ibo.org/programmes/diploma-programme/assessment-and-exams/

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