As a school leader, very often I come across parents who have certain myths about international boards. I try my best to bust those myths to the best of my understanding. But it is not enough. So, here I have compiled a list of the most common myths people hold about international boards, especially in Ahmedabad.
I would also want the reader to bear in mind, that here I talk about the boards as they exist. Not about the quality of schools which offer them. Just as there are great and disappointing schools in national boards, there are international schools as well of varying quality.
Schools offering International boards in Ahmedabad have been around for about 10-15 years now. However, there are widely prevalent myths about the international boards and I would like to address a few of them here. While our school, GEMS Genesis International School, offers Cambridge International Exams (CIE) and CBSE, international boards here refer to both, CIE and IB.
Also, please note that this is not a comparison of Indian v/s International Boards. Both have their own merits and demerits. This post is only aimed at the myths people have about international boards. For more on all education boards, please look up All About Boards.
So coming straight to the myths-
- Myth # 1
International boards are only for students who wish to go abroad in the future.
This could not be further off from the truth. International boards definitely make it easier to go abroad as their Certificates are widely accepted by foreign universities. However, the education offered by the international boards is progressive and international in its approach. And in this fast globalizing world, India needs more international thought process.
To quote Mr. Hardikar of TGES which offers the IB Diploma since years, “Once when Ambassador and Fiat cars were the only options available we used those cars. But how many of us use them anymore?”
To draw a further parallel, if you have bought a Hyundai or a BMW car does it mean you have to go to South Korea or Germany to drive it? We buy those cars for the value they offer. Similarly, we also buy Maruti for the value it offers. Not just because it is Indian.
Also, before the advent of these boards in India, students did go abroad for studies. International boards only make your degrees more “recognizable” abroad. But these degrees are widely recognized in India as well. See Myth # 2 for more on that.
- Myth # 2
International school students do not get admissions in Indian colleges.
There are two aspects to look at this
A- Do the students not get an admission because the Board is not recognized?
Absolutely NOT. For this particular answer, I would like to share a screenshot of CIE’s recognition in India. For specific university / body accepting CIE certificates, please visit here.
In short, the international Boards, particularly CIE, are well recognized by higher education institutions in India.
B- Do the students lose out on admissions due to reservation or quota or scaling?
To begin with, first please understand that we live in ever-changing times and so does our Government. Which implies that the quota system that we get so obsessed with keeps changing almost every year. I can, however, explain how it works presently.
For this let me elaborate a little on how the reservation works, especially in Gujarat, for now. Here seats reserved for board-wise students are commensurate to the % of students passing out that year from that board.
To paraphrase, if 1 lakh students pass out from Grade 12 from Gujarat in April 2016 and if 60% of them are from State Board, 20% from CBSE and 20% from international boards, then the reservation of seats would also be the same- 60% seats for State Board, 20% seats for CBSE and 20% for International Boards. The category-based reservation (Open, OBC, SC, etc) are a subset of the Board-wise reservation.
This essentially makes opportunities as fair as possible for most students given that reservations are a part of the Indian system.
Also, we need to understand that such reservation is widely applicable in the cases of Medicine and Engineering. But there are many more occupations that students are now taking up.
To once again quote Mr. Hardikar “More than 50% of our international board students take up colleges in India and they do exceedingly well. Not everyone with an international degree moves abroad.”
- Myth # 3
International boards do not have very high academic value. Indian boards are very tough compared to them.
This, once again, is not true. Indian boards are now moving toward application based learning, but in terms of academic value, International Boards offer a much deeper level of understanding. Speak to any teacher who has taught in both the boards and they will be able to corroborate this claim.
For instance, an international board’s math paper will expect the student to explain in depth how they arrived at the given answer and not just give the answer. This rules out the possibility of copying and also encourages clarity in thinking.
Here are a few challenging questions from international board exams.
Also, Indian boards are changing and are becoming more open ended and analytical in their questions. So essentially in the long run, if your child has understood the concepts well, he/she would be able to appear for any board.
Another important fact is that international board students do well in competitive exams where questions are more open-ended.
- Myth # 4
It is not possible for a child from an international board to adapt to national boards and vice-versa.
