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IBDP vs CBSE (India): what are the differences?

Choosing to pursue either the international or Indian national curricula can be difficult. This article discusses some of the significant differences and similarities between the two programs. 

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP)

The IBDP is a standardized program aiming to give college-like experiences to high school students. It aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people to create a better and more peaceful world. It focuses on the holistic development of a student providing opportunities in different career fields. 

Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)

The CBSE is a national-level Indian education system. The primary purpose of the system is to define appropriate approaches to academic activities to provide stress-free, child-centered, and holistic education to all children without compromising on quality. This board is followed by a large number of competitive institutions and colleges in India, developing a strong grounding in various subjects. 

Learning Approaches

While the IB relies heavily on giving students a balanced educational experience, the CBSE emphasizes a more exam-driven approach to prepare students for competitive examinations. 

The IB allows students a lot of flexibility in selecting their subject choices. For instance, the subjects are divided into six different groups: (First) Language A, (Second) Language B, Humanities, Sciences, Mathematics, and the arts. Students are required to take 3 High-Level subjects and 3 Standard Level subjects taking one course from each group. This distinction enables students to choose the perfect fit of subjects for them and exposes them to holistic education. 

The  CBSE, on the other hand, is a more comprehensive course focusing on developing academic and technical skills. Once you pass grade 10, the students are required to select a stream from Science, Commerce, and Arts/Humanities. Under the Science stream, one can choose a different combination of sciences to get into the Medical or engineering path. Under the Math stream, there are subjects offered such as Business Studies, accountancy, Economics, and Maths. Students usually select these streams to get into the career path of a chartered accountant, investment banker, economist, etc. The humanities/ Art stream offers subjects such as History, geography, psychology, and political science. Usually, one is allowed to pick a maximum of 9 subjects and a minimum of 5 subjects. 


IBDP is well recognized in other countries and universities. Since IB aims to give a college-like exposure, it is geared towards developing a research-oriented mindset from Grade 10. This is done through various components in IB such as 

  • Personal Project (MYP 5): Where students take interest in an exploration of their choice and consolidate their learning throughout the program. 
  • EE component (DP 1 – DP 2): Students write an independent, self-directed piece of research.
  • Theory of Knowledge: Students are required to reflect on the nature of knowledge and write a research-based commentary on one of the given prompts. 

Along with the research prospects offered, the IB also focuses on holistic development by introducing CAS (Creativity, Action, and Service) where students are encouraged to do 6 activities and one long-term project throughout the Diploma Program. 

CBSE, on the other hand, focuses more on textbook-based learning patterns. They rely on standard recommended textbooks and do not focus on real-world problems. While it does provide training for the competitive examinations, it also emphasizes more on rote learning. This in turn puts the student in a box and doesn’t allow them the creative freedom to explore something new. 

Academic Rigor

As the IBDP pays attention to giving a college-like balanced educational experience, it gives students a lot of projects to work on. Meanwhile, the CBSE primarily focuses on the academic part of it and completing the syllabus. This is why the IBDP curriculum is much more rigorous than CBSE. 

Future Prospects

The IB program is a gateway to some of the best universities in the world. This is because students from IB can enroll in courses in their final years to earn college credits and skip basic courses in some universities. Since IB is also globalized, it makes it easier for universities to accept students. Comparatively, the CBSE is designed for studying in India as it is more academic-oriented. 

In conclusion, the IBDP is suitable for a student who is ready to take on the academic rigor and challenge themselves to maintain the other requirements of IB. CBSE, on the other hand, is the better option if you only want to stay on track with the academics. As someone who switched from CBSE to IB, the Diploma Programme offers more engagement and extracurricular activities to prepare you for future experiences in universities, truly transforming you into a person who acts locally and thinks globally.

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