Fractions are fractions, whether it is CIE or CBSE. The basic rules of grammar do not change and hence if the child has spent ample time understanding rather than memorizing, the shift is not as difficult.
The move from international to national, with a little coaching, is easier than from national to international. Mainly because once you have the core knowledge, you can adapt to the questioning style. But when you lack of understanding and questions are not from a particular textbook, it becomes difficult to score well.
- Myth # 5
A student cannot shift from one board to another.
Yes, you can shift. Till grade 8 it is absolutely legally possible. However, the board you choose for Grade 9 has to be the same for Grade 10. It’s a two year program in most boards. And it’s the same for 11th and 12th. But if you have completed your 10th in one board, you can move to another for 11th and 12th, provided the school you choose is ready to admit you.
Also, think of it, If changing boards were not possible, what would happen to people moving from foreign countries. Where would their wards go?
This brings us to another idea parents fret about. Most parents agree with the international methods of learning for primary years, but because of the perceived difficulty of admissions at college level, they choose national boards right from pre-primary. This subjects the child from 3 years of age to memorize for an exam that is at least a decade away!
- Myth # 6
In international schools, children are always doing projects. There are no textbooks or exams (and hence no authentic studies).
Yes, international schooling is far more practical and project based but it is by no means without rigor. CIE offers multiple textbooks aligned to its curriculum that a school can prescribe to. Our school uses Cambridge University’s textbooks and they are amazing.
Moreover, there is continuous evaluation of one’s learning, but the evaluation is without burden. There are proper tests/exams, which are then discussed in depth with the students. The international boards assess human intelligence on a broad spectrum of ideas and not just the through a paper and pen test.
- Myth # 7
International boards are too expensive and do not offer as much value-for-money
Yes, international schooling is expensive. It is so due to multiple factors like, student to teacher ratio, teacher-training, assessment methods, resources used, facilities provided, etc. The affiliation fees and the rigorous guidelines that schools have to follow for the quality check also add to cost.
If you compare it to local schooling cost, it will come across as expensive. But if you look at it as an investment, you shall realize that you offer your child 12 years of authentic learning and freedom to explore!! The choice is with the parent.
- Myth # 8
All schools are same. It doesn’t matter what my child does. At the end, he has to join a business/firm
Sure, you might have an established unit you would want your child to inherit. But think about it, would you want to hand over your carefully built business to a CEO who is not in sync with the times? Would you want someone who is great at problem-solving and in-depth analysis or someone who has mere theoretical knowledge?
The international boards work deeply on application of knowledge in real life and hence their students do great original work. They produce independent and lifelong learners who are keen about expanding their knowledge horizons.
Finland, has one of the best educational systems in the world and has far fewer school hours and even fewer hours for homework. How, then, do they produce great academic results? Maybe we need to relook at how students really learn.
- Myth # 9
Students abroad are taking up Indian Boards too.
Yes, they sure are. Especially in countries like UAE and others in Middle East. One of the primary reasons for this is the lack of credible national boards in those countries. Their own education system is not good enough and hence our huge Indian diaspora prefers the national boards over the local ones.
However, you will not find many Indian board schools in UK or US where too, there is a huge Indian population because their education system is in place.
To sum up- International Boards are different in their pedagogical approach which is more global in nature. A degree from such a board talks about one’s global outlook but does not make one lesser Indian. Also, the rate at which national boards are changing, they will very soon adorn a new avatar. And our nation needs that.
Choose a school that aligns with your vision for your child’s education. Your children deserve a childhood that is filled with play, discovery and learning. Exams are not, and cannot be the end goal of a student’s life.
If these make sense to you, but you still want to know more about what schools can/should be like in the 21st century, I am sharing a few interesting articles and videos.
Sir Ken Robinson’s- TED Talk
Sugata Mitra’s School In The Cloud
Re-Imagining Education- A TED Playlist
Sadhguru and Shekhar Kapoor
Seth Godin- What is school for?
The Tinkering School
Also, if you would want to share some thoughts on this or have an insight that would benefit other parents, please do share it with us.